Thursday, January 9, 2020

NDF/Sison: Reset of deadline for scheme to destroy the NPA will surely fail as people’s war will intensify

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Jan 9, 2020): Reset of deadline for scheme to destroy the NPA will surely fail as people’s war will intensify

By Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant

The Duterte regime has reset by three years the deadline for its scheme to destroy the New People’s Army. The scheme will surely fail from day to day, week to week, month to month and from year to year as the NPA will intensify tactical offensives and mass work. The same military and police of the same exploiting classes cannot accomplish in 3 years what they failed to accomplish in 50 years.

In the next three years, Duterte himself will have difficulty surviving politically. These are lameduck years for him, during which infighting among his followers will be debilitating and challenges will rise from within the ruling system as well as from the revolutionary forces.

Duterte used up his first three years to discredit himself by engaging in treasonous and tyrannical acts, mass murder and mass intimidation, inordinate corruption, economic mismanagement and causing runaway inflation and sell out of sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea to China.

Were Duterte regime willing to engage sincerely and seriously in peace negotiations with the NDFP to address the roots of the armed conflict and make agreements on social, economic and political reforms, a just peace could be attained in less time than three years and at far less cost in contrast to the enemy’s futile military campaigns that are costly in terms of blood and public money.

The problem with the Duterte regime is that it thinks peace negotiations are merely for the surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces and that the sincerity of the NDFP is merely the willingness to surrender to the unjust ruling system of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats like Duterte.

The demand that the peace negotiations be held in the Philippinines is calculated by the Duterte regime to put the NDFP negotiating panelists, consultants and resource persons under the regime’s surveillance, control, duress and manipulation, reducing the peace negotiations to the status of the fake localized peace talks.###

Army, PNP resume operationsagainst NPA rebels in Negros

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 9, 2020): Army, PNP resume operationsagainst NPA rebels in Negros (BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The Philippine Army and National Police in Negros resumed combat operations yesterday against the New People’s Army, following the end of a 15-day holiday truce Tuesday.

“As we resume all of our military operations against the NPA terrorists with assurance of putting the primacy of human rights and the peace process on top of it, we are also resuming our efforts for localized peace talks,”
Army regional spokesman Capt. Cenon Pancito III said.

“We have proven that localized peace talks are very effective in ending local communist armed conflict,”
Pancito said, citing the decommissioning of hundreds of former combatants of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, and 252 regular NPA members and Militia ng Bayan in Negros, Panay, Bohol and Cebu.

Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, and Col. Romeo Baleros, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, yesterday confirmed the resumption of combat operations against the NPA.

Ka Bayani Obrero, spokesman of the National Democratic Front-Negros, issued a statement yesterday accusing the Philippine Army in Negros of committing ceasefire violations, while the holiday truce was being observed from Dec. 23 last year, to Jan. 7.

The Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA Regional Operational Command in Negros listed several alleged violations of the AFP's ceasefire order, that indicated that President Rodrigo Duterte has no control over his military and police in Negros, rebel spokesman Ka Juanito Magbanua claimed.

However, Pancito said the NPA rebels were the ones who betrayed the people of Western and Central Visayas by staging an ambush against police personnel in Iloilo, at the start of the ceasefire period, where two policemen were injured.

Pancito added that the CPP-NPA intentionally ruined the Yuletide peace deal that showed the selfish and deceptive purpose of their ceasefire.

For them, ceasefire is not about peace, it’s about struggle and violence as NDF Chair Luis Jalandoni had arrogantly declared that the revolutionary armed struggle is a more important struggle than the peace negotiations, he added.

Pancito also said that the ambush of soldiers returning to camp in Camarines Norte, the murder of two tribal leaders in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon during the duration of ceasefire, further indicated that the terrorist group is no serious in observing the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command enumerated alleged ceasefire violations perpetrated by the 303rd and 302nd Infantry Brigades troopers, citing troop movement in the hinterlands of Moises Padilla, Isabela, Himamaylan City and Escalante City, Negros Occidental, Santa Catalina and in the 3rd district of Negros Oriental, from Dec. 24 last year, to Jan. 6.

NPA units in Negros Island firmly followed and adhered to the ceasefire order of the CPP Central Committee and the NPA National Operational Command, Magbanua said.

He also congratulated all NPA guerrilla fronts and the entire revolutionary forces in Negros for successfully holding celebrations of the 51st anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines despite massive military operations in the Island.

Faustino or Gacal as next EastMinCom commander

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 9, 2020): Faustino or Gacal as next EastMinCom commander (By Rhoda Grace Saron)

The commanders of the 10th Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division were floated as the possible candidates to lead the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Their names were endorsed by AFP Chief of Staff Felimon Santos.

Maj. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. of the PMA “Sinagtala” Class of 1986 is the commander of 10th ID based in Camp Manuel T. Yan Sr., Barangay Tuboran, Mawab, Davao de Oro, who assumed command last December 2018.

Maj. Gen. Nemesio Franco Gacal of the PMA ” Maringal” class of 1988 is the commander of the 4th ID, based in Cagayan de Oro city.

In a text message on Wednesday night, Santos said he recommended the two division commanders but “there is no approval on our recommendation yet.” The papers were submitted to Malacañang for review.

Santos replaced Gen. Noel Clement who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 in a change of command ceremony held at AFP general headquarters in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo last Saturday.

Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, the EastMinCom spokesperson, said Brig. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, the deputy commander, is the officer-in-charge until a new commander is named.

“There will be change of command but no schedule yet, ” Balagtey said.

10th ID supports RDC XI resolution

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 9, 2020): 10th ID supports RDC XI resolution (By Rhoda Grace Saron)

The 10th Infantry Division supports the resolution of the Regional Development Council XI’s to end communist rebellion in the region.

The Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) XI and Regional Development Council (RDC) XI, chaired by Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang and Davao de Oro Governor Javee Tyron Uy, unanimously approved a joint RPOC-RDC resolution 2020-01 on Jan. 4, 2020.

The resolution fully supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s EO 70, which adopts a whole-of-nation approach against the New People’s Army.

“We strongly believe on the President’s genuine intention to end the long-running Communist insurgency and we remain committed in our oath to continue to push for initiatives, reforms, and programs that will benefit our Dabawenyo constituents and to foster true and lasting peace in this part of our country,” said Dayanghirang.

Maj. Gen. Jose C Faustino Jr, the commander to the 10th ID, said, “We believe that the local government units led by the local chief executives know the ground situation, the people, the community, and the overall peace and development thrust much better than us.”

“With this, we believe that by supporting regional peace efforts, we can attain PRRD’s desire to put an end to communist armed conflict and achieve sustainable peace in the country, ” he added.

AFP, PNP: No Iranian supporters in Davao

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 9, 2020): AFP, PNP: No Iranian supporters in Davao (By Rhoda Grace Saron)

Military and police authorities here said there is no individuals or groups supportive to Iran in the city.

Capt. Jerry Lamosao, the chief of the 10th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO), said they have not monitored any force of Iran sympathizers in the region.

Major Eudisan Gultiano, the new spokesperson of the Police Regional Office, echoed Lamosao’s statement that no Iranian sympathizers are in the region.

“What we are doing now is the continued conduct of anti-terrorism campaign,” Lamosao said in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press briefing.

He said the Task Force Davao and the Joint Task Force General Santos are implementing stricter checkpoints in the entry in the city and the region.

“We would like also to remind the public on the culture of security and report those suspicious groups or individuals and unattended things in places of convergence,” he further said.

The military current concern, Lamosao said, is to provide support to the Department of Foreign Affairs in the evacuation of the affected Filipino Overseas Workers.

MNLF fighter, brother killed in Basilan clan war

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9, 2020): MNLF fighter, brother killed in Basilan clan war (By Roel Pareño)

A member of the Moro National Liberation Front and his brother were killed in a gunfight with a rival clan in Basilan on Monday.

Istalin Mukahil and his brother Basit Kangal are both residents of Barangay Babag in Tabuan Lasa town.

The neighbors of the warring clans escaped to safer ground to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

AFP: Dozens of Chinese vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 9, 2020): AFP: Dozens of Chinese vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island (By Frances Mangosing)

Chinese fishing vessels continue to stay near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Western Command chief Vice Adm. Rene Medina said Wednesday there were 38 stationary Chinese boats surrounding the sandbars of Pag-asa as of Tuesday night.

There are three sandbars between Pag-asa and the Philippine-claimed but China-controlled Zamora (Subi) Reef, which the Chinese had developed into a massive military outpost.

Pag-asa is the only outpost occupied by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands with a civilian community.

There were no Chinese boats spotted near Kota and Panata islands, Medina told, referring to two other Philippine-occupied outposts in the West Philippine Sea.

He said they continue to keep track of the number of sightings of foreign vessels within its jurisdiction and forward it to the higher-ups for appropriate diplomatic action.

The presence of these Chinese boats near Pag-asa Island has notably increased since 2018 after the Philippines began the construction of a beaching ramp and sheltered port on the island.

The Philippine government in 2019 had filed several diplomatic protests on the sustained presence of these Chinese vessels, believed to be part of a maritime militia.

In a report to Congress last year, the Department of National Defense (DND) said China is likely to continue using its maritime militia to gain an advantage in the West Philippine Sea without provoking a conventional military response.

“There is high possibility that Beijing will continue the employment of these vessels, which could be used for asymmetric warfare of sea control and sea denial, such as swarming tactic and ramming of other claimants’ vessels in the area, enabling it to make advancements in the maritime region without causing tension in the area,” DND said.

China is using its fishing vessels to discreetly conduct surveillance, search and rescue operations, and provide assistance to law enforcement agencies, it added.

Despite losing to a Philippine challenge in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016, China insists it owns almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of other claimants in the strategic waterway.

President Rodrigo Duterte played down the ruling in exchange for economic investments from China.

Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea.
Asean neighbors stand up to China

Elsewhere in the region, Southeast Asian neighbors have been protesting China’s excessive maritime claims.

Indonesia recently filed a strong diplomatic protest and stepped up air and naval patrols because of the rising number of Chinese vessels in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In December, Malaysia challenged China’s claims in the South China Sea when it made a new submission to the United Nations seeking clarity on the limits of its continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile EEZ in the northern part of the South China Sea.

Vietnam and China were embroiled in months-long standoff last year after Beijing sent an oil survey ship to conduct seismic surveys in waters off Vietnam.

What Will a New Philippines Military Chief Mean for the Country’s Security?

From The Diplomat (Jan 9, 2020): What Will a New Philippines Military Chief Mean for the Country’s Security? (By Prashanth Parameswaran)

A closer look at what the latest in a series of appointments may mean for the defense realm of the Southeast Asian state.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we saw the appointment of a new Philippine military chief – the seventh individual to occupy the position in less than four years. While the appointment was expected and just the latest of several personnel changes we have seen in this position under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the new shift does bear watching in terms of how it may affect the country’s security.

Under Duterte’s tenure, we have seen a mix of continuity and change with respect to Philippine security. This is evident in aspects such as the challenges being prioritized, the budget areas of focus, and personnel. This has manifested itself in various ongoing developments, be it the direction of the ongoing Philippine military modernization or the relative attention to its foreign defense alignments.

One of the key developments that had been in focus in recent weeks was the appointment of a new chief of staff of the Philippine military, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The need for a new appointment arose out of the fact that the AFP chief of staff, Noel Clement, who had assumed the position in September last year, had reached the mandatory military retirement age of 56. Philippine officials indicated last month that a shortlist of potential successors had been drawn up and readied for approval in time for a transition in January.

Last week, we finally saw the appointment of a new AFP chief of staff. Felimon Santos Jr., currently the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in the southern Philippines. He officially assumed the post over the weekend from Clement in a scheduled joint turnover of command and retirement ceremony on January 4 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, after Duterte had officially designated him the successor in a letter directed to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on January 2. Santos is the seventh military chief to be appointed during Duterte’s tenure, and he is the fifth of the candidates to be from EastMinCom.

With Santos’s appointment, the focus will shift to the impact his tenure might have on the Philippine military. In his speech, Santos said that the first priority would be to end local armed conflict with communists, which he expected to be completed before the end of Duterte’s single six-year term in 2022. He also indicated that the military will continue its efforts to thwart terrorism and to support efforts by law enforcement and government agencies involved in the conduct of the war on drugs.

But Santos will also have to contend with a range of other strategic priorities and unexpected developments. With respect to the former, the South China Sea, which notably did not get a direct mention in his remarks apart from a general reference to sovereignty and territorial integrity, remains a concern for the Philippines in spite of Duterte’s initial warming of ties with Beijing. And on the latter, a case in point is the fact that Santos has already had to deal with the issue of how to ensure the security of Filipinos in Iran and Iraq in response to rising U.S.-Iran tensions. With no shortage of developments in this respect, Santos’ tenure, which, pending a potential exception, is set to last around seven months as he turns 56 on August 3, will be important to watch in the months that follow.

[Prashanth Parameswaran is Senior Editor at The Diplomat based in Washington, D.C., where he produces analysis on Southeast Asian political and security issues, Asian defense affairs, and U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific.]

PH Air Force, Navy leadership changes loom

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 9, 2020): PH Air Force, Navy leadership changes loom
(By Frances Mangosing)\

After Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. recently took the helm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the new chief of staff, the coming weeks would also mark key leadership changes in two major AFP service commands — the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy.

Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez and Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad are set to bow out of service in the next few weeks, paving the way for other ranking officers to take over.

The retirement of these top officers would trigger a reshuffle, which is common in the military. The domino effect would be felt in regional commands as well.

Successors of Santos in the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) and Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, who left the top post of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) in December, have yet to be announced.

“Definitely, there will be movements..There will be a major movement because there will be a lot of vacancies,” said Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson.

“But that will have no serious impact on the armed forces and its operations,” he said.

“For the time being, papers are being processed to be signed the President,” Arevalo added.

Briguez, who served as Air Force chief for about a year, will reach the compulsory retirement age of 56 on Jan. 17.

His potential successors included AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria, Air Force vice commander Maj. Gen. Pelagio Valenzuela, Air Logistics Command chief Maj. Gen. Allen Paredes, and Air Education and Training Command chief Maj. Gen. Ferdinand Cartujano.

All are members of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Maringal” Class of 1988.

The year 2020 is important to the Air Force. It is set to announce its choice of multi-role fighter aircraft for defense and border protection, a big-ticket acquisition project.

The PAF was also expected to get its hands this year on hew hardware that included the Super Tucano light attack aircraft, Black Hawk combat utility helicopters and Gulfstream G-280 jet.
Busy year for the Navy

The Philippine Navy will also soon welcome a new flag officer in command with the coming retirement of Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, who is turning 56 on Feb. 3.

All the current three-star Navy officers— AFP vice chief of staff Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr., Western Command chief Vice Admiral Rene Medina and PMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi— all from PMA “Sinagtala” Class of 1986 like Empedrad, are scheduled to retire within the year.

The Navy has a handful of well-qualified two-star officers to choose from. All of them have more than a year left in service before their retirement.

Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Naval Sea Systems Command chief Rear Admiral Rommel Jason Galang, Naval Education, Training and Doctrine Command chief Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe and Naval Forces Western Mindanao chief Rear Admiral Erick Kagaoan — all from PMA “Hinirang” Class of 1987, are some of the officers being considered for the post.

But observers are keeping a close watch on the possibility that Empedrad’s replacement would come from PMA Class of 1988, which they said has a strong political backing than Class 1987.

The AFP and Army chiefs under Duterte administration, if not all, had previously served in Davao, the home province of the President.

This means Rear Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez, deputy chief of staff for reservist and retiree affairs and a member of Class 1988, would be a dark horse. His stint as commander of the Davao-based Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao prior to his current assignment gives him an advantage, said senior officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Other candidates for the top Navy post do not have similar Davao connections to the President.

Another candidate from PMA Class of 1988 is Rear Admiral Adelius Bordado, head of AFP Education, Training and Doctrine Command.

Disregarding the seniority-based culture ingrained in the armed forces or employing political backing in choosing the next Navy chief could raise eyebrows, according to insiders. Upperclassmen who are competent would be bypassed and miss their chance at the plum Navy post despite their credentials.

It could also allow much junior officials to jockey for positions with politicians or influential personalities to get their choice assignments, they said.

The leadership change comes in the Navy’s “Vision Year” when it hopes to build a “strong and credible” maritime force.

The Navy will host for the first time the Western Pacific Naval Symposium and the International Fleet Review this year. It is also gearing up to join the Rim of the Pacific, the biggest US-led international naval exercises, later this year.

If there are no hitches in schedule, the Navy will commission two brand new missile-capable frigates in the coming months.

The vessels made from South Korea are regarded as the “benchmark of Philippine Navy’s transformation journey,” despite previous controversies surrounding the frigate acquisition program. The upcoming assets will be the Navy’s most advanced warships.

122 ex NPA rebels, dependents now TESDA graduates

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog (Jan 9, 2020): 122 ex NPA rebels, dependents now TESDA graduates

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).

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.)

"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.(By Apipa P. Bagumbaran)

Provincial gov’t gives P2-M cash reward to informant

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog (Jan 9, 2020): Provincial gov’t gives P2-M cash reward to informant

FOR PROVIDING accurate information that resulted to the safe rescue of the kidnap victims: Allan Hyrons, a British national and his wife, Alma , the civilian informant received a total of P2-M cash from the provincial government.

The cash reward was personally handed by Zamboanga del Sur governor Victor J. Yu during the press conference held on Saturday at the governor’s office.

Governor Yu said the civilian informant deserved the reward he received for his courage to give information to the authorities that led to the safe rescue of the couple in Parang, Sulu on November 25, after almost two months in captivity.

“We are very happy to give the P2-M cash to the informant,” Yu announced adding that through him, the military troops were able to find the exact location of kidnap victims.

“The giving of reward to the informant is the fulfillment of my promise, a day after the couple was forcibly taken by unidentified armed men at their resort in Tukuran town on October 4.

Meanwhile, LtGen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief said the informant undoubtedly played a vital role in providing information to the authorities.

Sobejana said the informant is a native in the area and he knew all the people and the place.

“The informant who at the same time was our guide, risked his life in helping us to rescue the victims," Sobejana said adding that the military troops encountered the ASG for three times.

He also attributed the success of rescue efforts to the convergence and involvement of military, PNP and various stakeholders.

Governor Yu has also urged the local government units to form and strengthen the Barangay Intelligence Network (BIN) and implement the barangay profiling system for all its residents to monitor the in and out of the people and help contain the criminal and kidnapping activities of the ASG and other terrorist groups in Zamboanga del Sur.(By Gideon C. Corgue)

Covenant vs insurgency signed in City of Ilagan's interior village

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 9, 2020): Covenant vs insurgency signed in City of Ilagan's interior village (By Merlito G. Edale, Jr.)

City officials of Ilagan, religious and other sectors join in the covenant signing against insurgency held at Sindon Bayabo, City of Ilagan, Isabela. (Photo from 98.5 IFM)

CITY OF ILAGAN, Isabela, Jan. 9 (PIA) – Local officials and residents of barangay Sindon Bayabo, in this city signed a covenant that aims to address the problem of armed conflicts on Tuesday.

Barangay Sindon Bayabo is one of the city's interior barangays located at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains. It shares a common border with the barangay Minanga in San Mariano, Isabela and barangay Dimasari in Palanan, Isabela.

Major Oscar Blanza, 95th Infantry Battalion Civil Military Operations chief, said the 95th IB has already registered a number of rebels in their area of operations who voluntarily surrendered and availed the many programs and services offered by the government.

He said the peace covenant in the barangay level manifested the support and commitment of the people of Sindon Bayabo to finally end insurgency by encouraging the rebels to surrender and avail the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

He said through the joint efforts of all sectors in the barangay, the attainment of peace in the localities will be achieved.

Executive Order No. 70 of President Rodrigo Duterte called for whole-of-nation approach to end local armed conflict. Government agencies are encouraged to deliver the necessary programs and services of communities in order that the rebels will be encouraged to surrender and return under the folds of law. (MDCT/MGE/PIA 2-Isabela)

14 rebel returnees in Aurora receive financial assistance

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 9, 2020): 14 rebel returnees in Aurora receive financial assistance (By Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

BALER, Aurora, Jan.9 (PIA) -- A total of 14 rebel returnees in Aurora received financial assistance under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

10 returnees each got an immediate assistance of PhP15,000 and livelihood assistance of PhP50,000. Four returnees, on the other hand, received aid for surrendering their firearms ranging from Php60,000 to PhP285,000.

Governor Gerardo A. Noveras (6th from right) and Department of the Interior and Local Government Provincial Director Ofelio A. Tactac Jr (7th from left) lead the awarding of financial assistance to a total of 14 rebel returnees in Aurora under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. (DILG Aurora)

“E-CLIP being locally-driven, managed and implemented veers away from the past practice of pre-packaged interventions designed at the national level. It responds to the circumstances, needs and concerns of former rebels through provision of assistance and seeks to consider their basic rights and situations as men and women,” DILG Provincial Director Ofelio A. Tactac Jr explained.

“It provides a wide range of benefits which includes reintegration assistance amounting PhP21,000; firearms remuneration which is double the cost valuation; livelihood materials and implements or employment assistance amounting PhP100,000; housing amounting PhP450,000; medical assistance; legal assistance; and college tuition and stipend,” Tactac added. (CLJD-PIA 3)

2 NPA rebels yield in Zambo Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): 2 NPA rebels yield in Zambo Norte (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

SURRENDERERS. Two communist New People's Army rebels surrender on Wednesday (January 8) to the police authorities in Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte following a series of negotiations. They turned over two handguns. (Photo courtesy of Police Regional Office-9 Public Information Office)

Two New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered to the police authorities following series of negotiations in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, an official said Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Froilan Quidilla, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director,
identified them only as a certain Ka Toy and Ka Dodo, who surrendered Wednesday to the police in Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Quidilla said the surrenderers turned over two handguns-- a magnum .357 revolver and a caliber .45 pistol. They belong of the NPA’s Main Guerrilla Unit (MRGU) headed by a certain Ka Elyong, he added.

The former rebels will undergo appropriate interventions by the government for their new life in the fold of law under the Executive Order No. 70.

PRO-9, a member of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), said it is optimistic that more NPA rebels will surrender seeing the benefits and opportunities for rebel returnees.

Quidilla commended the police in Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte for the peace initiatives that led to the surrender of the two NPA rebels.

He urged the other NPA rebels to surrender and "live the life they truly deserve in the arms of the government."

Soldiers, NPA rebels clash in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): Soldiers, NPA rebels clash in North Cotabato (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr. and Edwin Fernandez)

FIREFIGHT. Government troops clash with a group of New People's Army rebels while on security operation Wednesday (Jan. 8, 2020) in Sitio Pahidlat, Barangay Latagan, Matalam, North Cotabato. The troops recovered personal belongs, including a .45-caliber pistol. (Photo courtesy of Western Mindanao Command Public Information Office)

Government troops recovered personal belongings and a handgun following a 10-minute clash against communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in North Cotabato, a top military official said Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said
the firefight broke out at dawn Wednesday in Sitio Pahidlat, Barangay Latagan, Matalam, North Cotabato.

“As the new decade begins, we are further intensifying our relentless efforts against the different threat groups in our area of operations,” Sobejana said.

Sobejana said the troops belonging to the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion were on security operation when they chanced upon a group of NPA rebels in the area.

Sobejana said the clash lasted for about 10 minutes, after which the rebels fled to different directions. He said the troops recovered at the clash site one .45-caliber pistol, four units of cellular phones, two units motorcycles, two backpacks, eight jungle hammocks, and other personal belongings.

He said the troops are tracking the fleeing NPA rebels as of posting.

“I urge each and every citizen to continuously support us in all our endeavors not only for ourselves but for the common good,” Sobejana said.

25 Pangasinense WW II veterans get US Congressional gold medal

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): 25 Pangasinense WW II veterans get US Congressional gold medal (By Hilda Austria)

PANGASINAN VETERAN’S DAY. Governor Amado Espino III (third from left) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Bernardo Florece Jr. (right) distribute the commemorative medallions to the living World War II veterans of Pangasinan on Thursday (Jan. 9, 2020) during the Pangasinan Veteran's Day. Some 25 veterans also received the United States Congressional Gold Medal to honor their bravery during the WW II. (Photo by Hilda Austria)

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -- Some 25 veterans from Pangasinan who fought alongside American soldiers during the World War (WW) II were awarded with the United States (US) Congressional gold medal on Thursday here.

In his speech, US Embassy Senior Defense Officer Stephen Ma said the award is the highest and prestigious recognition given only to those whose contribution greatly affected US.

The youngest veteran conferred with the award is 95-year-old Col. Miguel Aure, while the oldest veteran awardees are Pfc. Gregorio Martinez and Pvt. Placido Laureta, both 102 years old.

Most of the awardees personally received their medals, while some were received by their family members in a ceremony held alongside the celebration of 13th Pangasinan Veteran’s Day and 75th Landing of General Douglas McArthur on Thursday.

Out of the 181 living veterans, only 41 of them were able to attend the annual celebration.

“We are celebrating bravery. This is an expression of gratitude to our living veterans and honoring the bravery of the fallen war veterans,” said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary for Peace and Order, Bernardo Florece Jr., who represented DILG Secretary Eduardo Año as guest of honor and speaker of the event.

Meanwhile, Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino III thanked the veterans and their families while assuring them their sacrifices will be heard even by the next generations of Pangasinense.

“Your sacrifices will not be in vain as we will continue what you have started. We will teach the next generation to be grateful, by being grateful they will know how to love, and knowing how to love will teach them how to sacrifice,” Espino said in his speech.

In an interview, Laureta appreciated the annual commemoration of their sacrifice during WW II.

Commemorative medallions were given to all the surviving WW II veterans. A medical mission for them and their families was held at the Provincial Training and Development Center 1 and tokens were also provided to them.

A film, which features the bravery of the WW-II veterans and the allied forces, was staged at the Capitol Plaza at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

The event was highlighted with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans’ Memorial Park in Capitol Complex.

Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson, together with other provincial officials, also led the inauguration of the Royal Australian Navy Marker.

Ex-Pangasinan police chief killed in ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): Ex-Pangasinan police chief killed in ambush (By Ahikam Pasion)

CALASIAO, Pangasinan -- A retired former provincial police director of Pangasinan was shot by still unidentified suspects on Thursday.

“Initial investigation disclosed that retired Brig. Gen. Marlou Chan and his driver were traversing Barangay Nalsian here on board his Ford Ranger at 2:50 p.m. when unidentified suspects shot him,” the PPPO said in a statement.

Chan was brought to the nearest hospital but was proclaimed dead upon arrival, while his driver escaped unscathed.

Authorities are conducting a dragnet operation for the possible arrest of the suspects.

Chan served as the provincial director of Pangasinan in 2013. He retired from the service last year.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Son says NPA rebels 'tied, starved, killed’ father

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): Son says NPA rebels 'tied, starved, killed’ father (By Alexander Lopez)  January 9, 2020, 8:03 pm

TOTALLY ORPHANED. Gali, the 11-year old son of Datu Bontola Tinaghao Mansinugda, recounts to local reporters how the communist New People’s Army rebels seized, starved and killed his father on January 1, 2020. Gali, who says he wants to be a soldier, faced the local media in Butuan City on Thursday (Jan. 9, 2020). (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)

The son of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) leader killed by the New People’s Army (NPA) on New Year’s Day has come out to tell the horrors he and his father had experienced while in the hands of their captors.

The face of “Gali” (identity hidden for security reasons), 11, no longer had the trace of terror when he faced members of the media on Thursday (January 9) in this city, as he recounted their ordeal that started in the noontime of December 31, 2019 up to the early morning of January 1, 2020.

The lifeless body of Gali's father, Datu Bontola Tinaghao Mansinugdan, was recovered by the members of Higaonon tribe on January 2 at Kinabonglohan Creek in Barangay Kinamaybay, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

Gali said he accompanied his father early morning on New Year's Eve to check the traps they set up for wild boars in Upper Agsabo, in the hinterlands of Kinamaybay.

Gali could only speak in his native tongue; his recollection of the events was interpreted by Marciano “Datu Bagwis” Tonogan, a Higaonon Datu in Butuan City.

He said they were about to finish checking on the traps when they chanced upon more or less 30 fully armed NPA rebels.

“One of the NPA called my father ‘bayaw’ (brother-in-law) but I did not recognize him. They had a conversation and then they tied my father’s hands,” Gali narrated.

He said he doubted the NPA rebel who spoke to his father was a relative for it was the first time that he saw the guy. He added that the NPA rebels were speaking in Higaonon while the others in the Cebuano dialect.

After tying his father's hands, the armed men brought them near the Kinabonglohan Creek where they stayed overnight.

RECOUNTING THE ORDEAL. Datu Marciano Tonogan (right), a Higaonon tribal leader in Butuan City, serves as an interpreter as Gali, son of the slain tribal leader in Esperanza town, Agusan del Sur, recounts to the local media on Thursday (January 9) their ordeal in the hands of communist rebels. The 11-year-old boy, who is now totally orphaned, says he wants to become a soldier someday. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)

“I heard them speaking about killing my father. I could not understand why. I was so afraid because they were fully-armed,” Gali said.

They were not given food from the time they were abducted in the noontime of December 31 until the morning of January 1, he said.

“I was so hungry. They separated me from my father and there’s no one I could ask for food. They ate but they did not give us food,” the boy said.

By the morning of January 1, Gali said he heard an NPA saying it was time to kill his father.

“They brought me away from my father. I could not refuse because I was so afraid. They led him towards a big ‘Tugob’ tree. Then I heard a gunshot,” he said.

Gali said an NPA combatant then approached him saying: “Now you can go home. Your father is already dead.”

But he refused to go home and instead ran towards the direction where his father was executed by the rebels.

“I saw his body lying in the ground covered with leaves of 'mam-on' (palm) tree. He had wound in the head. He was already dead,” Gali said.

He then left and ran fast towards the direction of their village.

“I was crying while running. I was afraid they would kill me. I cried for my father. I pitied him,” Gali said.

By the noontime of January 2, some members of the Higaonon tribe and relatives were already in the area where Datu Bontola was murdered.

“My father was buried in the area where he was killed by the NPA. My relatives covered his body with sacks and buried him there,” Gali said.

When asked how the incident affected him, Gali directed his anger towards the NPA members who killed his father.

“I want to be a soldier someday,” he added.

Respected community leader

Datu Manligonan Larry Mansinugdan, the barangay captain of Kinamaybay said Datu Bontola, his cousin, was a respected leader in their community.

Datu Manligonan said the NPA has warned the leaders in their village of retaliation after they decided to cut ties with the rebels since 2009.

“Since 2009, they could no longer enter nor pass near our community. We decided to stay away from their movement in order to facilitate developments in our community,” he said in the dialect.

National Commission on Indigenous People-Caraga (NCIP-13) Director Ferdausi Cerna said the NPA has long displayed animosity against the Higaonons in the area, alleging them to be members of the so-called Bungakutal Liberation Front (BULIF).

“The NPA said the Higaonons of Kinamaybay and the nearby villages are members of BULIF because they revolted against the NPA,” Cerna said.

But he clarified that the name BULIF was the creation of the NPA and is not recognized as a formal group of the IPs.

RESPECTED. Datu Manligonan Larry Mansinugdan, the barangay captain of Kinamaybay, Esperanza town, Agusan del Sur, says Datu Bontola Tinaghao Mansinugdan was a respected Higaonon leader in their village. He criticizes the New People's Army for violating the ceasefire that was still in effect when the rebels seized and killed Datu Bontola on January 1, 2020. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)

Datu Manligonan said Higaonon leaders and members have received death threats from the NPA since the time they decided to support the government.

The case of Datu Bontola was a clear message to the Higaonons that the NPA is out to kill them, he added.

Datu Manligonan also denounced the NPA for violating the ceasefire that was still in effect when they seized and killed Datu Bontola.

“The ceasefire was used by the NPA to roam around our community and conducted operations while the Army was confined in headquarters due to the ceasefire,” he said.

Datu Manligonan said they are now working for the filing of formal charges against the NPA who killed Datu Bontola and for the violation of the ceasefire.

Totally orphaned

With the death of their father, Gali and his siblings are now totally orphaned.

Dir. Cerna said Gali’s mother died more than five years ago.

Gali is the fifth of the six children of Datu Bontola.

“We will make some interventions to assist Gali and his siblings,” Cerna said.

He said he will also convene some leaders of the Higaonon tribe in Kinamaybay for the possible adoption of Datu Bontola’s children to give them a better future.

Cops nab NPA ‘militiaman’ in Agusan Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): Cops nab NPA ‘militiaman’ in Agusan Sur (By Alexander Lopez)

REBEL MILITIA NABBED. The Philippine National Police in Caraga Region announces the arrest of Cesar Mabandos Acebedo, a suspected member of the NPA's Milisya ng Bayan, on Wednesday (Jan. 8, 2020). Acebedo was arrested in an operation conducted by joint operatives of the PNP in Barangay Tabon-tabon, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, on January 7. (Photo courtesy of PRO-13 Information Office)

The Police Provincial Office in Caraga Region (PRO-13) on Wednesday reported the arrest of a suspected militiaman of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Agusan del Sur.
PRO-13 director, Brig. Gen. Joselito Esquivel Jr. on Wednesday identified the suspect as Cesar Mabandos Acebedo, 53 years of age, married and a resident of Purok 3C, Barangay Ampayon, here.

Acebedo was arrested by the joint forces of Bayugan City Police Office, Sibagat Municipal Police Station, and 1st Agusan del Sur Provincial Mobile Force in a manhunt operation conducted last January 7 in Barangay Tabon-tabon, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

Esquivel said Acebedo is an active member of Milisya ng Bayan under Guerrilla Front 21-A of the NPA's North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

GF 21-A, he added, is considered a "weakened" NPA guerrilla unit.

Acebedo was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued last December 9, 2013, by Judge Hector B. Salise of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 6 in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur for Murder.

Esquivel assured the residents in the region of the continuing anti-criminality and anti-insurgency campaigns of the PNP.

“Our campaigns are aimed to ensure the safety and security of all Caraganons and to attain lasting peace,” Esquivel said.

DND, attached bureaus urged to raise standards

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): DND, attached bureaus urged to raise standards (By Priam Nepomuceno)

NEW YEAR'S CALL. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana delivers his speech at the DND-AFP New Year's Call in Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday (Jan. 8, 2020). Lorenzana urged all officials and employees of the DND and its attached bureaus to raise their standards of professionalism and foster an environment that will further the "One Defense Team" concept. (Photo courtesy of DND Public Affairs Service)

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged all officials and employees of the DND and its attached bureaus to raise their standards of professionalism and foster an environment that will further the "One Defense Team" concept.

"Let us raise our standards of professionalism, manifest utmost patriotism, and foster a cordial environment to nurture our One Defense Team concept,” Lorenzana said during the traditional joint DND-Armed Forces of the Philippines' New Year’s Call Wednesday.

Aside from the AFP, some of the attached bureaus of the DND include the Government Arsenal, the Office of Civil Defense, the National Defense College of the Philippines, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, and the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation.
"Nurture the trust that has been bestowed on us – by our President, and our people. As the saying goes, 'Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair'," he added.

Nothing that trust is built on truth, the values of honesty, transparency, and fairness is a must for all, the DND chief added.

"Finally, serve our clientele with genuine empathy and concern,” Lorenzana said.

Also, he lauded all the DND and its attached bureaus for continuously reforming, improving, and enhancing their capabilities and capacities to provide quality service to their stakeholders and to better perform their mandated task.

Other notable contributions of the DND to the attainment of peace in 2019 was the peaceful and honest plebiscite in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, and the conclusion of the Martial Law in Mindanao with the AFP decimating and weakening the terrorist and extremist groups in various areas in the region.

Defense chief to lead panel to evacuate OFWs in Mideast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): Defense chief to lead panel to evacuate OFWs in Mideast (By Azer Parrocha)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been named chairperson of a special working panel that will oversee the evacuation and possible repatriation of Filipinos from the Middle East amid tensions between the US and Iran, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“The Executive Secretary has directed the Secretary of National Defense to take the lead, as Chairperson, in ensuring the safety of the Filipinos and their return to the Philippines, if needed,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has been designated as the committee’s vice-chair.

Members of the committee include Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier asked Cimatu, a former Special Envoy to the Middle East, to meet with officials of the Gulf states and discuss the Philippines’ plan to evacuate Filipino migrant workers.

Panelo said the order for mandatory evacuation stays “unless the escalation reaches a point where the safety of countrymen are [sic] no longer in peril.”

“What I know is there is a place where they will have to be evacuated not repatriated kaagad (right away). Yun ang alam ko (That’s what I know). For those who would want. You cannot also force our overseas workers if they prefer to stay,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

He, meanwhile, reassured that the welfare of Filipinos, including their safety and security, remains the President’s “primordial concern.”

“The public is accordingly informed of the actions being undertaken by our state agents on the matter for their assurance and trust that the Philippine Government, with the President as its Head of State, is doing its best to have our fellow citizens in the Middle East safely ensconced and further spared from the tension and apprehension arising from the present conflict in the Middle East,” Panelo said.

Duterte earlier expressed concern for Filipinos living and working in the Middle East after the highest threat alert was raised in Baghdad amid the escalating tensions between the US and Iraq.

Alert Level 4, which calls for mandatory repatriation, is issued “when there is a large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external account,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Iran's top military commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US airstrike carried out in Iraq last week, a move that prompted Iran to launch more than a dozen ballistic missiles against at least two military bases housing the US and coalition forces in Iraq.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday reportedly said no casualties have resulted from Iran's missiles attack.

Funds readied

On Wednesday, the Department of Budget and Management said it has prepared around PHP1.8 billion in government funds for the repatriation of Filipino workers in the Middle East.

DBM Assistant Secretary Rolando Toledo said around PHP1.29 billion of the total PHP1.8 billion funds allocated for OFWs’ repatriation will be taken from the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) allocation.

The other PHP100 million will come from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration while the remaining PHP500 million is a “free fund,” he added.

On Monday, Duterte asked Congress to prepare a “standby fund” that could be utilized for the possible repatriation of Filipino workers in the Middle East.

None hurt

To date, no Filipino was hurt in the recent Iranian missile strike that targeted two military bases in Iraq housing American troops.

"So far, US said no Filipinos found to have been hurt. But search and damage assessment not complete," Locsin said on his Twitter account, citing information from the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.

Data provided by the DFA showed that there are some 4,000 Filipinos in Iraq.

PH, Japan agree to deepen ‘bilateral cooperation’

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9, 2020): PH, Japan agree to deepen ‘bilateral cooperation’ (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

COOPERATION. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. delivers a speech after his bilateral meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu in Makati on Thursday (Jan. 9, 2020). They vowed to increase cooperation in maintaining peace and stability as well as upholding the rule of law in Asia. (PNA photo by Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

The Philippine and the Japanese governments on Thursday vowed to increase ‘bilateral cooperation’ to maintain peace and security as well as to uphold the rule of law in the region.

The commitment was made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu after their bilateral meeting in Makati.

"A survey of the most pressing concerns in the regional security environment is an indispensable element of our strategic dialogue. I was pleased with my candid exchanges with Minister Motegi on issues such as rule of law in the maritime commons and the situation in the West Philippine Sea," Locsin said during his speech.

"We committed to continue our cooperation -- bilaterally and in all possible forums -- to maintain peace and security, stability and the rule of law in our region," he added.

Meanwhile, Motegi echoed the agreements made between him and Filipino top diplomat on the area of maritime security.

"Secretary Locsin and I were able to deepen our discussion from such perspectives and agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation in wide areas including security and enforcement of the laws of the seas," he said.

The Philippines, China, and other littoral states have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, a vital trade route in the region.

Japan, on the other hand, is locked in a territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea over an island chain called Senkaku by Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing.

Aside from the commitment of upholding the rule of law in the region, the two foreign ministers also "reviewed" the direction of the two states' defense and security engagement.

Locsin thanked Japan for supporting Manila's acquisition of new air and maritime assets and equipment to enhance its maritime domain awareness and capability, as well as law enforcement and humanitarian responses.

Among others, they further discussed "future acquisitions" in aid of the modernization of the Philippines' armed forces and maritime forces.

"This is the first of our many meetings which I look forward to having with Minister Motegi. The Philippines-Japan Strategic Partnership has been a positive force, not just for Philippine development and security, but in the best interest of our larger region," Locsin said.

"In 2017, President Duterte described the Philippine-Japan Strategic Partnership as having entered a “Golden Age”. Minister Motegi’s visit adds further luster to that golden friendship which remains one of the region’s closest and strongest," he added.