Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Assault rifles found at BIFF's hideout in Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Dec 31, 2019): Assault rifles found at BIFF's hideout in Cotabato (John Unson)

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Soldiers seized Monday three assault rifles hidden in an abandoned hideout of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Besides the two M16 rifles and an M14, personnel of the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion also found communication equipment, ammunition of assorted calibers and components for improvised explosive devices in one of the makeshift shelters in the BIFF enclave in Barangay Nabalawag in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Major Gen. Diosdado Carreon of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said Tuesday members of 34th IB were dispatched to Barangay Nabalawag to check the presence there of BIFF gunmen that villagers reported via text messages to contacts in Camp Siongco, the command center of 6th ID located in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The BIFF bandits scampered away when they sensed that soldiers were closing in from two directions, backed by Simba armored combat vehicles.

Local officials said the terrorists, who escaped towards the nearby Liguasan Delta, belong to one of the groups led by Imam Karialan, who is wanted for a number of deadly bombings in central Mindanao in the past four years.

Bulatlat: How the legal system is used to attack political dissenter

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People's Army (CPP/NDF/NPA) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Dec 31, 2019): How the legal system is used to attack political dissenters (Ronalyn V. Olea)

Human rights groups and families of political prisoners march to Department of Justice to call for the release of political prisoners and resumption of peace talks. (File photo by Arneth Asiddao/Bulatlat)

MANILA – On October 9, 2017, the Duterte administration created an inter-agency task force called the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), through a joint resolution signed by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The IACLA’s aim is to “strengthen the intelligence gathering and cooperation, investigation, prosecution, and monitoring of cases against threat groups.”

Threat groups, for state security forces, apparently include ordinary activists and critics. Much like the Arroyo administration’s Oplan Bantay Laya, Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan does not also distinguish combatants from civilians.

Duterte’s IACLA is similar to Gloria Arroyo administrations Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was responsible for the filing of trumped-up charges against progressive lawmakers and leaders of people’s organizations.

A key difference between Arroyo’s IALAG and Duterte’s IACLA was the lack of case build-ups in the police-military operations, according to Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center in a paper presented during the Congress of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

Pastores, who handles several cases of political prisoners, said, “Once a person is considered a target for arrest, they will be subjected to intense surveillance. Once their whereabouts are confirmed, they are arrested through a joint police and military operation. The police and military have mastered the art of preparing false documents to justify the filing of fabricated charges.”

Pastores cited the cases of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Raffy Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Casambre to illustrate her observation.

In Baylosis’ case, an informant claimed that they spotted Baylosis ten meters away with a firearm tucked on his waist as he was boarding a jeepney. Baylosis was arrested upon reaching Quezon City and was slapped with illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges. The judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of validity in the truthfulness of the allegations.

In the case of Ladlad, an errand boy who claimed to have seen high-powered firearms and explosives in Ladlad’s kitchen reported it to the military. Ladlad was subsequently arrested in a raid. Pastores said that “a reasonable person would not believe the story” as a person possessing high-powered arms would not put them on display in a kitchen table for anybody to see.

In the case of Casambre, he was arrested with his wife while riding a car. Casambre was arrested on an arrest warrant from Davao, as well as charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. During the inquest, the arresting team’s story changed from finding the firearms inside the glove compartment, to finding the firearms on top of the dashboard, to noticing that the firearms were on top of Casambre’s laptop inside the glove compartment, which was open at the time.

Pastores also noted that the police and military resort to the planting of evidence to justify the filing of non-bailable offenses.

The simultaneous raids of police and military elements in Negros island on Oct. 31 led to the arrest of 57 activists. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. On the same day, the house of Gabriela local leader Cora Agovida and her husband Michael Tan Bartolome was also raided. The police allegedly recovered a .45 caliber pistol and two grenades inside the small house where two children, aged two and ten years old, also reside.

On Nov. 5, the office of Bayan-Metro Manila in Tondo was also raided. Three activists were arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“It is easier to prove the case for illegal possession of firearms and explosives than the case of murder,” said Pastores, because the elements are simpler.

The NUPL and human rights alliance Karapatan noted that the search warrants used in the said raids were issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert on October 30.

Karapatan noted that Villavert was also the judge who issued warrants for the arrest of National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, and, Alexander and Winona Birondo.

NUPL President Edre Olalia said, “Apparently, the police was able to shop for a sympathetic judge to achieve its sinister objective of securing shotgun warrants.”

Olalia said the Supreme Court circular issued in February 2004 defining the powers of executive judges, on its own, is logical. The problem, he said, is that the state forces “weaponized it to violate human rights.”

Under the Duterte administration, 225 political prisoners were arrested and detained, according to Karapatan. Majority of them were slapped with non-bailable common crimes in violation of the Hernandez political doctrine, which prohibits the criminalization of political offenses.

Another glaring example of political persecution is the filing of perjury charges against human rights defenders by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. The case, except against Catholic nun Elenita Belardo, has been dismissed.

Old remedies no longer accessible

Not only did human rights defenders have to face legal harassment, they were also denied protection previously available to them.

The separate petitions for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data filed by Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and the NUPL were dismissed by the Court of Appeals this year.

Both the CA’s Former Special 15th Division (NUPL) and the 14th Division (Karapatan et.al) said “there is no substantial evidence” of the petitioners’ allegations of violations, or threats of violations of rights to life, liberty, and security.” Karapatan decried that the court did not hear their testimonies.

The groups were among those publicly red tagged and vilified as terrorists by government officials. Some of their members were killed, arrested and detained and subjected to surveillance and other forms of harassment.

After six months, Justice Mario Lopez, who penned the decision on Karapatan et.al’s petition, was appointed by Duterte to the Supreme Court. “We doubt if the decision he penned has nothing to do with his appointment to the High Court,” Karapatan said in a statement following Lopez’s appointment.

Karapatan also criticized the appointment of Diosdado Peralta as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice on October 23. The group noted that Peralta favored martial law extensions in Mindanao and the burial of late dictator Marcos, upheld the legality of Senator Leila De Lima’s arrest, the closure of Boracay and the ouster of former Chief Justice Sereno.

The appointment of the two newest associate justices is a step towards an administration-packed SC, the group said. By the time the President ends his term in 2022, a total of 13 would be his appointees, leaving only two justices as non-Duterte appointees.

“We are wary that the succession of High Court justices appointed by Duterte will lead to an erosion of judicial independence. This will mean complicity on human rights violations and the utilization of the SC to justify violations and reaffirm the passage of repressive and controversial policies,” Karapatan said.

Counterinsurgency as framework

Olalia blamed Duterte’s counterinsurgency policy as stated in Executive Order No. 70 for the increasing cases of human rights violations against political dissenters.

The implementation of EO 70, he said, included illegal searches, red baiting and filing of trumped-up charges.

“Essentially, it’s the same [with the previous administrations] but it’s the gravity, degree, scope, rapacity, viciousness of orchestrated attacks that make it worse. The whole-of-nation approach is tantamount to wholesale attacks,” Olalia concluded. (By Ronalyn V. Olea/Bulatlat)


Bulatlat: How the US meddled with PH gov’t war versus its own people

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People's Army (CPP/NDF/NPA) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Dec 31, 2019): How the US meddled with PH gov’t war versus its own people (Janess Ann J. Ellao)

With all its pretensions for peace and development, Duterte’s counterinsurgency is brutal to the core.

MANILA — The concept of militarizing civilian agencies is not entirely new – beginning all the way from the revamping of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, under then Defense Secretary turned President Ramon Magsaysay.

Psychological warfare was used as part of his “triad” warfighting, which referred to integrating intelligence, combat operations, and psychological warfare in its effort to win the war against the Hukbalahap forces and gain the support of the people. This basically laid the foundation of the so-called whole-of-nation approach in dealing with counterinsurgency.

The “whole of nation approach” was practically copied from the US Counterinsurgency Guide released in January 2009, as first seen in the Benigno Aquino III administration’s Oplan Bayanihan, which states that the most successful counterinsurgency campaigns “have achieved this unity of effort through unified authority” – referring to “civil-military integration” as both strategic and tactical.

This, however, is not the first time that the US government has influenced the Philippines’ affairs. In fact, it was the US government that formally organized the Philippine Constabulary to assist in “combating the remnants of the revolutionaries.”

The Philippine Constabulary, along with officers and members of the Reserve Commissions in the United States Army and the Philippine Scouts, later formed the AFP when it was formally organized under the American Commonwealth era, per the National Defense Act of 1935.

In a previous article, Bulatlat editor in chief Benjie Oliveros pointed out that the US influence, nay control, over Philippine counterinsurgency strategy dates back to the post-American colonialism period. The last two government agencies turned over by the US colonial government to the first Philippine puppet government were the Education and Defense departments.

Even before the term “surrogate army” was coined by the 2006 US Quadrennial Defense Review, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has long been a junior partner of the US Armed Forces. In fact, among the major influences in the development of US counterinsurgency strategy are the Philippine-American War of 1901 and the Huk pacification campaign during the 1950s.

One administration after the other, the US continued in meddling with political, economic, and military affairs of the Philippine government through lopsided deals such as the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, Visiting Forces Agreement, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, among others.

In its 2018 Civil-Military Operations of the US government’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US military said it carries out civil and military operations at strategic, tactical, and operational levels of warfare. This helps them “facilitate military operations by establishing, maintaining, influencing, or exploiting relationships between military forces and the civilian populace,” including counterinsurgency and peace operations.

After the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship, De La Salle University International Studies professor Renato Dela Cruz said both the first Aquino and Ramos administration allegedly worked on the demilitarization of the civilian bureaucracy. Worldwide, he said, civil-military operations appear “porous” and “anomalous” as it has yet to find “the right balance” in an existing political system.

The civilian and military relations, however, took a different turn during the Arroyo administration, as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo boosted an “unholy alliance” with the military – paying visits to their camps, providing of increased benefits for personnel, and the appointing of retired ranking officials to the civilian bureaucracy, said Dela Cruz.

This alliance later led to the forming of its national security policy, the Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2 – the bloodiest counterinsurgency programs launched in recent history, whose main implementor retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. is now convicted for the enforced disappearance of two university students.

In a previous article, Oliveros pointed out that Oplan Bantay Laya also directed its attacks on political activists. With its target research component, intelligence operations are directed at what it calls “sectoral front organizations”. The key people in these “sectoral front organizations” are placed in a “sectoral Order of Battle (OB).” These intelligence operations are carried out by units and personnel of the Military Intelligence Group-Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (MIG-ISAFP) lodged at the battalion level. These units are given “Intelligence Task Allocations,” with quarterly targets for “neutralization.” Thus, a surge of killings of political activists took place from 2002 onwards. When Arroyo stepped down from the presidency, Karapatan recorded 1,190 victims of extrajudicial killings, 205 victims of enforced disappearances, 1,028 victims of torture, and hundreds of thousands were forcibly displaced in rural areas as a result of military operations.

The Benigno Aquino III administration extended Oplan Bantay Laya and then launched its “Oplan Bayanihan” to focus on “winning the peace” through the “whole of nation approach.”

While extrajudicial killings of activist declined due to local and international pressure, arrests and detention of political dissenters were on the rise. From July 2010 to September 2015, Karapatan documented 294 victims of extrajudicial killings and 911 cases of illegal arrest and detention.

The utilization of civilian agencies for counterinsurgency was also stark. AFP’s Peace and development teams (PDT) worked with civilian agencies to win the hearts of locals in New People’s Army strongholds.

When Duterte assumed office, he implemented Oplan Kapayapaan and then Oplan Kapanatagan, supposedly an improved version of the previous counterinsurgency programs.

It should be noted that Arroyo’s generals who implemented Oplan Bantay Laya are the same military officials manning Duterte’s security cluster. National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. was AFP Chief of Staff during the Arroyo administration while Eduardo Año, former head of the Intelligence Services of the AFP (Isafp) is now Interior and Local Government secretary. Thus, like Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, Duterte’s counterinsurgency strategy also does not distinguish combatants (NPA) from civilians (ordinary activists). Similar to Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, Duterte adopted the whole of nation approach, which means mobilizing the entire state machinery for counterinsurgency. With all its pretensions for peace and development, Duterte’s counterinsurgency is brutal to the core.

Like the previous administrations, Duterte continues to get security and defense assistance from the US. From 2016 until 2019, the US provided foreign military financing amounting to $160 million and anti-terrorism funding worth $21.57million. The US also poured in a total of $34.87 million to the Duterte administration through International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement and Section 1004 Counter-Drug Assistance.

Human rights alliance Karapatan blamed Duterte’s counterinsurgency program for the spate of human rights violations. As of June 2019, the rights group recorded 266 victims of extrajudicial killings, 404 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 1,850 victims of illegal arrests, 134 tortured, 443 victims of illegal search and seizure. More than 450,000 were also forcibly displaced due to military operations, according to Karapatan.

The militarist approach in dealing with the armed revolution has been proven, time and again, futile. So long as the roots of the armed conflict are not addressed, armed resistance will continue to intensify. (With research from Arneth Assidao and with reports from Ronalyn Olea)


Bulatlat: Militarizing the civilian bureaucracy for suppressing dissent

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People's Army (CPP/NDF/NPA) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Dec 31, 2019): Militarizing the civilian bureaucracy for suppressing dissent (Janess Ann J. Ellao)

Progressive groups hold a protest action in front of Camp Crame, Nov. 4. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)
The counterinsurgency policy is not only targeted against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) but against perceived supporters or any groups standing in the way of the administration’s political and economic interests.

MANILA – The militarization of the Philippines’ civilian bureaucracy has never before highlighted under a post-Marcos administration until now — threatening hard-fought democratic institutions and ushering the return of an authoritarian rule in the country.

Reports showed how President Rodrigo Duterte has visibly turned to the Philippine military on various national issues. With at least 73 military and police officials appointed to key civilian government offices and government-owned and –controlled corporations, independent thinktank Ibon Foundation said there are now more military and police officials in government than at any time since the Marcos dictatorship nearly 50 years ago.

As it stands, the group added that at least 11 of the 50 or about one-fifth of cabinet and cabinet-level officials are retired military and police officials.

Their respective appointments, however, are not by mere preference of the country’s highest elected official as efforts in stifling any form of dissent in the name of counterinsurgency have been institutionalized.

Whole-of-nation approach

The “whole of nation approach” copied by retired Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista from the 2009 US Counterinsurgency Guide, is employed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70. Bautista is now executive director of Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster under the Office of the President.

This executive order institutionalized the “whole of nation approach” and summed up executive orders Duterte earlier signed related to the use of civilian agencies in counterinsurgency as all government departments, bureaus, offices, agencies were directed to render support to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which EO 70 created.

In 2017, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 16, which directed all government departments and government-owned and –controlled corporations to adopt its national security plan.

The counterinsurgency policy is not only targeted against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) but against perceived supporters or any groups standing in the way of the administration’s political and economic interests.

A year later, in April 2018, he also signed Administrative Order No. 10, which directed the concerned government agencies to centralize their efforts “for the reintegration of former rebels.” This paved the way for forming of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which will provide a “complete package of assistance to former rebels,” who will surface upon the effectivity of the administrative order.

The said administrative order also paved for the forming of “Task Force Balik-Loob,” composed of ranking officials from the Department of National Defense, Interior and Local Government, the Office of the President, and the National Housing Authority.

The Department of Interior and Local Government issued Memorandum Circular Order No. 2019-125 on Aug. 6, 2019, creating the Local Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which directed local governments to cooperate with the Task Force on all fronts – from international lobbying down to their reintegration programs at every province, city and muncipality, and village levels.

Civilian agencies were also directed to provide regular reports to the Task Force, per the circular penned by retired general, now Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.

Elected civilian government officials such as those in the barangay level, now serve as “ears and eyes” of the AFP in many communities, according to Davao City-based human rights defender Jay Apiag. Local govenment units conduct surveillance work against their own constituents, including those participating in protest actions. This, Apiag added, is apart from high-definition CCTVs installed in areas such as Davao City, which the military may have access to.

However, a civilian government position need not be occupied by a retired government official. The Department of Education, as part of the Task Force, ordered the permanent closure of tribal schools on allegations that these are run by New People’s Army.

Even the Land Transporportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is flagging jeepneys and buses being rented out by activists during protest actions for supposedly being “out-of-line,” according to Karapatan’s chapter in Southern Mindanao Region.

Kalikasan National Coordinator Leon Dulce said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, whose present head is also a retired general, Roy Cimatu, has also long been instrumental in undermining the basic rights of tribal communities facing threats of eviction due to large-scale and foreign-owned mining.

Under a retired military official, Dulce said the government agency has been lobbying for an “enforcement agency,” which may be used against the people’s legitimate struggle for land and rights.

Suppression of legitimate exercise of political rights is justified by linking people’s organizations to the communists, who are vilified as terrorists. This has often led to graver rights abuses such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and arrests.

Social services carried out by the military to stifle dissent

Even the delivery of social services is being used as an instrument of war against the people.

National Council of Churches in the Philippines’ Minnie Ann Calub, who headed its humanitarian aid for three decades, told Bulatlat that the military has no business in carrying out social services as they are not considered as “neutral,” per the humanitarian principles being adhered to globally.
“In conflict-related disasters, how can the military, which is a party to the conflict, provide due humanitarian aid to those in need?” she said.

Among the militarized government agencies that are at the fore of social services are Philhealth and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Apiag said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) usually comes in first to assess the needs for the implementation of either E-CLIP or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the government’s conditional cash transfer program. Karapatan, however, has received reports of legitimate 4Ps beneficiaries who were delisted from the conditional cash transfer program after joining protest actions.

“In the name of cash grants, the government wants the people to surrender their democratic rights,” Apiag said.

Apart from being delisted from 4Ps, human rights defenders such as Jennilyn Baguio of Hustisya – Southern Mindanao Region was not issued a certificate of indigency, which she needed in order to avail of government health services when she fell ill in 2018. Soldiers, too, have warned village officials against issuing the certificate, claiming that Baguio was an NPA member.

Local governments are also being used to bloat the number of forced surrenderees. In the Cordillera region, peasant group Apit Tako, said there were about 200 residents in Asipulo, Isabela who were accosted and instructed to stand before a table with firearms they have never seen before, and later presented to no other than President Duterte himself as “NPA surrenderees.”

“They could not resist. The soldiers were armed. It left them with no other choice,” Nestor Peralta, secretary general of the Ifugao Peasant Movement, told Bulatlat.

In Escalante City, 7,000 farmers were falsely presented to the media as rebel returnees. “The farmers were invited by their respective barangay chairpersons to attend a livelihood program launch. They had no idea they were to be introduced as NPAs returning to the fold,” Rey Alburo of Karapatan-Negros told.

Alburo said the farmers were made to sign documents stating they were former rebels in exchange for P5,000, two kilos of rice, two cans of sardines and two packs of instant noodles. According to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), each rebel returnee should receive P50,000 in livelihood assistance and P15,000 immediate assistance.

Just before the year ended, the Philippine Army posted a photo of over 300 alleged surrenderees, which netizens pointed out to be manipulated. Amid the backlash, the Army later claimed that the firearmes and former rebels were authentic but were “merged together.” The same photo, however, was first posted by a Facebook page dubbed as “Legal Army Wives” and labeled “18 June 2019.”

From July 2016 to June 2019 alone, Karapatan documented at least 2,924 cases of fake and forced surrenderees

Rights violators

Forced and fake surrenderees, Apiag said, aims to destroy people’s organizations on the ground and shape public opinion in favor of the AFP.

Davao City, for one, has been heavily militarized. Apiag said military presence and checkpoints have become the “new normal.”

Martial law in Mindanao has made it difficult for human rights defenders to investigate cases of rights abuses – from the indiscriminate bombings to forced surrenderees. Several humanitarian efforts, too, in the past, have been blocked, said Apiag.

In the face of various attempts to quell dissent in nearly all fronts, Apiag said human rights defenders carry out “creative” means to fulfill their mandates.

Apiag said efforts to crush any form of dissent has also led to the politicization of the people – as they continue to resist and defend their hard-earned rights together.

During the International Human Rights Day, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said that while the Duterte administration is vindictive, “it is scared and desperate” as capitalizes on narratives aimed at glorifying Duterte and his so-called iron fist rule, but it buckles down when investigations on its crimes against the Filipino people are encouraged and conducted.”

She said, “alongside the families of victims of human rights violations, we must always remind this government that impunity is not forever; that the day for justice and accountability is just around the corner.”

For Jose Maria Sision, founder of the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines, “all efforts of the Duterte regime to destroy the CPP and the revolutionary mass movement have failed.”

“Duterte’s escalating oppression and exploitation drive more Filipinos to wage people’s war and all forms of resistance,” Sison said in a statement issued on the Communist Party of the Philippines’ 51st anniversary.


‘NPA vandalism an act of desperation’

From Panay News (Dec 31, 2019): ‘NPA vandalism an act of desperation’ (By Ruby Silubrico)

PN Photo

ILOILO – The Philippine Army condemned a recent vandalism that it claimed was done by rebels.

Aganan Bridge in the municipality of Pavia was spray-painted with the graffiti “Viva CPP NDF – Mabuhay ang 51st Anniv sang CPP NPA NDF.”

“The vandalism was a sign of frustration. The rebels were also trying to sow fear in the community,” said the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) spokesperson, Captain Cenon Pancito III.

The Communist Party of the Philippines marked its 51st founding anniversary on Dec. 26. The New People’s Army is its armed wing while the NDF is a coalition of revolutionary social and economic justice organizations, agricultural unions, trade unions, and indigenous rights groups, among others.

Patrolling policemen of Pavia spotted the graffiti. The rebels used red spray paint.

There were no nearby security cameras, however, so identifying the vandals would be difficult.

“What they did was an act of cowardice. They are afraid to face us and they don’t want to admit they are losing the war. Wala na silang mga tao kasi some of their men ay nag-surrender na kasi talagang nagugutom na sila,” Pancito added.

LOOK: This portion of Aganan Bridge in Barangay, Pavia, Iloilo was spray-painted in red phrases that reads "Viva CPP NPA NDF MABUHAY ANG 51ST ANNIV SANG CPP NPA NDF"
Authorities have yet to identify the vandals as of this posting./PN

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The CPP was formed by Prof. Jose Maria Sison on Dec. 26, 1968. It was designated as a terrorist group by current Philippine president and Sison’s former student, Rodrigo Duterte in December 2017.

The CPP has been fighting a guerrilla war against the state since its establishment. Although its ranks initially numbered around 500, the party grew quickly, supposedly due to the declaration and imposition of martial law by former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos during his 21-year rule.

By the end of Marcos’ dictatorship, the number of combatants had expanded to include more than 10,000 fighters. In a speech before the US Congress in 1986, Marcos’ successor Corazon Aquino accredited the party’s rapid growth as being caused by Marcos’ attempts to stifle it with the “means by which it grows” with his establishment of martial law, suggesting that other governments view it as a lesson when dealing with communist insurgencies.

As of 2019, the organization claims that the number of its members and supporters is growing, despite claims by the Philippine government that the organization is about to be destroyed.

The organization remains an underground operation, with its primary goals being to overthrow the Philippine government through armed revolution.

The 3ID commander, Brigadier General Eric Vinoya, declared last week: “We are gaining against the NPA. We are on track to winning and ending the local communist armed conflict in Western Visayas.”

Executive Order (EO) 70 has dealt a big blow to the CPP and its armed wing, the NPA, said Vinoya.

EO 70 issued by President Duterte institutionalized the “whole-of-nation approach” in addressing the insurgency problem. It is the synchronization of various government agencies’ plans and programs to combat insurgency because guns and cannons alone could not do the job.

“EO 70 aims to achieve genuine peace. Discrediting EO 70 is like rejecting peace,” said Vinoya.

He welcomed the surrender of many rebels this year, most of whom were NPA commanders.

Vinoya expressed confidence of ending the insurgency in Western Visayas by next year.

“Government forces are serious in fulfilling the people’s will to end the insurgency. We are trained to be always ready,” he stressed.

Vinoya warned the CPP-NPA, “Expect more intensified combat operations. You only have two options, surrender or die.”

By 3ID’s estimate, seven rebel fronts are operating in 87 barangays cross Western Visayas./PN


NPA’s planned plenum violated truce, military says after seizing supplies

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 31, 2019): NPA’s planned plenum violated truce, military says after seizing supplies (By the Inquirer Staff)

BUTUAN CITY—Two motorcycles loaded with various supplies bound for Lahi village in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte province, were stopped at a joint police-military checkpoint at Sapa village in Claver town on Saturday evening.

Joselito Esquivel Jr., the Caraga regional police chief, said the drivers, under intense questioning, admitted that their cargo—18 packs of black fatigue pants, 37 poncho tents and 1,000 bottles of soda—was intended for a plenum, or general assembly, of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), on Thursday.

The authorities confiscated the cargo, and checkpoints were strengthened in the areas surrounding the assembly’s venue.

On Sunday two wanted NPA rebels were arrested near Bacuag town in Surigao del Norte, said Brig. Gen. Maurito Licudine, commander of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade.

“This led us to suspect the rebels were planning something big,” Licudine said.
Assault readied

He said the Army also monitored the movement of known rebels in Lahi, prompting him to dispatch troops to take up positions in the village.

Licudine said he also deployed four 105-mm howitzers and prepared to launch an assault on the rebels’ positions.

But he did not order an attack.

“What held us from [launching the assault] was our concern that the communist rebels would withdraw from the negotiating table,” Licudine said.

The military and the rebels were observing a ceasefire for the holiday season that began at midnight on Dec. 23 and would end at midnight on Jan. 7.

On Monday, Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the plenum violated the ceasefire agreement.

Gacal said the agreement was “clear that the rebels will not venture out of their camps.”

“But they have chosen to hold their activity near a village in Gigaquit town. That’s a clear violation,” Gacal said.

He said the Army was “duty-bound” to protect Sitio Bay-ang, at Lahi, where the rebels planned to hold the plenum and a mass wedding.

“It would take only a complaint from a resident and I will send in the troops,” he said.

Ka Oto, spokesperson for the NPA’s Front 16, told reporters by phone that planned activities for Monday were canceled because of the military movement near the venue.

‘It [would have been] a gathering of peace, a peaceful reunion of family and those (guerrillas) who had been away from their families,” Oto said.

The gathering would have also given the guerrillas a chance to exchange ideas about the proposed resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), he said.

Oto said the deployment of troops to villages around Lahi was a hostile act on the part of the military.

“This is about the question of sincerity. The movement of the Armed Forces shows that they are not in favor of the ceasefire and the peace negotiations,” Oto said.

He said the rebels were in Lahi not to consolidate their forces but “to celebrate Christmas, New Year, and be with our families.”

Inquirer sources from both the NPA and the Army said the plenum was already finished, and what remained to be done was the celebration of the CPP’s 51st anniversary.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday took offense at the NPA’s claim that government security forces were peace spoilers and opposed to the holiday truce.

In a statement, Lorenzana said the presence of troops at Bacuag should not have caused the cancellation of the plenum.
‘They can go ahead’

“So they have a plenum? They can go ahead. Our troops are not prohibited from doing their other duties such as law enforcement and assisting the local populace,” Lorenzana said.

“What the ceasefire prohibits them from doing is to engage the NPA in combat. Our troops will, however, react in self-defense,” he added.

The defense chief described the rebels’ claim that the military was opposed to the truce as “a preposterous accusation.”

“They, members of the terrorist CPP-NPA, are the peace spoilers. They prostituted and violated every ceasefire that had been declared,” Lorenzana said.

Speaking at M’lang, Cotabato province, on Monday afternoon, President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed the communist insurgency as “nothing but plain banditry” and said the insurgents were “devoid of ideology.”

Mr. Duterte, however, renewed his call for the CPP founder, Jose Maria Sison, to come home for “one-on-one” talks with him.

“We’re trying to have a talk, but what I want, I told Sison, ‘You come home and we will talk alone. Just the two of us. I don’t want a panel,’” Mr. Duterte said.

“I will ask him here, ‘What do you really want, you son of a bitch? What do you want? You want to destroy a country? Do you really think you can destroy the Philippines, you bandits?” he said.

Sison has rejected Mr. Duterte’s overture despite Malacañang’s assurance that he will not be arrested if he comes home for talks with the President.‍‍‍‍
Offer to rebels

Visiting earthquake victims in M’lang on Monday, Mr. Duterte renewed his offer of livelihood and houses to NPA guerrillas who would surrender to the government.

“Join us, since the government has money. Once you’re here [in the lowlands], I will have condominiums built for you, then you can study at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority,” Mr. Duterte said. —REPORTS FROM ERWIN MASCARIÑAS, FROILAN GALLARDO, RYAN ROSAURO, ORLANDO DINOY, WILLIAMOR MAGBANUA, JULIE M. AURELIO AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE

19 NPA rebels surrender amid holiday truce

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 31, 2019): 19 NPA rebels surrender amid holiday truce (By Martin Sadongdong)

Nineteen communist rebels took advantage of the holiday truce between the Philippine government (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA)-NDF) to surrender to authorities in Eastern Mindanao.

Lieutenant General Felimon Santos Jr., commander of Eastern Mindanao Command (EaetMinCom), attributed the surrender to the effectiveness of local peace initiatives of the different local government units.

“We hope that the academe, the religious sector and other members of the community will channel their initiatives and support these peace endeavors of the different LGUs so that we can all together work for a peaceful environment,” Santos said.

Lieutenant Colonel Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the EastMinCom, said the surrenderers were members of the NPA and Milisya ng Bayan (MB) who laid down their arms as early as the first day the truce was declared on December 23.

Of the surrenderers, Balagtey said three were rebels who turned themselves in to a local negotiating team composed of local officials, tribal leaders and representative from the business sector in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

The three include a couple who served as team leader and supply officer of a vertical unit in Bukidnon and another NPA team leader.

Balagtey added that six Milisya ng Bayan (MB) members voluntarily surrendered to elements of the 26th Infantry Battalion, San Luis police and Municipal Task Force-ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict) San Luis in Sitio Tambo, Brgy. Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

In Panabo, Davao del Norte, Balagtey said a communist medic surrendered to local government officials.

In New Bataan, Davao De Oro, Balagtey said a member of an organizing committee in Davao City yielded to the 66th Infantry Battalion and turned over his 9mm pistol.

Three NPA rebels being monitored by the military were surrendered by local officials in Bislig, Surigao Del Sur to the 75th Infantry Battalion.

One of the three rebel surrenderers was a political guide of a guerilla front in the province.

The three surrendered two AK47 rifles and one M16A1 rifle, Balagtay added.

Long for family

In Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur. community leaders turned over a medical staff of the rebel group in Davao del Sur and three fighters to joint elements of the Davao del Sur Police Office and 39th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Mainit, Brgy. Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur.

Balagtey said the group turned over an M14 rifle, an M1 Garrand rifle, an M16 rifle, and medical paraphernalia.

On Christmas day, a ranking member of the NPA in Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley) turned himself in to the Army’s 66th Infantry (Kabalikat) Battalion.

“Ka Bobby” voluntarily surrendered to 66th IB commander Lt. Col. Roman S. Mabborang and yielded one Cobra Ingram Chamvered and a 9mm pistol including two magazines loaded with 24 live ammunitions.

Second Lt. Gablan said the 52-years old rebel returnee was an official of the Provincial White Area Committee (PWAC), Sub-Regional Command (SRC) 3 of the CPP-NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).

“The spirit of Christmas made him long to be with his family. Taking advantage of the Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO), the former rebel (FR) voluntarily turned himself in to the 66th IB, Gablan said.

“Ka Bobby” revealed the difficult life in the mountains has not brought him anywhere near the promise of the Communist ideology and has only placed his family’s safety at stake.

“He pledged to be the bridge of help to his comrades to convince them to abandon the armed struggle and start a new life,” Mabborang added. (with a report from Mike Crismundo)

Terrorists, sea row threats to security in 2019

Posted to the Manila Times (Dec 30, 2019): Terrorists, sea row threats to security in 2019 (By Dempsey Reyes)

THE Philippines faced major security challenges in 2019 — terrorism, the South China Sea dispute, and insurgency.

The year started literally with a bang with a series of suicide bombings in Sulu.

The first occurred in late January when twin explosions inside a church in Jolo took the lives of 20 people and injured dozens. Authorities blamed the incident on suicide bombers whom they identified as Indonesians.

The second incident was also in Sulu, near a military detachment. One of the bombers was Norman Lasuca, a young Filipino believed to have been trained by the Abu Sayyaf Group’s Ajang-Ajang.

The police and the military said Lasuca was the first local suicide bomber in the country.
Another bombing occurred in Indanan, Sulu where a woman, pretending to be pregnant, detonated a bomb and killed herself in the process.

Government security forces were also able to neutralize potential bombers who were reported to be plotting to cause chaos in Sulu.

The military said that five suicide bombers in Sulu were under the care of Hajan Sawadjaan, one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders tagged by the United States as the new “emir” of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that terrorists “are [a] big concern because of the trouble they could create like the Marawi siege and the series of bombings.”

He said to prevent suicide bombings, government troops need to locate terrorists “before they can create trouble.”

Reed Bank ‘incident’
An incident along the Reed (Recto) Bank on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) nearly caused a diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Manila after a Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino boat with 22 fishermen on board on June 9. It was a Vietnamese ship that rescued the distressed Filipinos.

President Rodrigo Duterte, a staunch supporter of China, called the sinking a “little maritime accident.” Lorenzana admitted that China’s activities in the disputed sea was beyond the Philippines’ defense capabilities.

While terrorism and the sea dispute continued to threaten the nation’s security, nothing could be more unnerving than facing the challenge posed by the enemy from within.

The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has “infiltrated all sectors of the society and government through their united fronts due to the insidiousness of their methodology to destroy our government,” Lorenzana admitted.

“We have to have a better strategy to defeat them,” he said amid the possible revival of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the CPP’s political wing.

One strategy of the government was the formation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict with Duterte and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. as co-chairmen.

Lorenzana lamented, however, that the task force has been “targeted” by the NPA and its “fronts.”

The Defense chief and self-exiled CPP founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison have exchanged tirades and locked horns over the next venue of the looming peace negotiations.

Lorenzana said he did not see any new challenges when asked what he expected in the coming year.

“What do I expect next year? More of the same thing. Our enemies will remain the same: NPA, IS-affiliated terrorists and the [West Philippine Sea] disputes.”


A Year of Lost Opportunities in Countering Militancy

Posted to BenarNews (Dec 30, 2019): 2019: A Year of Lost Opportunities in Countering Militancy (Commentary by Zachary Abuza)

Syrians sift through rubble at the site of a U.S.-led raid a day earlier against Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, near the village of Barisha, Oct. 28, 2019.  AFP

The security picture in Southeast and South Asia concerning violent extremism and insurgency was in flux in 2019.

Most of the conflict zones saw declines in violence and some expected threats never fully manifesting. But 2019 was also a year of lost opportunities.

No state took advantage of the reduced violence to attempt to forge durable political solutions.

The most important external factor influencing regional security, arguably, was the Trump administration's inexplicable decision to stop supporting Kurdish allies in northern Syria, a move that prompted a Turkish invasion. Kurdish security forces stopped guarding several prison camps for Islamic State (IS) members that held more than a hundred Southeast Asian militants and their family members.

A feared flood of militants returning to their home countries in the region never materialized, but at least 50 are still at-large. The controlled repatriation of nationals by Indonesian and Malaysian security forces was curtailed until mid-December, when Malaysia negotiated with Turkey the return of two militants along with several of their family members.

Likewise, the fear that Southeast Asia would become a major new front for Islamic State never manifested itself. A video message from IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that was disseminated in April made no mention of Southeast Asia. After his death in October during a raid by U.S. forces, there were no retaliatory strikes in the region. While Islamic State may have adopted a global insurgency model, Southeast Asia remains a secondary theater for the extremist group.

Some of the last senior Southeast Asian members of IS in Syria and Iraq were killed in 2019, including Muhammad Saifuddin, Akel Zainal, and Mohd Rafi Uddin. Any semblance of direct command and control between regional cells and the IS center has been decimated.

But perhaps the greatest blow to Islamic State was a concerted effort by Telegram and other social media to close IS accounts. Those actions, which began in November 2019, have left IS reeling.

An organization that was renowned for its ability to mobilize and radicalize youths online, is now largely voiceless. This has left groups and cells in disarray, operating on their own without any central leadership or guidance.


The pro-IS Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), remains a very resilient organization across Indonesia.

Indonesian police noted only eight acts of JAD-related terrorism this year, a 57 percent decline from 2018. And the few attacks that did take place tended to be counterproductive, with over 280 suspected militants arrested in 2019. This was the first year that Indonesian police arrested suspects under preventative detention and other powers through 2018 amendments to the nation’s counterterrorism law.

The elite counterterrorism police, Densus 88, grew by 50 percent in 2019 and was deployed in every province. This proved to be smart, as eight JAD suspects who had fled the heavily surveilled island of Java were allegedly plotting attacks in the Muslim minority province of Papua before they were arrested earlier this month.

This year, Indonesia also launched the controversial counterterrorism unit of the Indonesian armed forces. Though a presidential directive mandated that the 500-member inter-service KOOPSUS had to coordinate with national police and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), that safeguard did not allay fears among the public as the military also sought to reassert itself in a host of other civil administrative functions, which it had ceded in 1998.

There were three clear trends in counter-terrorism in 2019:

The first was JAD’s focus on the near enemy. Building on the past two years, JAD members continued to focus their attacks on the Indonesian police.

In September, police arrested eight JAD suspects who were planning suicide bomb attacks on police stations in Bekasi. In November, a suicide bomber wounded four police officers and two civilians in an attack at a police station in Medan.

Indonesian police foiled a big plot to disrupt the presidential elections: Police dismantled five separate cells, arrested over 30 suspects (including one of JAD’s top bomb-makers), and seized 11 homemade bombs.

While one could infer that the attempted assassination of Wiranto, Indonesia’s security minister, by a JAD militant was another strategic choice to focus on the near enemy, the evidence to date suggests the target was one of opportunity. There is no evidence that JAD is planning a campaign of targeted assassinations against government officials.

The second trend was the revival of Jemaah Islamiyah.

JI has been defunct as a militant organization since 2011, but has been given ample space to regroup, run social welfare organizations, publishing houses, as well as a network of mosques and madrassas.

The government was convinced that the group had renounced violence, but the June arrest of its leader, Para Wijayanto, was a reminder that this period was a tactical lull for JI. His arrest revealed significant funding streams and evidence that the group was preparing to resume militant operations.

The final trend was the continued attempt by the IS-linked Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) to regroup. Although the group has been decimated by security forces since 2014, persistent attacks made clear that the group was trying to revive.


There were no terrorist attacks in Malaysia in 2019, but the year saw an increased number of arrests of IS-linked militants.

Of particular concern was Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo, an area that remains a key transit point for foreign fighters moving in and out of the nearby southern Philippines.

Those arrested included over a dozen members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, which continues to stage maritime kidnappings in Malaysian waters. Malaysian security forces repelled several attempted kidnappings in Sabah by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

In addition to its homegrown terrorist threat, Malaysia still remains a haven and transit point for militants. Police arrested seven suspected members of al-Qaeda, including six Egyptians and a Tunisian.

Malaysia has been actively trying to repatriate an estimated 50 nationals, who were detained in Iraq and Syria. Malaysia remains very confident of its terrorist disengagement program for prisoners, citing low levels of recidivism.

Malaysia came under international scrutiny when it released Yazid Sufaat, the head of al-Qaeda’s anthrax production, after he completed his latest prison sentence. Although he is free, the unrepentant former army captain is currently restricted in his movements, the people he can meet and his internet access.

Although it pledged during its election campaign to do so, the Pakatan Harapan government still has not repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act.


In 2019, the Philippines saw both progress and setbacks in many of its internal security challenges.

On the plus side, the implementation of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued without any major setbacks. Following two plebiscites, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was formally established in February 2019, governed by an interim transitional government until elections are held in mid-2020.

The interim government is finding its footing, making the transition from rebels to administrators. Importantly, they have been able to do this despite challenges from a host of competitor organizations, all of whom have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, including the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and Islamic State Lanao (the Maute Group).

The BIFF carried on with their campaign of sporadic bombings meant to undermine confidence in the peace process. The Maute group continued to demonstrate their intention to regroup following their late-2017 defeat in the battle of Marawi, with low-level skirmishes.

The Abu Sayyaf continues to be the greatest threat to security. Led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in Sulu and Furuji Indama in Basilan, the two have assumed command of Islamic State battalions in the Philippines, following the death of Abu Dar in March 2019.

The two have ramped up the use of suicide bombings, whose tempo increased in 2019.

In January, an Indonesian couple blew themselves up at a cathedral in Jolo, killing 23, and wounding more than 100. In June, two men, including the first Filipino suicide bomber, detonated their explosives outside an army camp in Sulu, killing five, including themselves, and wounding 22 others.

The ASG, after an 18-month lull, resumed their campaign of kidnappings for ransom, including renewed maritime operations. The ASG abducted a Briton and his Filipina wife, while a longtime Dutch captive of the group was killed in a firefight.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government continued to eschew peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose New People’s Army operated across the country, though 2019 saw increased operations in the islands of Negros and Samar. The NPA has boosted their operations in Mindanao.


Violence in Thailand’s restive Muslim-majority provinces in the Deep South continued to decline in 2019. Insurgents, nevertheless, staged their single most lethal attack in years, killing 15 and wounding three more in a twin attack on security posts in Yala. Despite this, violence in the southern border region was at its lowest level since 2004.

The decline in violence is a positive development but, counter-intuitively, it may have the effect of prolonging the conflict. The government is now able to pay lip service to the peace process, without making any concessions on the ethnic Malay community’s litany of grievances.

The military-backed government, which came to power after rigged elections in March, will not tolerate any challenge to the unitary nature of the Thai state. Indeed, in October, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) charged 12 opposition politicians and academics for holding a conference where they discussed putting forward proposals for regional autonomy.

Chief amongst the grievances remains the impunity of security forces.

In August, a militant suspect died after what appeared to be complications from a prolonged lack of oxygen, while in army custody. The military has denied any wrongdoing, and the CCTV cameras in his cell and interrogation room were apparently not working.

The military leadership pledged a full investigation, but to date, no charges have been made, and the military seems determined to run out the clock. In December a government security unit killed three unarmed loggers in Narathiwat province, mistaking them for insurgents. In a rare case of accountability, two members of the unit were charged with murder.

In other developments in Thailand, the Aug. 2 bombings that took place in Bangkok during an ASEAN summit remain largely unresolved. The police arrested Malay-Muslim suspects from the Deep South, but the government hasn’t provided compelling evidence as to whether they were tied to the insurgency, and, if so, what the Malay insurgents stood to gain from the attacks.


The Rohingya conflict remained completely intractable, with the surreal images of the former Nobel Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, defending her military and government in The Hague against charges of genocide toward the Rohingya people.

The Bangladesh and Myanmar governments met to facilitate the return of some Rohingya, but without any legal protections, let alone citizenship, no Rohingya volunteered to return.

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi government struggled with how to deal with the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees, and whether to resettle them to a low-lying, cyclone-prone island. There is unlikely to be any progress on the return of the Rohingya ahead of the 2020 election in Myanmar. Even then, little progress is likely.

While concerns about transnational jihadist organizations taking on the cause of the Rohingya have not materialized, the intractability of the conflict increases the likelihood of terrorism. Malaysia arrested at least three people in 2019 with suspected ties to the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army.


While both terrorist and secessionist violence declined in around the region in 2019, governments did little to build on that and seek durable political solutions to be bring closure to longstanding conflicts.

Core grievances remain unaddressed, and conflicts have a way of festering. The absence of violence is not peace.

And sadly, several governments have put in place policies that could fuel further tensions with their minorities. Malaysia, for example, has tried to counter the jihadist narrative by stepping up its Islamization, something that has provoked a backlash by its already beleaguered Chinese and Indian minorities.

In the Philippines, the continued gutting of the rule of law by the Duterte administration, will impact legal resources for grievance adjudication. Ultimately, insurgencies are about governance, which is weakening in the Philippines.

Finally, the impunity of security forces around the region, which continue to amass new legal authorities and resources, could blow back.

One additional thing to watch out for in the region in the coming year is how militant groups address the plight of other groups, such as the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China. While the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have largely whitewashed China’s systematic repression and incarceration of close to 2 million Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang province, civil society groups have increased their anti-Chinese activism.

[Zachary Abuza is a professor at the National War College in Washington and the author of “Forging Peace in Southeast Asia: Insurgencies, Peace Processes, and Reconciliation.” The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National War College or BenarNews].


AFP-CRS: Two M16 Armalite rifles, thousands of ammo surrendered by concerned citizens, resource generation for terror activities cut

Posted to the Armed Forces of Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Website (Dec 27, 2019): Two M16 Armalite rifles, thousands of ammo surrendered by concerned citizens, resource generation for terror activities cut

Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija – With the desire to help end violence in Nueva Ecija, two (2) concerned citizens surrendered two (2) M16 Armalite rifles, thousands of ammunition and assorted war materiel to the elements of Army and PNP on December 21, 2019 at Barangay Puncan, Carranglan Nueva Ecija.

Based on the report provided by Lieutenant Colonel Honorato Pascual Jr., Commanding Officer of the 84th Infantry (Victorious) Battalion, the concerned citizens are henchmen of recently neutralized New People’s Army leader, Eleuterio Sadyaw Agmaliw alias Omeng, the Commanding Officer of the NPA’s Front Operational Command or the the Domingo Erlano Command of Komiteng Larangang Gerilya Sierra Madre. He said that the duo contacted him and informed him about the war materiel entrusted to them by alias “Omeng” before he was neutralized, when he resisted arrest while being served with arrest warrants by inter-agency teams on December 19, 2019. With said information, he coordinated with Police Provincial Police Office of Nueva Ecija and together, they formed an inter-agency recovery team composed of Army and Police personnel.

When the troops arrived in the agreed meeting place in Barangay Puncan, the former rebels surrendered the following: 2 M16 Rifles, 858 rounds of 7.62MM ammo, 1,557 rounds of 5.56MM ammo, and, 782 rounds of 7.62MM ammo for M60 light machine gun, six rounds of 40MM ammo and two Short Steel Magazines for M16.

Major Genera Lenard T. Agustin AFP, Commander of the 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, Philippine Army lauded the result of the recovery operation jointly effected by the troops of 84IB and Police Personnel of Nueva Ecija. He also praised the desires of the two concerned citizens to end violence in Nueva Ecija which compelled them to surrender the war materiel entrusted to them by the late NPA Commander, alias “Omeng”.

“The effort of the peace-loving citizens is worthy of emulation by those who are still working for the caused to spread insurgency in the country. I call on the other NPA supporters and members that it is now high-time to embrace non-violent endeavors to solve the 50 years old insurgency problem facing us. There are ways to voice out your opinions, rather than imposing your advocacies to the Filipino people through the barrel of a gun, it will only bring misery to you, to us in the security sector, and to the rest of our people. I therefore give you my two cents of advice, return to your families and live peacefully, otherwise, you will suffer the same fate that alias “Omeng”, your Commander suffered, Major General Agustin sternly added.

Colonel Andrew D. Costelo, Commander of the 703rd Infantry (Agila) Brigade, Philippine Army has this to say about the successful recovery of the war materiel, “With the elimination of the weapons and ammunitions from the NPA’s hands, talks for peace will be easier. At the same time, the expressions of belief whether pro or against the government will be more sensible, as reasons, not brute force (like the armed NPAs are imposing), will be the baseline of discussions.”

The recovered items were brought to Headquarters 84IB at Sitio Junior Campo, Barangay Sto Niño ll, San Jose City for proper documentation and disposition.


AFP-CRS: Former Rebels reveals location of firearms in Aurora

Posted to the Armed Forces of Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Website (Dec 27, 2019): Former Rebels reveals location of firearms in Aurora

Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija – A firearms cache of a Communist- New People’s Army-Terrorist (CNT) was recovered at Barangay Villa, Maria Aurora, Aurora on December 19, 2019. Information regarding its location was revealed by a former rebel, alias “Dave”.

At around 6:00 pm, one platoon of the 91st Infantry (Sinagtala) Battalion, elements of the 1st Police Mobile Force Company (1PMFC) – Aurora, and troops of the 303rd Regional Mobile Force Battalion conducted an operation to recover the cache.

Said cache contained the firearms of the former members of Komiteng Larangang Gerilya (KLG) Sierra Madre, an armed NPA guerilla front that operates in the mountain ranges of the Sierra Madre. It has now greatly weakened due to the relentless operations of the 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division’s 91IB that has operational jurisdiction in the Province of Aurora.

Alias Dave, who is a former KLG Sierra Madre member, said that the firearms cache contained five high-powered firearms. He said they reveal it now to show their sincerity of leaving behind the armed struggle and totally surrendering the use of firearms for a peaceful life. True enough, when the government forces found the cache, there were five M16 rifles inside.

The Commander of 7ID, Major General Lenard T. Agustin, who has been riding a wave after wave of operational successes, especially in the last quarter of this year, simply stated that “the credit goes not just to the hardworking team of the 91IB, but to all government security forces who helped in the surrender of the former rebels and in the retrieval of the arms cache.”

“The things we have achieved we owe to the implementation of the ‘whole-of-nation approach’ which is the break we needed to get the full support of the government units and agencies, and most especially of the people, to believe in us and trust us to do what needs to be done, to end the local communist armed conflict and achieve lasting peace and sustainable development for all,” Major General Agustin added.

NDF/Sison: On the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Dec 31, 2019): On the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation

By Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines
and NDFP Chief Political Consultant
New Year’s Message

The evil forces of US imperialism and local reaction are escalating the oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people with the use of neoliberalism and state terrorism. They make the people suffer but goad them to fight back and and aim for revolutionary change. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Filipino people are engaged in the new democratic revolution against the semicolonial and ruling system, now chiefly represented by the Duterte regime.

This regime is traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, corrupt and mendacious. It has tried and failed to intimidate and deceive the people and suppress their revolutionary forces. But it has succeeded in further inciting them to wage all forms of revolutionary struggle, especially people’s war. Once more I congratulate the Filipino people for their victories in their revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation.

By offering peace negotiations to the revolutionary movement, Duterte has the burden of proving that he is willing to change the anti-national and anti-democratic character of his regime and to make agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the civil war and lay the basis for a just peace. He can only delude himself by boasting that the revolutionary movement has no choice but to surrender or be destroyed.

He is now in the lameduck years of his term and his grievous crimes are weighing down heavily on him and his entire regime. He is increasingly being isolated by his own crimes and by a broad united front of patriotic and progressive forces. The broad masses of the people detest his regime for imposing extreme and intolerable oppression and exploitation on them and are desirous of rising up against his reign of terror and greed.

The Duterte regime cannot save itself from a disgraceful end by depending on US or Chinese imperialism or on both. These imperialist powers have no interest in the Philippines but to gain hegemony. The US wants to retain its overall hegemony and China takes advantage of the corrupt character of the Duterte regime to gain strategic footholds in the West Philippine Sea and in the entire Philippine archipelago.

The two imperialist powers are now locked in an escalating struggle for a redivision of the world to the detriment of the people of the world. The crisis of the world capitalist system continues to worsen and to generate the conditions for the resurgence of the anti-imperialist movements of peoples and for the world proletarian-socialist revolution. The strategic decline of US imperialism has led to its cut-throat competition with Chinese imperialism.

The Filipino people and their revolutionary forces (the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the mass organizations and the local organs of political power) are highly confident that they will continue to gain strength and advance amidst the crises of the world capitalist system and the domestic ruling system of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists.

They are certain that they will win greater victories in the new year and advance the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. They enjoy the solidarity and abundant support of the peoples of the world. Their revolutionary victories are not only for their own benefit but also for the anti-imperialist and socialist movements of the proletariat and peoples of the world.

Long live the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces!
Advance the people’s democratic revolution towards socialism!
Long live the anti-imperialist solidarity of peoples and proletarian internationalism!


58IB recognizes DILG MisOr for supporting AFP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2019): 58IB recognizes DILG MisOr for supporting AFP (By Department of Interior and Local Government - 10)

CLAVERIA, Misamis Oriental, Dec. 19 19 – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Misamis Oriental received a plaque of recognition from the 58th Infantry “Dimalulupig” (Battalion), 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army during their 34th founding anniversary.

The plaque is in recognition for DILG MisOr’s unending support to the military’s fight against terrorism and insurgency in the province. This was made visible during the implementation of the Misamis Oriental Task Force – Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (MOTF-ELCAC) in the province particularly the E-CLIP Cluster.

DILG Misamis Oriental Provincial Director Marisia C. Naybe said the Department will continually support the Army in ensuring the safety and protection of the province.

“This is our mission. This is our pursuit of service in bringing out the support we can give as we achieve specific goal in our community and that is to ensure everyone’s safety and protection,” she shared.

Among the awardees were the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), 12 barangays of Misamis Oriental composed of five (5) barangays from Balingasag, three (3) barangays from Lagonglong, two (2) barangays from Salay, one (1) barangay from Medina, one (1) barangay from Claveria, one (1) civilian family, and an Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) from Balingasag.

58IB Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Roy Anthony O. Derilo said the civilian stakeholders contributed big in the success of attaining the battalion’s mission, especially in bringing long and lasting peace in the hinterland communities.

Top officials from the Philippine Army including 4ID Major General Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, Commanding Officer Derilo, national agencies, and other stakeholders graced the celebration. (MERRYANE ROSE S. BACUD/DILG-10)


Alternative livelihood reaches IPs in far-flung Brgy Mahagnao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2019): Alternative livelihood reaches IPs in far-flung Brgy Mahagnao (By PIA8)

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TACLOBAN CITY, Dec. 31 (PIA) - Indigenous People (IPs) at the far-flung barangay of Mahagnao in Burauen, Leyte have reasons to meet the New Year with optimism.

They were part of the 50 students who were trained on Animal Production (Poultry-Chicken) NC II and Animal Production (Ruminant) NC II held at Brgy Mahagnao, Burauen, Leyte.

The training which aims to provide alternative livelihood to the populace in the hinterland communities in Leyte has been very helpful to the populace.

Copra production, their main source of income, for years has declined its local and international market value, thus, they are badly in need of an alternative livelihood.

Barangay Mahagnao is part of Burauen’s vast wetland forest that houses thousands of century old trees surrounding Mahagnao Volcano, although the volcano has been inactive, it is classified as potentially active due to the active thermal features of the mountain.

On December 19, 2019, Personnel of Alpha (Apache) Company, 78th Infantry (Warrior) Battalion led by First Lieutenant Edgardo B. Bernas, Company Commander partnered with TESDA Leyte, the lead of the Leyte Provincial Task Force-ELCAC Poverty Reduction and Livelihood Cluster, in the distribution of Training Support Fund and Starter Kit to the fifty (50) students.

The help of the 78th Infantry Battalion is crucial to the cluster as it provides the much-need security and preparatory arrangements support.

Present during the activity were Hon. Noel P. Alpino, Vice-Mayor, Burauen, Leyte; Hon. Oscar A. Cagara, Sangguniang Bayan Member; Ms. Marites E. Asistol, Senior Specialist, TESDA Leyte; Mr. Alex Aborita, School Administrator; Hon. Eulalio F. Agustin Jr., Punong Barangay of Brgy Mahagnao and Hon. Rogelio Gloria, Punong Barangay of Brgy Kagbana, both of Burauen, Leyte and Mr. Jonny B. Banagbanag, Tribal Leader. (PIA8)

Kumander Bravo calls for lasting peace in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2019): Kumander Bravo calls for lasting peace in Mindanao (By LGU Kauswagan)

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ILIGAN CITY, Dec. 29 – Abdullah Macapaar, also known as "Kumander Bravo," the MILF leader who used to lead attacks in Lanao del Norte including Kauswagan town, and now a Member of Parliament in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said on Saturday he does not want conflict anymore and encouraged everyone to work together to bring lasting peace to Mindanao during the 23rd Qur'an Reading Competition in Brgy. Delabayan, Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

"Sumali po ako sa BARMM kasi ayaw ko na po ng away. Wala namang naghahangad talaga ng away, Muslim man o Christian. Kailangan na pong magkaisa ng mga Muslim," he said.

(I joined BARMM for I do not want conflict anymore. Nobody wants conflict, Muslims or Christians. As Muslims, we now need to be united.)

He added that the BARMM government also seeks to help communities outside BARMM to promote lasting peace.

"Ang sabi po ng Chief Minister, ang BARMM government, hindi lang po para sa BARMM. Tutulungan din po ang outside ng BARMM para po sa kapayapaan ng Muslim at Kristiyano dito sa Mindanao, lalo na po dito sa Lanao del Norte," he said.

(The Chief Minister said that the BARMM government is not only for BARMM. It will also help communities outside BARMM to ensure peace between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao, especially here in Lanao del Norte.)

He acknowledged the efforts of Kauswagan Mayor Rommel Arnado in restoring peace. He said the lives of Muslims have improved and that there is now a better relationship between Christians and Muslims in Lanao del Norte.

"Masaya naman ang mga Muslim dito sa Lanao del Norte. Ngayon lang po kami nakaranas ng magandang pamumuhay dahil bumalik si Mayor Arnado. Nawala na po ang gulo. Nagkakaisa na ang mga Muslims at Christians. Iyon din po ang hinahanap namin, na mawala na ang gulo para maibalik na natin ang kapayapaan," he said.

(The Muslims in Lanao del Norte are happy. We are now experiencing a better life because Mayor Arnado has come back to help us. The conflict has gone away. Muslims and Christians are now united. That is also what we are aiming for, for the conflict to go away so we could restore peace.)

Macapaar also urged the local government units (LGU) to contribute in the restoration of peace.

"Sana ang gobyerno at mga LGU, tumulong din sa mga Muslim at Christian dito sa community natin sa Lanao del Norte, sa pamamagitan ng pagtatayo at pag-aayos ng aming mga madrasah, mosque, at pagpapabuti ng edukasyon. Iangat natin ang edukasyon, palakihin natin ang sweldo ng mga Alim at Ustad. Gastusan ng gobyerno iyong mga batang hindi makapag-aral at iyong mga nag-aaral ng Arabic," he said.

(I hope that the government and LGU will also help the Muslims and Christians here in Lanao del Norte by building and improving madrasahs, our mosques, and education. Let's improve the quality of education and increase the salaries of scholars and teachers. I hope the government will also fund scholarships for children who can't afford school and those who are studying Arabic.)

He added that education is important in ensuring a bright future for Muslim children.

"Maraming mga batang lumalaking magnanakaw at kriminal dahil hindi nakapag-aral. Kaya sana mapabuti pa ang edukasyon para sa kanilang kinabukasan," said Macapaar.

(Many children grow up to become thieves and criminals due to the lack of education. That is why I hope we can improve education for the sake of their future.)

Macapaar is the commander of the northwestern Mindanao forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and is commonly known as one of two MILF commanders who attacked the municipality of Kauswagan in 2008 due to frustration over the Supreme Court halting a peace deal with them. Earlier this year, he was one of the 41 individuals nominated by the MILF to be part of the Bangsamoro interim government and represent Lanao del Norte.

Along with Mayor Arnado, Macapaar was invited as a guest at the 23rd Qur'an Reading Competition in Kauswagan, where they both shared their desire for lasting peace in Mindanao. (LGU Kauswagan/PIA Iligan


Ex-youth rebel from Samar reunites with family in San Mariano, Isabela

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2019): Ex-youth rebel from Samar reunites with family in San Mariano, Isabela (By Mark Djeron C. Tumabao)

REUNION. Anthon and his mother and sister reunite after six years of no communication at all (Screengrab from 95th IB)

SAN MARIANO, Isabela, Dec. 31 (PIA) - What a perfect gift for a mother who longs for her son before the year ends!

After six years of no communication at all, a former youth-rebel from Samar province who was deployed in San Mariano, Isabela reunited at last with his mother and sister recently.

Alias Anthony, who was the vice squad leader of the Regional Sentro de Gravidad of the CPP-NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyon – Cagayan Valley (RSDG-KR-CV), voluntarily surrendered to the officers of the 95th Infantry Batallion (IB) on Dec. 2.

Lt. Colonel. Gladiuz Calilan, commanding officer of 95IB, said Anthony was able to escape through the help of his girlfriend Alias Myka who is also a rebel-returnee.

Calilan said Anthony was recruited by NPA when he was 13 years old in his hometown, Eastern Samar.

He was transferred to Bulacan in 2013 then to the province of Quirino and later transferred to Isabela province in 2016.

While in Isabela, Anthony said he requested his NPA leaders to return him back home in Eastern Samar but denied for no reason.

After his surrender, Calilan said they contacted and informed Anthony's mother regarding his condition.

Anthony's mother, Nanay Lita, was surprised when informed that her youngest son is still alive after six years of no communication, according to Calilan.

Calilan assured that Anthony, together with Ka Nesly, also a rebel-returnee, will be receiving assistance from the government through the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), a complete package of assistance to former rebels, as well as their family members, who have surrendered to the government to abandon armed struggle and become productive members of the society. (ALM/MDCT/PIA-2)

122 ex NPA rebels, dependents now TESDA graduates

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2019): 122 ex NPA rebels, dependents now TESDA graduates (By Apipa P. Bagumbaran}

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Dec. 23 (PIA) – Some 122 former rebels and their dependents can now live normal and productive lives with the skills they learned from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). 

Miraluna N Baje-Lopez, provincial director of TESDA-Misamis Oriental, commits that TESDA MisOr will cater the skills training needs of former rebels endorsed by the Philippine Army.

They proudly marched in toga and received their certificates in a ceremony at the 58th Infantry Battalion headquarters, Claveria, Misamis Oriental on December 21.

TESDA also distributed their training allowance ranging from P1,000 to P2,400.

Miraluna N Baje-Lopez, provincial director of TESDA-Misamis Oriental, said the free training was conducted under the Special Skills Training Program of TESDA to equip former rebels with the necessary skills to start anew.

"The benefits of the program include free training and assessment, entrepreneurship training, allowance of P100 per day for the duration of the training, and toolkits," she further said.

The training was facilitated by the 58th IB in partnership with St. Gregory the Great Technical School Incorporated, MANA Millennium Technical School Incorporated, GPY Consultancy & Training Center Incorporated, Goodwill Technical Skills & Computer College Incorporated.

Julio Kumpas Jr., 42 years old, said he is very grateful to the government for giving him opportunity to enhance his carpentry skills.

"Dako kaayo akong pasalamat saTESDA nga gitabangan ko, labaw na si Sir Ruel nga maayong nagtudlo sa amo sa paghimo'g balay ug paghimo'g haligi. Ika-duha nako nga pasalamatan ang 58th IB, sa Charlie company, nga dako kaayo sila natabang sa akoa," he said.

(I am very grateful to TESDA for helping me, especially to Sir Ruel who was a good teacher and taught us how to construct a house and pillars. I would also like to thank the 58th IB, particularly the Charlie company, which has been very helpful to me.)

42-year old Julio Kumpas Jr. expresses appreciation to the government for giving him opportunity to enhance his carpentry skills. With the skills he learned, he plans to open up his own carpentry business

"Ang genaingon didto sa amo nga dili mi mag surender kay patyon mi, dili na tinuod. Kami karon nga nagsurender, nakita nako nga dili man. Ang uban nag sundalo na, ang uban naa pa sa CAFGU, ug ang uban nag eskwela sa TESDA aron naa pud silay mahimong panginabuhian," he added.

(We were told that if we surrender, we will be killed. But it's not true. I saw that those who surrendered, some are already soldiers, some are in CAFGU, and others were enrolled in TESDA training so they can earn a living.)

Kumpas said he plans to open up his own carpentry business with the skills he learned and the free toolkits he will received.(APB)


NPA contraband, hot lumber seized in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31, 2019): NPA contraband, hot lumber seized in Caraga
(By Alexander Lopez)

CONFISCATED. Police and Army personnel confiscated 18 packs of black fatigue pants and 37 packs of poncho tents in a checkpoint in Barangay Sapa, Claver, Surigao del Norte on Saturday evening (Dec. 28, 2019). The items are said to belong to the New People's Army based in Gigaquit town, Surigao del Norte. (Photo courtesy of PRO-13 Information Office)

The continued implementation of checkpoint operations by the Police Regional Office in the Caraga Region (PRO-13) resulted in the confiscation of illegal items, including contrabands believed to be owned by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

In a statement on Monday, PRO-13 said the Army's support in its checkpoint operations in different provinces in the region has yielded positive results in recent months.

On Saturday evening (December 28), a joint team of police and soldiers from the Army's 30th Infantry Battalion seized various items allegedly owned by the NPA in a checkpoint in Barangay Sapa, Claver, Surigao del Norte.

The confiscated items include 18 packs of black fatigue pants, 37 packs of poncho tents, and 1,000 bottles of soft drinks.

Brig. Gen. Joselito T. Esquivel Jr., PRO-13 director, said the seized items were transported by two single motorcycles.

Esquivel added the drivers of the motorcycles were instructed to deliver the items to Sitio Bay-ang, Barangay Lahi, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte and to be handed over to the group of Roel Tremidal Neniel, a commander of Guerrilla Front 16C-1, and his wife, Roxanne Tejero.

Police said the Tremidals are affiliated with the Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA.

On the same date, authorities also confiscated illegally-sawn logs in a police checkpoint established in Barangay Cancavan, Carmen, Surigao del Sur.

Police personnel, together with the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office in Carmen town, intercepted the hot logs being transported through a wing van driven by a certain Enrique T. Tejada, a resident of Barangay Taglatawan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.

The truck was loaded with 562 pieces of red and white Lauan lumbers with a volume of 11,112.2 board feet and a market value of PHP222,244.

The driver and the seized lumber are now under the custody of Carmen Municipal Police Station.

On December 29, police personnel also confiscated 4,500 liters of premium gasoline and 1,500 liters of diesel fuel in a checkpoint established in Barangay Sta. Cruz, Placer, Surigao del Norte.

Authorities also arrested the driver identified as Jongle Lulab Garong and his helper, Jimboy Exclamador Nituda, both residents of Barangay San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte.

Esquivel said the driver and his crew failed to present conveyance permit that prompted police authorities to confiscate the petroleum products from their possession.

The driver said the petroleum products are set to be delivered to Dinagat Islands province.

Police said the driver and his helper will be charged under Batas Pambansa 33 or “An Act Defining and Penalizing Certain Prohibited Acts Inimical to the Public Interests and National Security Involving Petroleum and/or Petroleum Products, Prescribing Penalties Therefor and for Other Purposes.”

Esquivel said PRO-13 has intensified its checkpoint operations as part of the efforts to secure the region during the New Year celebration.