Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Young NPA combatant Rescued by Government Troops

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 18, 2019): Young NPA combatant Rescued by Government Troops

Troops from the 86TH Infantry Battalion under the 502nd Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division rescued a young combatant being exploited by the CPP-NPA terrorists yesterday, December 16, 2019, in the vicinity of Brgy San Carlos, Echague, Province of Isabela.

The young male,
identified as Jhon-Jhon A Serios@Macoy, was seen by government forces openly brandishing his M16 Rifle in one of the isolated villages.

With strict fire discipline, the soldiers were able to decisively restrain the armed child that prevented a violent confrontation.

“Our troops are well trained to use non-lethal means to subdue any threat. Our troops are well disciplined with high regard to Human Rights ” notes LTC Ali A Alejo, Acting Commanding Officer of the 86th Highlander Battalion based in Jones, Isabela.

Initial debriefing revealed that Jhon-Jhon is being exploited by the Communist Terrorists of the Regional Sentro de Gravidad as a child combatant and improvised explosives device (IED) courier. At the time of his rescue, he was carrying one (1) M16A1 rifle with four (4) long m16 magazine loaded with ammunitions, one (1) anti-personnel mine, 100m wire, one (1) 12 volts battery, one (1) CPP-NPA black shirt, a two-way radio, binoculars, sling bags, subversive documents, assorted medicines, an android phone, and personal belongings among others.

Further debriefing reveals that he was recruited into the group as a minor along with his other unassuming playmates.

“Recruiting child warriors has been the trade of the Communist NPA Terrorists. They have complete disregard for the welfare of children. Exploiting children to carry firearms is dangerous enough, more so utilizing them as IED couriers –this is way beyond violating Children’s Rights. This is just unacceptable” LTC Alejo adds.

The Regional Sentro de Gravidad was the same group engaged by government troops last December 14, 2019.

Last December 13, an IED detonated by the New People’s Army in the Province of Eastern Samar killed two (2) people, including a 69-year old woman and injuring 16 others, including three (3) minors.

Lt Gen Ramiro Manuel Rey, Commander of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) lauds the troop’s accomplishment.

“This accomplishment is a testament of the professionalism and adherence to Human Rights of our troops.” He said.

Lt Gen Rey further calls on the people of Northern Luzon to condemn the NPAs exploiting and corrupting unsuspecting minors to for violence.

“We are calling on parents of both Jhon-Jhon and other children who have been recruited into the ranks of the NPA, together with the peace-loving people of Northern Luzon, to unite against the terroristic impunity of the Communist NPA Terrorists. Together, let us end the local communist armed conflict in Northern Luzon.” notes LtGen Rey.

‘MNLF can boost fight vs Abus’

From the Philippine Star (Dec 19, 2019): ‘MNLF can boost fight vs Abus’ (By Jaime Laude)

Involving the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in the campaign to defeat the Abu Sayyaf is a big boost to the military, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

Lorenzana issued the statement after MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari was appointed special economic envoy on Islamic affairs to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by President Duterte over the weekend.

Misuari vowed to help the military crush the bandit group.

“It’s a big help. Their area is big and the Abu Sayyaf are also operating in these areas,” Lorenzana said as he welcomed Misuari’s offer to help the military.

The MNLF maintains a strong presence in Sulu, particularly in Indanan town, where the bandits are believed to be operating.

Lorenzana said that although the MNLF has split into two groups, it remains a valuable ally in the fight against the bandit group.

“Misuari can do a lot in ending the kidnapping activities of the Abu Sayyaf,” Lorenzana said.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, welcomed Misuari’s offer of help.

Sobejana said involving the MNLF in the campaign against the bandits would limit the movements of the Abu Sayyaf.

He said there are still around 300 bandits operating in Sulu.

Misuari pledge on ASG welcome — AFP

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 19, 2019): Misuari pledge on ASG welcome — AFP

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed Nur Misuari’s “valuable” pledge that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will help the military eradicate the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) after his appointment as special economic envoy on Islamic affairs to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Lorenzana said
Misuari’s influence in the group remained sizable and could affect its actions toward the ASG.

Armed Forced of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said that should Misuari bar MNLF members in Sulu from accommodating Abu Sayyaf relatives seeking sanctuary, it would “make it easier for us to arrest or neutralize (them).”

Abu Sayyaf member in Patikul, Sulu surrenders

From GMA News Online (Dec 18, 2019): Abu Sayyaf member in Patikul, Sulu surrenders (By PEEWEE BACUÑO)

PATIKUL, Sulu —Another member of a cell (Ajang-Ajang) of the notorious bandit Abu Sayyaf Group operating in the province yielded to government troops from the Philippine Army's 92nd Infantry Battalion on December 18, 2019.

Brigadier General Leopoldo Imbang. Jr., commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team; and Lt. Col. Raul Vigo, commanding officer of the 92nd Infantry Battalion, facilitated
the surrender of the ASG member in Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, Sulu.

Al-Amin Jul-Ambri, 37, also surrendered his US Rifle (Springfield) Cal. 30 Garand with magazines and ammunition.

Photo courtesy: 92nd IB, PA

“I am very much thankful for the effort of the 92nd Infantry (Tanglaw Diwa) Battalion in the leadership of LTC VIGO for facilitating the surrender of Al-Amin Jul-Ambri, an ASG Ajang-Ajang member,” BGen. Imbang said.

For his part Lt. Col.Vigo said, “It shows that our soldier serves as a key towards change and bringing peace in Sulu Province. Moreover, I am hoping that we can encourage more terrorists to surrender and to be with our government for us to help our country in attaining peace.”

4 kidnap victims remain in Abu Sayyaf hands as Asian neighbors meet to tackle security in Sulu-Celebes Seas

From the Business World (Dec 18, 2019): 4 kidnap victims remain in Abu Sayyaf hands as Asian neighbors meet to tackle security in Sulu-Celebes Seas

MARITIME AUTHORITIES from neighboring Asian countries are meeting in Manila on Dec. 18–19 to tackle security in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, where the Abu Sayyaf terror group is the biggest threat, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). 

The gathering is attended by representatives from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. It is convened by the PCG and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC). 

“Our objective is to share the latest situation in Sulu-Celebes Seas… and to share, consider, and discuss the further steps that we have to take to improve the situation,” ReCAAP ISC Executive Director Masafumi Kuroki said in a live-streamed press conference on Wednesday. 

“Since 2016, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have been exerting efforts to address maritime crimes, with active assistance from Australia, Japan, and the United States to enhance capabilities. However, if we want to sustainably address these maritime safety and security issues, we need to study the dynamics of these prevailing criminal activities. I believe this meeting is a great avenue for such undertaking,” he said.


The PCG reported that there were 19 actual and 11 attempted crew abduction incidents from March 2016 to November 2019 “in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Eastern Sabah” areas. 

“Keeping our sea lanes safe and secure will maintain free and open passage of commercial vessels and will make regional economies thrive and develop without the threat of piracy and armed robbery against ships at sea,” said PCG Commandant Admiral Joel S. Garcia, also chair of the ReCAAP ISC Governing Council. 

Lt. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command, for his part reported that they remain “relentless” in the rescue operations for four remaining Abu Sayyaf kidnap victims. Three of them are Indonesians and one Filipino. 

“We are relentless in our rescue efforts for the remaining four kidnap victims… it was at 47 three years ago,” Mr. Sobejana said, noting the cooperation and assistance of all sectors in their operations. 

The Abu Sayyaf, known for its kidnap-for-ransom activities, is a local terror group that has ties with the Islamic State. The ReCAAP is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. 

Sison: So-called NPA hit list with Duterte on it ‘psy war’ of anti-peace talks execs

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 18, 2019): Sison: So-called NPA hit list with Duterte on it ‘psy war’ of anti-peace talks execs (By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.)

Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison branded as “psy war”, or psychological warfare, reports that President Rodrigo Duterte is on a communist hit list of assassination targets.
“I do not think so,” Sison replied to the Inquirer when asked if Mr. Duterte was on the assassination list of the New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed wing, in an online interview Wednesday (Dec. 18).

“The claim that Duterte is on the so-called NPA hit-list is malicious psy-war from (National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon) Esperon,” Sison said from his base in Utrecht in The Netherlands.

Esperon was former Armed Forces chief.

Early in the day, Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, the commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) disclosed to journalists in Malacañang that Duterte was on the NPA target list based on a revelation by Esperon.

The PSG chief clarified that Mr. Duterte was on the hit list, not only of the NPA, but of drug lords and syndicates.

Sison claimed that Esperon and the other war hawks in the military “want to sabotage the planned resumption of the peace talks and wish to prevent the ceasefire for the holidays from Christmas to New Year.”

Sison said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the communist insurgents, had proposed to Duterte, through Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III that goodwill measures be put in place during the holidays. Bello was head of the government peaxe panel.

The goodwill measure could take the form of reciprocal ceasefires between the NPA and the AFP-PNP and the release of sickly and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.

Will There Be a Christmas Ceasefire in the Philippines?

Posted to The Diplomat (Dec 18, 2019): Will There Be a Christmas Ceasefire in the Philippines?
(By Michael Beltran)

The Reds are open to a ceasefire and peace talks, but is Duterte?

Masked members of the outlawed National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of the Philippine communist movement, hold a demonstration in Manila, Philippines on Monday, March 25, 2019.Credit: AP Photo/Aaron Favila

For longer than the name “Philippines” has existed in reference to a nation, the archipelago has been beset by conflict between those in power and those without. The conflicts span from sporadic revolts against colonialists to full-fledged national liberation movements and the now almost 51-year armed revolution being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

The world’s longest-running communist civil war remains entrenched in the social conditions that gave birth to it: Persistent inequalities and a government unresponsive to the needs of the people, as the rebels often allude to. Government forces have been attempting to crush the revolutionary army since its inception; however, since the early 1990s up until the present each successive Philippine administration has in some form or another entertained peace negotiations with the revolutionary group.

For a large part of the past several decades there has been a customary ceasefire between the two parties during the Christmas holidays. It has been a pact on humanitarian grounds with or without the presence of any ongoing negotiations.

The latest iteration of peace talks had been terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte in November 2017, though back-channel discussions and the possibility of a resumption have always been on the lips on both sides.

But in 2018, the Duterte government made the bold move to withhold any ceasefire declaration, deeming it a pointless exercise that affords leniency toward enemies of the state. This came after the rebels had already implemented a unilateral ceasefire for the latter part of that December. Left out in the cold by a disinterested administration, the guerrillas were on an active defense.

What changed that month was Duterte’s issuance of Executive Order (EO) 70 ordering the creation of a National Task Force to End the Local Communist Insurgency. That signaled intensified efforts to annihilate what stands as the biggest threat to the Duterte government domestically. In March 2019, Duterte followed up with an announcement of a “permanent termination” of talks with the reds, which seemed to close the door to further negotiations.

Since the collapse of the talks, seven key consultants on the side of the rebels have been arrested and one assassinated despite bearing mutually agreed upon immunity as consultants for the peace process. All of them were part of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s broader political organ. This past year has been rough, with attacks, tirades, and the conflict seesawing; thus it was a surprise to hear the president again speak of possibly sitting back down at the table to discuss peace. Duterte went so far as to send an envoy to hold informal and exploratory talks with NDFP representatives on December 7 and 8.

During Duterte’s presidency there has existed a curious dichotomy of reaching tangible landmarks in the progression of the negotiations but also arguably putting on display the harshest vilification and treatment of rebels and critics since the Marcos dictatorship of the 1970s and ’80s. During the formal talks, an agreement was made on a framework and outline for proposed agreements on socioeconomic reforms. Addressing poverty, landlessness, and unemployment among other things is the meat of the contention for the communists, who believe that achieving peace goes beyond simply laying down weapons to include resolving the root causes of conflict. ADVERTISEMENT

In this same period, Duterte implemented Martial Law in the southern group of the country’s islands deemed a rebel stronghold. In addition to the targeting of individual leaders of the NDFP, he also strengthened military operations in several other regions where they felt the NPA had significant support from the peasantry. These regions have now reported a flurry of human rights violations perpetrated against those suspected of being sympathetic to the guerrillas.

With the rumblings for a renewed eagerness to engage in the achievement of lasting peace, will the holidays be quiet, free of armed conflict?

Good Tidings Needed for a Happy Holiday

The CPP and the NDFP have always welcomed any chance of discussing peace and have remained critical of Duterte’s moves to shut down negotiations in favor of further bloodshed. Before they can get to peace talks, agreeing to a holiday ceasefire would significantly boost the chances of facing each other again formally.

CPP founder and now the NDFP’s Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison told The Diplomat that “the Duterte regime cannot gain the trust and confidence of the NDFP if it refuses to carry out goodwill measures, such as the release of sickly and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds, and engage in reciprocal unilateral ceasefires during the Christmas season up to the first week of New Year.”

Unless the government is willing to budge, it is unlikely the reds will implement a ceasefire, especially after being left hanging by the state last year. The revolutionaries hold somewhat of an upper hand since the administration has been exposed, via its actions, as having an aversion to peace, while the revolutionaries’ struggle demonstrates a consistent commitment.

Another complication is that Duterte wants to hold talks in the Philippines. The NDFP asserts that a
foreign neutral territory is the best option, as is usually the case.

Sison adds, “The NDFP is under no obligation to negotiate with a regime that is already discredited and is running out of time. The revolutionary movement is advancing. But the NDFP is demonstrating to the people in the Philippines and the world that it takes every chance to negotiate even with its enemy and avail of any step possible to move forward towards the goal of just peace.”

More importantly, Duterte’s record in participation in the talks (formal or informal) has not been stellar, launching greater offensives against their enemy and implementing strengthened counterinsurgency measures. There is an understandable distrust from the reds.

“The NDFP cannot trust the Duterte regime and cannot rely on mere avowals of sincerity. It is important to recognize the dangers and pitfalls and to take precautions. The Duterte regime has to prove that it is not merely trying to put the NDFP in a trap for his armed minions,” insists Sison.

After meeting with the envoy, government representatives promised to take back the proposed “goodwill measures in the spirit of Christmas and new year” to the president. Not overly eager yet hopeful of a positive response, Sison described his expectations as “reasonable.” There is no telling how fast the administration will respond to the demands laid out for the release of political prisoners and a neutral venue for official meetings.

The Grinch

Despite the president having expressed an openness to a truce, more militaristic minds feel otherwise and are likely advising the leader, who has been clear with his own disdain for the revolutionaries. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said after the informal talks that a ceasefire only allows the enemy to regroup and expand their numbers undisturbed.

This sentiment was echoed by Navy Captain Jonathan V. Zata, the Chief of Public Affairs Office, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who disclosed to The Diplomat that the “AFP will not recommend a holiday ceasefire. The AFP will continue with its successful intensified combat, intelligence, and civil-military operations. We will continue to anchor our thrusts in supporting the implementation of Executive Order 70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.”

Zata acknowledged that widespread poverty was one of the main drivers of the insurgency, and while they cannot address this alone, the entire state machinery is “succeeding” in the battle against the “communist terrorist” groups.

It is curious why the executive branch proclaimed a willingness for dialogue if the troops felt they were so much closer to crushing the insurgents. In all fairness, talk of the imminent destruction of the guerrilla army has been a frequent feature of the AFP’s pronouncements and yet the NPA still boasts a significant presence in 71 out of 81 provinces in the country.

The regime could be trying to rescue its political legacy as having progressed the furthest in negotiations. Last week Duterte admitted this latest attempt at entertaining talks to be his “last card” as his time is “running out.”

But the military’s persistence in utilizing more forceful means to end the revolution may still prevail. Duterte has been known to actively heed and even reinforce the wishes of his armed forces.

Whatever the case, the rebels could go with or without any resumption of talks. Their revolutionary war has been waged for more than half a century and has shown no signs of subsiding.

The opportunity for a Christmas ceasefire could set a good precedent for both sides. The NDFP has already laid down their cards and they welcome a conditional ceasefire. The ball is with Duterte now to reciprocate, and even if he does, a softer approach to the insurgents seems unlikely given his record of solving problems by pointing guns at them.

[Michael Beltran is a freelance journalist from the Philippines.]

Esperon bares communist hit list; Robredo not on i

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 19, 2019): Esperon bares communist hit list; Robredo not on it (By Jeannette I. Andrade)

Vice President Leni Robredo’s name isn’t on it, but President Rodrigo Duterte’s and that of Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Noel Clement’s are, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said of the alleged hit list of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“There (is) information that the communist terrorist group, the CPP-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines, has a hit list and allegedly I am included,” Esperon told reporters Tuesday.

The alleged assassination of high-profile government officials was meant to mark the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary on Dec. 26, he added.

Also on the list, according to Esperon, are Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples chair Allen Capuyan.‍‍

The list, he said, shows that the rebels were “growing more desperate” over the success of the government’s counteroffensive. ‍‍‍

Esperon also advised the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious persons or activities to authorities.

Security tightened around Duterte after NPA hit list bared

From the Philippine Star (Dec 19, 2019): Security tightened around Duterte after NPA hit list bared (By Christina Mendez)

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) has intensified security for President Duterte following threats from the communist New People’s Army (NPA) that marks its 50th anniversary on Dec. 26.

Apart from the communist rebels, drug lords and criminal syndicates have also placed the Chief Executive on their hit list, according to PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jose Ariel Niembra.

“We are expecting that because the Communist Party of the Philippines will celebrate their anniversary this coming Dec. 26. Normally, during this period, we expect that they will beef up their developments and their targets,” Niembra said yesterday.

“We expect that the President is number one in their list so as to the preparations and hardening of procedures, we keep it to ourselves. But rest assured we are doing something,” he said.

Duterte, who has waged a war against drug syndicates including their protectors in the government and the uniformed services, has been regularly updated on the security threats against him.

Niembra admitted Duterte has sometimes opted not to follow their advice but “we do everything we can to protect our President. Our work is focused on ensuring that we have a living President day by day.”

Niembra said they have received information that Duterte topped the NPA hit list and they are not taking such threats lightly.

“We have received information that the President is the number one target, not only of the CPP-NPA but of the drug lords and syndicate groups,” he said.

“We take it seriously, it is not a joking matter because it is the life of the President and the survival of the country,” he added.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. confirmed the President is in

the NPA hit list, along with Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and other top government officials.

Esperon said the intelligence was obtained through captured documents.

Esperon, however, said he did not see Vice President Leni Robredo’s name in the supposed NPA hit list.

“I only saw the names of Secretary Año, Secretary (Allen) Capuyan and other officers which to us is something that is expected or part of the hazard of the job,” Esperon said, referring to the former military colonel appointed as chief of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Pressed if Duterte adheres to security protocols, Niembra said the Chief Executive sometimes gives them a hard time but knows how to handle himself as well as his limitations.

In fact, Niembra said the President is not keen on giving up his hobby of riding motorcycles. He wants to continue riding his bikes, prompting them to allow him to do so within the confines of the PSG compound.

Niembra quoted the President as saying he’d (Duterte) rather die riding a motorcycle than die lying down.

“(Riding motorcycle) has been his passion, he said. He will live and die riding a motorcycle,” Niembra said.

Despite their concerns, Niembra said Duterte has a plan to ride his bike and go around Metro Manila anytime during the holidays.

‘EO 70 hurting CPP-NPA’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 18, 2019): ‘EO 70 hurting CPP-NPA’ (By Gilbert P. Bayoran)

Executive Order No. 70, that aims to address the root causes of insurgency through the Whole-of-Nation approach, and the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), that is hated by the New People’s Army and its allied organizations, is gaining ground in Western and Central Visayas, a top Army official in the Visayas said yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya, 3rd Infantry Division commander,
yesterday said that the CPP-NPA is now desperately building a fountain of lies and fabricated stories to destroy the people’s drive against insurgency, because they were badly hurt by the results of EO 70.

“Discrediting EO 70 is like rejecting peace,”
Vinoya said, stressing also that their attack without concrete basis on government’s sincere strategy is an insult to the intellect of peace-loving Visayans.

Six local government units in Negros Occidental also declared the CPP-NPA as persona non grata, in support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines campaign against the local terrorist organization in Negros.

Vinoya challenged the leaders and members of the CPP-NPA and their allied groups who are blatantly maligning EO 70, to read its content for them to be enlightened.

“With EO 70, government agencies are converging their efforts toward delivering the most needed services to eradicate social issues that these communist groups are capitalizing on”, he added.

“Offering them a new and peaceful life is part of this consolidated effort, but they are the ones who maliciously and continuously reject peace and development. They are now showing their identity as true enemies of peace and progress,” Vinoya also said.

He also called on other LGUs and local chief executives to take a cue from those provinces, cities, and towns that stand bravely against the CPP-NPA by declaring them persona non grata.

“Refusing to declare the communist-terrorists unwelcome is like supporting their terroristic activities. And, supporting this terrorist group is a betrayal of public trust”, Vinoya said.*

Police on red alert ahead of NPA’s founding anniversary

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 19, 2019): Police on red alert ahead of NPA’s founding anniversary (By Rhoda Grace Saron)

The Davao Police Regional Office is in full alert status for possible attacks of the New People’s Army (NPA) ahead of their founding anniversary on Dec. 26.

Effective Dec. 15, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, the DCPO acting chief, ordered has ordered all police units and maneuver forces to be on full alert mode to preempt any attacks on government forces and vital installations.

All station commanders are directed to recall all their personnel to help implement the security plan, which includes police visibility, checkpoints, more security on places of convergence.

“Well, we have our mobile units in the cities and provinces ready for any eventualities,” Escobal said.
“We have been receiving intelligence reports of threats coming from the CPP-NPA-NDF and we do not take those lightly.”

“This terrorist group has been known to launch offensive attacks against government forces, structures and even against common civilians,” he added.

It can be recalled that on Dec. 13 last week, a policeman and a 3-year old boy were killed in an ambush staged communist guerrillas, with the use of an improvised explosive device, in Borongan, Samar.
Six other police officers were also injured while several civilians were wounded on the said attack.

“This proves they don’t respect human rights and have no regard for the lives of others including that of an innocent child. They have no conscience. Nevertheless, we have always observed active defense at the stations and have our mobile units continue to have active support to the AFP in going after terrorists and insurgent groups,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office XI encouraged the public to be vigilant and help the government by reporting to authorities any suspicious individuals and activities in their areas.

“We call on our people to be wary of the pattern of deception of the communist NPA terrorists, to be proactive and to be part of the conscious effort to deny them of the chance to regain strength,” RD Escobal further said.

All the same, he said the PNP still welcomes them into the folds of the law, so they can come home and spend Christmas with the families.

ARMY: No terrorist attack, no abuses from soldiers on Martial Law

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 19, 2019): ARMY: No terrorist attack, no abuses from soldiers on Martial Law (Rhoda Grace Saron)
The martial law implementation in Mindanao was a success since they recorded no terrorist attacks and human rights violations committed by the soldiers.

Speaking in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press briefing held at The Royal Mandaya Hotel, Col. Consolito Yecla, the commander of Task Force Davao, said they are recommending a modified gun ban policy after the lifting of the Martial Law.

Their proposal was supported by the City Council, Police Regional Office XI, and the Davao City Police Office.

“This to preempt armed group possible sneaking firearms inside the city,” he said. “We have institutionalized already some measures, so we just sustain it to ensure that there will be no untoward incident that will happen in the city,”

“We believed that we have prepared the people of Davao and visitors for the lifting of Martial Law, ” he further said.

Also, Capt Jerry Lamosao, the spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said they have not confirmed any abuses committed by the soldiers in the implementation of Martial Law.

Lamosao said soldiers of today know the dignity of their uniform. They practice discipline and respect for human rights in performing their duties.

“We really follow the provisions of the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and rule of law, and due process in the cases we are facing, ” he added.

Malacañang is not extending martial rule in Mindanao for the fourth time. The announcement pleased the private sector and the city government, as local officials have been asking to exempt the city from the Presidential directive.

Earlier this year, Mayor Sara Duterte sent a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider and review the declaration of Martial Law in Davao City.

CPP-NPA members escape struggles, yield to gov’t

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 18, 2019): CPP-NPA members escape struggles, yield to gov’t (By Gideon C. Corgue)

Featured Image

PAGADIAN CITY, December 18 (PIA) – At least two members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) on Sunday, voluntarily surrendered to the authorities.

Aka “Jed” and Aka “Jerben” (not their real names), members of the Mindanao Regional Guerilla Unit (MRGU) surrendered to LtCol. Alvin Saguban, chief of police at 3:00 o’clock in the morning in Purok Dumali-an, Barangay Lourdes. They yielded two .45 caliber pistols and one hand grenade.

Following the CTGs surrender, they were formally presented to the 3,000 participants of the fun run at the City Plaza.

Aka “Jed” said he and his comrade fled the armed group because they could no longer bear the hardships they had encountered while being in the insurgent group.

“Misurender mi sa gobyerno tungod sa grabeng kalisod nga among nasinati sa bukid sa rebolusyonaryong kalihokan. Among nasinati ang kagutom, kakapoy sa paglakaw, ug walay tulog (We surrendered to the government because of the hardships we experienced in the mountain from the revolutionary government. “We experienced hunger, fatigue from days of walking, and sleepless nights),” a teary-eyed and emotional Jed announced as he recounted his painful experiences inside the armed movement.

He also said that among the tasks given to them were to do errands like buying rice and other supplies needed in their camp. “We were treated like slaves,” he added.

“They promised us a good life for our families. But none of those promises ever came true,” he added.

Saguban said the surrender of the CPP-NPA members is an achievement of the government in its effective implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 (Institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace) and addressing the decades-old communist insurgency.

Saguban said after the ‘Serbisyo Caravan’ conducted by the city government on December 12 in Purok Avocado, Barangay Lison Valley, the IPs have sincerely felt the presence of the government in the area by availing the basic services from the different government agencies.

He said that during the event, he received an information from the residents that members of CPP-NPA planned to surrender to the government.

With this development, Saguban expects that there will be more surrenderees in the coming months.

The rebels are now temporarily under the care and custody of the Philippine National Police. (NBE/RVC/GCC/PIA-Zamboanga Del Sur)

Duterte assures AFP of his unqualified support

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 18, 2019): Duterte assures AFP of his unqualified support (By Susan G. De Leon)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte leads AFP's 84th founding anniversary at the Lapu-Lapu Grandstand, Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City,Tuesday, December 17, 2019. (Photo courtesy of RTVM)

QUEZON CITY, Dec. 18 (PIA)—President Rodrigo R. Duterte assured members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of his unqualified support as they fight to defeat terrorism, violent extremism and insurgency and address lingering emerging threats.

Duterte led the AFP during the celebration of its 84th founding anniversary in a ceremony held at the Lapu-Lapu Grandstand, Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City,Tuesday, December 17, 2019.

“Ang sundalo natin, sundalo ng bayan, utusan ng bayan, runner ng bayan. Kapag earthquake, baha, pumutok na volcano, may flooding, andun sila,” Duterte said.

“We have to assure that the next generation will be free of these vagaries of life, especially itong droga,” he said.

“That is why I declared war. War is war. Itong droga is worldwide, it is not limited to any country which borders. It is almost seamless at lahat nagdudusa,” he added.

“Try to make this country as peaceful as it can ever be. Sa utos ko na yan na ubusin nyo sila, sabihin ko sa inyo, I will take responsibility,” the President said.

“Kung sakali man we'll go to prison, you can enjoy your freedom. I will take the risk,” the President added.

During the event, the President awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu to 1Lt Deardito Layan of PH Air Force, an MD-520MG pilot who gave close air support to ground troops operating against local and foreign BIFF-Daesh forces under Abu Toraype and the Dawla Islamiya (ISIS) in Brgy Tee, Datu Salibo in Maguindanao.

President awards the Order of Lapu-Lapu to 1Lt Deardito Layan of PH Air Force, an MD-520MG pilot who gave close air support to ground troops operating against local and foreign BIFF-Daesh forces under Abu Toraype and the Dawla Islamiya (ISIS) in Brgy Tee, Datu Salibo in Maguindanao. (Photo courtesy of RTVM)

The conduct of law enforcement operation resulted in the successful elimination of huge drug trade activities of known high-value target narco-politicians in Maguindanao w/o violating the Rules of Engagement nor committing any collateral damage.

For the past year, the AFP has sustained operational gains, particularly in its internal security campaign anchored on the government’s Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) “Kapayapaan”. It has seen tremendous gains in its military, intelligence and civil-military operations that pushed the Communist Terrorists out of the communities where they were very comfortable before, constricting them in areas that are far-flung.

The bulk of the AFP’s gains come from the trust and confidence of former New People’s Army members and supporters who now have chosen to return to the fold of law and abandon the armed struggle.

“The communist terrorist group is in disarray due to continuous neutralization of its members, particularly the high ranking personalities. This is manifested by the minimal number of atrocities committed by the group, which are mostly unsuccessful harassments,” AFP Chief of Staff General Noel Clement said.

The past year also marks a significant victory for the AFP against local terrorist groups, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Notable of which were the successful rescue of the British couple Hyrons from the bandits in Sulu last November 25.

“We have contained the local terrorist groups in Western Mindanao. We have neutralized three suicide bombers that could have inflicted massive death, injury and destruction were if not for the vigilance of our soldiers,” Clement added.

The AFP also noted significant improvements in the security situation and development of Mindanao due largely on the implementation of Martial Law in the region and on the general optimism on the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Nevertheless, efforts are continuously being exerted both militarily and through non-conventional interventions through the AFP’s preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) programs.

“The year 2019 has been a fruitful and meaningful year for your Armed Forces. Rest assured that we will always be ready to adapt, change and transform as we come closer to realizing our vision to become a world-class armed forces, truly a source of national pride,”Clement said.

Also present in the ceremony were National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, other government officials, foreign dignitaries, and former leaders of the military. (AFP/PIA-NCR)

IP in Visayas air concerns, issues in regional workshop

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): IP in Visayas air concerns, issues in regional workshop (By Gail Momblan)

ACTION PLANNING. Indigenous cultural communities and indigenous people’s leaders and government agencies gather at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Iloilo City for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-led Visayas Regional Action Planning Workshop from December 16 to 18, 2019. The workshop is in line with the thrust of the present administration in ending the local communist armed conflict. (PNA photo by Gail Momblan)

ILOILO CITY -- The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) heard the issues and concerns of indigenous cultural communities and their leaders during the three-day Visayas Regional Action Planning Workshop held at Diamond Jubilee Hall in this city.

Line agencies of the government were gathered to help address the issues of the indigenous peoples, in support of the Executive Order 70 or the whole-of-nation approach in ending the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC).

“This program is in line with the thrust of our beloved President (Duterte) to help our IP siblings because the president said you (IPs) have your own land, and what you need to do is to develop that based on your culture and tradition,”
said Jeorge Largado, NCIP commissioner in the island groups and rest of Visayas, in an interview Wednesday.

The ELCAC clusters and IP leaders presented their issues and concerns to the panel consist of officials from the Philippine Army, the Philippine National Police, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, among others.

The issues and concerns particularly revolved on the four bundles of rights, namely: rights to ancestral domain; self-governance and empowerment; social justice and human rights; and cultural integrity.

The common issues that arose during the panel discussion is the lack of knowledge of the IPs regarding the process of acquiring land titles for their ancestral domains, lack of will of some local government units to have Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR), lack of knowledge of the young generation of the IP’s tradition and culture, among others.

“They have voiced their concerns and issues that can be addressed by different line agencies for us to at least harmonize the issues in the country,” Largado said.

He said the workshop will be one of the steps for the IPs to know that the government looks after their welfare.

“We need to address the issues of the IP. We do not focus on only one, but all of their needs,” he said.

Largado emphasized to the IP participants to be proud of themselves because IPs in the Visayas are now already recognized, respected, and protected.

The workshop in the Visayas is the 13th and final leg of the NCIP-led program. Largado said all the outputs in the country will be gathered and be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Basilan task force extends aid to Kaulungan children anew

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): Basilan task force extends aid to Kaulungan children anew (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

LOVE FOR CHILDREN. Lt. Col. Ivan San Jose, the Army's 18th Infantry Battalion commander, hands over a school bag to one of the beneficiary-children of a civic action program in Kaulungan Island, Al-Barka, Basilan province on Tuesday (Dec. 17, 2019). The program is a joint project of the Joint Task Force Basilan, local officials and non-government organizations. (Photo courtesy of Joint Task Force Basilan)

Soldiers, local officials, and non-government organizations provided social services anew to the children in Kaulungan Island in Al-Barka, Basilan province.

Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, said that the recipient-children from Barangays Lookbisaya and Sangkahan received school supplies, loot bags, and toys during the civic action program held Tuesday.

“Progress is an upshot of convergence rallied by pro-peace communities, such as the Kaulungan Island,” Reyeg said Wednesday.

Reyeg encouraged the children in the island, as Basilan’s hope, to pursue education and instill their positive values.

He said they have partnered with the local officials of Al-Barka municipality and the barangays of Lookbisaya, Sangkahan, Kuhun-Lennuh, Kuhon, Bucalao, and Cambug for the conduct of civic action in Kaulungan Island.

The program was also sponsored by the Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc., Save the Children of War Foundation, D'Biel Bus Company, JRS Business Corporation, Isabela Foundation Inc., 100 Happy Kids, and Basilan Community Hospital.

On October 28, the military helped resolve decades-long feuds that hampered the economy, education, and security in Kaulungan Island.

“By reaching out, we are empowering the youth to become active social actors for peace and nation-building because children in conflict-afflicted and far-flung areas are those who really cry in silence and yearn help, so things must really be done for them,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief.

“The military is doing this out of its genuine object to bring about sustainable peace and development in Mindanao,” Sobejana added.

IPs in Panay support gov’t fight vs. insurgency

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): IPs in Panay support gov’t fight vs. insurgency (By Gail Momblan)

SUPPORT FROM IPS. Vergelio Santiago Sr. (left) and David Amador, both Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives for Tapaz, Capiz, and Janiuay, Iloilo respectively, on Wednesday (Dec. 18, 2019) express their support for the administration's thrust to end the local communist armed conflict. Santiago and Amador participated in the three-day regional action planning workshop facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in support of Executive Order 70. (PNA Photo by Gail Momblan)

ILOILO CITY -- The "whole-of-nation approach" in ending the local communist armed conflict has solicited the commitment of the indigenous peoples in Panay through their Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR).

The indigenous cultural communities and the indigenous people’s leaders were gathered here for a three-day regional action-planning workshop facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, in support of the Executive Order 70, which institutionalizes a "whole-of-nation approach" against insurgency.

In an interview on the sidelines of the workshop on Wednesday, Vergelio Santiago Sr., a member of Panay Bukidnon and IPMR in the Sangguniang Bayan in the municipality of Tapaz, Capiz, expressed his support to the government’s fight to end the insurgency.

Santiago bared his priority plans for the IPs in Tapaz, with the opening of road networks in upland areas as his priority.

“We need road networks because we saw that it prevents those from the other side (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) to visit our villages. In the lowlands, where there are road networks, they are not usually seen,” Santiago said.

With the help of its local chief executive, Santiago said the villages of Rizal Norte, Maliao, Aglupacan, Siya, Hilwan, and Minan will soon have a 70-kilometer road network.

The budget for the road construction is included in the 2020 annual budget of Tapaz, he said.

Santiago reaches out to rebels by informing them of the services and programs offered by the government.

“We are happy to say that they do not prevent the entry of government projects, like the roads in the area. I talked to them that the project of the government will benefit the locals, and they should not stop the projects entering the villages,” he said, noting that his influence as IPMR also encouraged some six CPP-NPA members to return to the fold of the law.

“As IPMR, I also protect our youth in the villages not to join the armed struggle, and encourage the rebels to surrender to the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, David Amador, a member of Panay Bukidnon and IPMR in the Sangguniang Bayan in the municipality of Janiuay, Iloilo, said rebels are sometimes seen moving around the villages of Barasalon, Atinmonan, and Canawillian but do not stay.

“We do not have a problem with peace and order in our IP communities,” he said. The neighboring town of Maasin is more affected by the presence of NPA members.

Now an ex-officio member of the Janiuay SB, Amador said he can easily air to the local government any issues affecting the IPs.

He expressed his full support to the Executive Order 70 to also protect the IPs in Panay Bukidnon in Janiuay from the atrocities of the CPP-NPA.

“We push for genuine peace. The government can expect support from the IPs in Janiuay for the EO 70,” he said.

ROTC inculcates values for dev't of Filipino youth

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): ROTC inculcates values for dev't of Filipino youth (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

FANCY DRILL. High school cadets of the STI-West Negros University in Bacolod City who participated in the 11th Bago City Invitational Fancy Drill Competition in Negros Occidental last November 5. Two members of the Bacolod City Council have expressed support to the bill reinstating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in public and private senior high schools on Wednesday (Dec. 18, 2019). (File photo courtesy of The Citybridge, Bago City Newsletter)

BACOLOD CITY -- Two city councilors here have expressed support to the bill reinstating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in public and private senior high schools as a way to inculcate values among the Filipino youth.

Councilor Al Victor Espino, chairman of police matters and peace and order, said Wednesday he believes that undergoing the mandatory military training would instill discipline and respect for hierarchy among students.

“I’m in favor of reviving the ROTC as part of the curriculum. I think it’s a laudable legislative endeavor. I will advocate the return of ROTC,” he added.

Espino said discipline and respect were what he learned himself from ROTC in college.

He also said those who have military training as students will be able to defend the country if needed.

Meanwhile, Councilor Israel Salanga, the youngest city councilor, said he also supports the proposed law for mandatory ROTC, which is the priority legislation of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The ROTC program will inculcate patriotism, nationalism, and discipline among the youth,” said Salanga, who was also an ROTC cadet while he was studying at Bacolod City College.

Through military training, young people, particularly students, can also develop their physical, moral, intellectual, and social well-being and get involved in public and civic affairs, he added.

“As the saying goes, 'It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war' which in my opinion suggests that it is best that a country’s workforce are military-trained,” Salanga said.

He also cited Section 4, Article 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which partly states “the government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required under conditions provided by law to render personal military or civil service.”

On December 20, an ROTC summit, which will be attended by around 2,500 cadets from selected colleges and universities and uniformed personnel, will be held at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

It will be led by the Office of the President through the Presidential Management Staff and Presidential Security Group, in coordination with the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Office of the Reservist and Retiree Affairs.

The event will feature the silent drill competition among the best cadets in the Philippine Military Academy, Philippine National Police Academy, Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific, Philippine Army Officer Candidate School, Philippine Navy Officer Candidate School, and the Philippine Air Force Officer Candidate School.

Army brigade in Ilocos calls for vigilance vs. CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): Army brigade in Ilocos calls for vigilance vs. CPP-NPA (By Hilda Austria)

VIGILANCE VS. CPP-NPA. Col. Audrey Pasia, Army’s 702nd Infantry Brigade commander (middle), recently conducted a lecture for the youth at Camp Lt. Tito Abat in Manaoag, Pangasinan. The Brigade held forums all over the Ilocos Region to discourage the young people against joining the terrorist group. (File photo courtesy of Juro Malazo)

MANAOAG, Pangasinan -- The 702nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army here is urging citizens to report immediately sightings of any armed group or individuals, as it intensified monitoring on possible attacks by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) on its upcoming founding anniversary celebration.

“We also ask for the cooperation of the entire citizenry to report to us sighting/s of any armed group or individuals so that we can act appropriately,”
brigade commander, Col. Audrey Pasia said in an interview Wednesday.

He said barangay officials are mandated to report any suspected CPP-NPA activity to the municipal police stations.

“We wish the barangay officials will do their job. That is one of our expectations on our barangay officials, particularly now that we have our whole-of-nation approach or "TF-ELCAC" (Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict). Once the report reaches our police stations, we have existing mechanisms for the AFP- PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police) to conduct operations, jointly or independently. In some areas, we also have contact numbers of our units appropriately displayed for the people to see,” he said.

In the past years, Pasia said alert status has always been heightened, particularly days immediately before or after Dec. 26, the CPP-NPA’s anniversary.

“This year, no heightened alert status yet, but the leadership has encouraged our units and soldiers to be extra cautious and to intensify our monitoring of the CPP plans,” he said.

He added the troops in the AFP, together with the PNP, are prepared to thwart any violent or hostile plan in the region by the terrorist group.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who is also vice-chairperson of NTF ELCAC, said they have received reports that the CPP-NPA has operationalized its Special Partisan Units to conduct assassinations and terrorist activities in urban areas to take advantage of the Yuletide season.

“Even as Christendom celebrates Christmas to remember the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, these atrocious communist terrorists seek to continue their attacks against our peace-loving people,” Esperon said in a recent statement.

BRP Jose Rizal exceeds design speed for endurance range

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): BRP Jose Rizal exceeds design speed for endurance range (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BRP Jose Rizal. (File photo)

MANILA -- BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), the country's first guided-missile frigate, exceeded design speed at endurance range during the ship's initial sea trial which was held last November 23 to 27 off South Korean waters.

"During the first sea trials, BRP Jose Rizal's speed was higher than her design speed at endurance range,"
Philippine Navy (PN) public affairs office chief Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas said in a message to the Philippine News Agency late Tuesday.

BRP Jose Rizal has a maximum designed speed of 25 knots and a cruising speed of 15 knots and a range of 4,500 nautical miles.

The first sea trials, which was conducted in the waters of Ulsan, Busan, and Mokpo, had the frigate performing well even at Sea State Condition 4 where waves are known to reach between four to eight feet.

It was conducted to check the ship's performance and general seaworthiness. Also, she added that the second sea trials, which is focused on checking the ship's performance, noise, vibration measurement, and navigation equipment test is still ongoing having started on December 16 and will end on the 19th.

"(Present during the 2nd sea trials) are PN representatives, (ship-builder) Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) QM (quality management) technicians, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) engineers and Lloyd's Register of Shipping inspector," she added.

For the third and fourth sea trials, which are yet to be scheduled, Roxas said this will be more on testing the ship's various weapons systems.

The sea trials are the last phase of construction prior the frigate’s delivery to the Philippines scheduled tentatively in April or May 2020. This took place six months after the vessel was launched at the HHI shipyard for the first time at HHI shipyard in Ulsan last May 23.

"The PHP8 billion warship is a big-ticket acquisition of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that is poised to be the benchmark of PN’s transformation journey," Roxas earlier said.

Incidentally, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), the sistership of BRP Jose Rizal, was launched in the same facility last November 8. The contract for the two ships are placed at PHP16 billion with another PHP2 billion for weapon systems and munitions.

These ships are capable of conducting Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Electronic Warfare (EW) Operations and it is fully equipped with Surface-to-Air and Surface- to-Surface Missiles, torpedoes, launchers, and weapon systems.

AFP motivated with 'Soldiers of the Filipino nation' tag

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): AFP motivated with 'Soldiers of the Filipino nation' tag (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP spokesperson Marine Brig, Gen. Edgard Arevalo. (File photo)

MANILA -- The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines is very much honored with President Rodrigo R. Duterte's remarks calling them "Soldiers of the Filipino nation" during its 84th founding anniversary celebration on Tuesday.

“We feel immensely proud to hear how the C-in-C (Commander-in-Chief) President Rodrigo Duterte sees and appreciates us he calls, 'Soldiers of the Filipino nation'," said AFP spokesperson Marine Brig, Gen. Edgard Arevalo in a message to reporters.

Duterte's appeal to the Filipino public to love their soldiers also further inspired the military to do more.

"His powerful message exhorting the people to 'Love your soldiers' inspires us to do more, fires us to win more, and empowers us to exceed expectations," he added.

With these encouraging words, the AFP spokesperson said the military will not fail the people.

Earlier, Duterte recognized the organization’s “selfless service” and thanked the AFP for defending the nation from external and internal security threats and for providing humanitarian and disaster response in times of disaster.

Duterte also called on the public to provide them with support as they risked their lives in making the country safer and more secure.

“If there is [disorder], they establish order. If there is a lawless environment, they provide stability. Ang sundalo natin, (Our soldiers) they are everything and that is why you should love your soldier. Tayong mga Pilipino, tulungan natin (Us Filipinos, should help them),” Duterte said.

“The dependability and reliability of the AFP have been recently tested after the series of earthquakes that rocked Mindanao and the storm and flooding that inundated [parts] of Luzon and in some areas in the Visayas. Know that for your selfless service during these times of need, the entire nation will be grateful,” he added.

Duterte asked members of the AFP to remain committed in their duty as the primary force in ensuring lasting peace across the country.

“The Filipino people will continue to count on you, each one of you, to remain steadfast in your noble mission to defend our sovereignty and maintain peace in our communities and you should not fail,” he added.

Duterte also vowed to give them his “unqualified support” as the government continues to address threats to national security.

PSG ready to protect Duterte amid alleged NPA hit list

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): PSG ready to protect Duterte amid alleged NPA hit list (By Azer Parrocha) 

PROTECTING THE PRESIDENT. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during his visit at the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on December 14, 2019. Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander, Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra on Wednesday (Dec. 18) said the PSG is ready to protect the President from all forms of threat to his life. (Presidential photo of Robinson Niñal)

MANILA -- Amid reports that a communist group has placed President Rodrigo Duterte on its hit list, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) on Wednesday said its men are ready to protect the Chief Executive from all forms of threat to his life.

Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander, Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra
made this remark after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said he received information that the President is on the hit list of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“We expect that the President is number one on their list. As to preparations and hardening up of security procedures, I think amin nalang ‘yun (we’ll keep it to ourselves) but rest assured we’re doing something to protect the President,”
Niembra told reporters in a media interview in Malacañang.

The CPP, which is set to commemorate its 51st founding anniversary on December 26, marks the occasion with attacks against the police and military carried out by its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Niembra said receiving information about alleged threats was not new, especially because of the President’s tough stance against terrorism, illegal drugs, and other crimes.

“Meron kaming natanggap na information na ganyan. Actually, matagal na (We have received information long ago) that the President is one of the top priority targets not only of NPA but also of drug lords, the syndicate groups,” Niembra said.

“Being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces should be the number one target every day of the year,” he added.

He said that with or without reported threats, it was the mission of the PSG to “see to it that we have a living President day by day.”

“Of course, we take it seriously kasi (because) it’s not a joking matter because it’s the life of the President and the survival of the country,” Niembra said.

Both police and military intensified intelligence monitoring and maximize defense posture in anticipation of attacks.


Niembra has no word whether the President would proceed with his annual Christmas gift-giving activity at their ancestral residence in Barangay Bangkal, Davao City.

However, he assured that the President “knows how to handle himself" and will heed the security protocol of the PSG.

“Alam naman niya kung hanggang saan yung (He knows his) boundary nung puwede niya gawin. Minsan sumusobra, minsan sumusunod (on what he is allowed to do. Sometimes he steps over his boundary, sometimes he follows),” Niembra said.

“It’s a matter of advising him actually which is critical and which is not,” he added.

Duterte is expected to spend Christmas break with his family in his hometown, Davao City after the scheduled first presidential silent drill competition on Friday (Dec. 20), he said.

Meanwhile, Niembra said the President will not be allowed to ride his motorbike during the Christmas break in his hometown.

He said the President will only be given the green light to use his motorbike within the PSG compound in Malacañan Palace.

“Kung sa loob lang ng PSG puwede (He can do so within the PSG compound), but if he goes out, I think we should advise him but in a secured or controlled area,” he said.

The President, however, expressed willingness to drive around Metro Manila.

“In recent days, dito lang po sa loob ng (he only drives within the compound of) PSG. But he has a plan to go around Metro Manila in a motorcycle. I don’t agree, actually,” Niembra said.

Earlier, Duterte joked about wanting to receive a new motorbike for Christmas but went on to say his only wish is for the Philippines and the Filipinos.

Despite figuring in a minor motorbike incident at the PSG compound on October 16, Duterte has repeatedly said he would keep riding motorbikes until his last breath.

Proposed mandatory ROTC not prelude to PH militarization: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): Proposed mandatory ROTC not prelude to PH militarization: AFP (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

ROTC NOT PRELUDE TO MILITARIZATION. Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander, Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, answers questions about the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in a press conference in Malacañang on Wednesday (Dec. 18, 2019). Niembra vehemently denied that proposal to make ROTC compulsory for senior high school students will be a prelude to militarization. (Screenshot)

MANILA – Philippine security officials dismissed on Wednesday that the proposal to make Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) compulsory for senior high school students will be a prelude to the country’s militarization.

In a press conference in Malacanang, Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander, Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, clarified that the plan to reinstate mandatory ROTC among students in Grades 11 and 12 is merely intended to instill discipline among the youth.

He said the government wanted to train the Filipino youth and transform them as “effective rescuers or first responders for natural and man-made disasters”.

Niembra also stressed that it was “impossible” to transform the Philippines into a military state because such move “takes years to develop”.

“First of all, this is only the start. Militarization takes years to develop. So eto, si Presidente naman only has two years more so it’s impossible na magiging prelude ito ng militarization of the entire youth sa buong Pilipinas (And the President only has two years more so it’s impossible that proposed mandatory ROTC will be prelude to militarization of the entire youth all throughout the country),” he said.

“And secondly, ang gusto nating i-develop dito ay readiness for any eventualities, hindi lang po pang-giyera (we want to develop their readiness for any eventualities, not just for war). We know that the ROTC and the reserved force of the country is the number one force that we can rely on in case of natural and man-made disasters,” the PSG chief added.

In June this year, Duterte certified as urgent a Senate bill mandating senior high school students in public and private schools to mandatorily undergo ROTC program in an effort to "invigorate their sense of nationalism and patriotism necessary in defending the State and further promote their vital role in nation-building".

The House of Representatives in the 17th Congress approved its measure reviving the mandatory ROTC for senior high school students, but the Senate failed to pass its version of the bill.

ROTC used to be mandatory until Republic Act (RA) 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) was passed in 2001 under the Arroyo government, making the training course optional and voluntary for college students.

ROTC, one of the three components of the NSTP, provides military training to motivate and train students for national defense preparedness.

The two other components of the NSTP are the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and the Literacy Training Service and (LTS).

‘Stricter’ implementation of mechanisms to avoid abuses

Brig. Gen. Royland Orquia, Armed Forces of the Philippines’ assistant deputy chief of staff for reservist and retiree affairs, said there are “safety nets” for those who will undergo mandatory ROTC program.

Orquia guaranteed that the government will be “stricter” when it comes to implementing the mechanism for assessing the success of the military training, as well as for ensuring that the program will not be a breeding ground of abuse.

He likewise noted that professionalization of and training for ROTC commandants are among the current administration’s initiatives, in anticipation of the possible approval of proposed mandatory military training among the youth.

“Now, ang mukha po ngayon ng bagong ROTC is very different from previous dahil sa ngayon, nagkaroon na po tayo ng mga training doon sa prospect commandants, sa mga hahawak ng ROTC units (Now, the face of new ROTC is very different from the previous because now, we have been conducting trainings for prospect commandants),” said Orquia during the press briefing.

“There [is] strict implementation of the system and processes. May safety nets po tayong dinagdag dito ngayon sa present program ng ROTC, if and when maging mandatory (We have included safety nets in the present ROTC program, if and when it becomes mandatory),” he added.

Congress’ nod on proposed mandatory ROTC sought

The 18th Congress has yet to pass a proposed measure backing the President’s intent to reinstate the mandatory ROTC for senior high school students.

To date, there are at least 34,000 ROTC enrollees nationwide, Orquia said.

Orquia added that many have also expressed willingness to join the military training.

Learning the lesson from the past, the government will make sure that ROTC recruits will become the “best and bravest,” Niembra said.

Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo expressed hope that the lawmakers would approve the mandatory military training in senior high school.

Encabo said stakeholders are also willing to cooperate with Congress to expedite the passage of the proposed measure.

“It is an act of Congress needed in the said bill. And we’re looking forward to that,” he said.

“And we hope that all our efforts, our joint efforts here, coming from the service academies, from the technical working group, and the other government agencies will somehow be able to connect with them if they need some information or data gathering,” Encabo added.

Silent drill competition to showcase ROTC cadets’ ‘capability, character’

Meantime, no less than the Commander-in-Chief conceptualized the first presidential silent drill competition that will be held at the Quirino Grandstand in Metro Manila on Dec. 20.

Technical working group chairman, Commander Julien Dolor said competitors include the Philippine Military Academy, the Philippine National Police, the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific, the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, the Philippine Army Officer Candidate School, the Philippine Navy Officer Candidate School, and the Philippine Air Force Candidate School.

Niembra said the silent drills are meant to showcase the ROTC cadets’ “capability and character.”

“He (Duterte) ordered that it be done doon sa Quirino Grandstand para po ma-appreciate ng ating mga kababayan na ito ‘yung ating Armed Forces, ito ‘yung ating mga kadete (He ordered that it be done at the Quirino Grandstand so our countrymen would appreciate our armed forces, our cadets),” he said.

“Hopefully, this will awaken the interest of our people doon po sa ating (in our) ROTC program),” the PSG chief added.

Class suit vs. schools allowing 'recruitment' to NPA mulled

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18, 2019): Class suit vs. schools allowing 'recruitment' to NPA mulled (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

MANILA-- The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) is planning to file a class suit against some universities in Manila for allegedly allowing groups fronting for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) recruit students inside its campuses.

"We are preparing a class-action suit against the universities that tolerate and allow these communist front organizations to use their schools as areas of recruitment,"
VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum in Manila on Wednesday.

"The order has been out, we have to stop these communists within the term of President (Rodrigo) Duterte and we in the private sector will always do our share in complying with this directive of our government,"
he added.

Topacio particularly warned the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and the Far Eastern University (FEU), saying the two are among the institutions that may be included in the lawsuit.

"Pinag-a-aralan namin (We're studying) how to take action on an institutional level," he said. "We're studying the matter, the case would be civil damages, a class action by the parents."

Topacio said universities should keep in mind that "they are liable for the welfare of students because they exercise substitute parental authority over their students".

"School is liable kung tino-tolerate mo... alam mo nang may recruitment 'yong communist front organizations diyan, hindi mo pa pinipigilan (School is liable if they are tolerating... if they already knew there's recruitment by communist front organizations and yet they don't intervene)," Topacio said.

“Kung ikaw ay school administrator at hindi mo alam na may recruitment sa campus mo, inutil ka. Nagre-recruit na, doon na gumagawa ng symposium, ginagamit na ‘yong facilities ng schools para mag-indoctrinate, pinababayaan mo, you’re also liable, at least civilly (If you are the school administrator and you're unaware of the recruitment inside your campus, then you are inutile. They're already recruiting there, the symposium to indoctrinate is being held there with the use of school facilities but you allow it, you're also liable, at least civilly)," he said.

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