Saturday, January 18, 2020

Paid ransom emboldens kidnappers in latest case, says source

From the Daily Express (Jan 19, 2020): Paid ransom emboldens kidnappers in latest case, says source (By Zam Yusa, Stefyanie Myla Micheal)

These three Indonesian fishermen kidnapped from waters off Tambisan Island, Lahad Datu in September 2019 are pictured here held by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu before their rescue by the Philippine military in December and January this year (Photo: Screengrab from supplied Facebook video).

KOTA KINABALU: Ransom paid by Indonesian authorities in a previous kidnapping case may have emboldened a suspected Filipino kidnap-for-ransom group to grab five Indonesian fishermen from a Sandakan-registered trawler in the latest case that occurred in Tambisan Island waters off Lahad Datu on Thursday, a government source told Daily Express.

The kidnappers also released three other fishermen and let them find their way back to Sabah waters from Philippine territory for unexplained reason.

The eight including their skipper were fishing at 8pm when their trawler was approached by a boat with six masked men who boarded their trawler and took the fishermen and their vessel to southern Philippine waters, said the source.

At about 9.10pm on Friday, the trawler was traced going back to Tambisan waters from the southern Philippine side before it was intercepted by a Malaysian Marine Police boat.

Inspection of their boat and initial investigation confirmed only five fishermen had been kidnapped, said the government source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The five have been identified as boat skipper Arsyad Dahlan, 42, Arizal Kastamiran, 29, La Baa, 32, Riswanto Hayono, 27, and Edi Lawalopo, 53.

The three fishermen who were released have been identified as Abdul Latif, 37, Daeng Akbal, 20, and Pian Janiru, 36.

Eastern Sabah Security Command chief Datuk Hazani Ghazali confirmed to Daily Express as to the fishermen’s identities.

The unnamed government source said kidnapping continued because the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf terror and kidnap group had been receiving the ransom they had been demanding.

A second source, who is close to the issue and declined to be named, confirmed to Daily Express on Sunday that ransom had been paid in the previous case.

In that case, the last of the three Indonesian fishermen kidnapped also in Tambisan Island waters last September was rescued by the Philippine military in Sulu on Wednesday.

Muhammad Farhan, 27, was rescued at Barangay (Village) Bato-Bato, Indanan district, the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command spokesman, Major Arvin Encinas, told Daily Express.

The other two hostages, Maharudin Lunani, 48 and Samiun Manieu, 26 were rescued in Old Panamao district, Sulu, on Dec 22 last year.

The Abu Sayyaf and other kidnap-for ransom groups have been blamed by Malaysian and Philippine authorities for kidnappings in the Sulu Sea, an area shared by both nations.

Trump keeps spoiling US Asia policy 15 January 2020

Posted to the East Asia Forum (Jan 15, 2020): Trump keeps spoiling US Asia policy (By Hunter Marston, ANU)

Recent brinkmanship between the United States and Iran is the latest signal of Washington’s distraction from great power competition with China. The crisis in the Middle East and impeachment proceedings in Washington have distracted the Trump administration from its stated emphasis on the Indo-Pacific as its priority theatre.

In many official statements and documents, including the 2017 National Security Strategy and Vice President Mike Pence’s China speech at the Hudson Institute in October 2018, the administration has articulated a strategy of great power competition with China in a bid to promote US values and contain China’s rise. The Trump administration’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ offers a broad vision for US Asia policy across economic, security and diplomatic dimensions.

On the economic front, the Trump administration passed the BUILD Act in October 2018. This is a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and aims to compete with the BRI by creating a new finance corporation with a significantly expanded lending capacity of US$60 billion to mobilise US private investment in developing countries.

In the South China Sea, the Trump administration has regularised US freedom of navigation operations to counter China’s expansive maritime claims and signal US resolve in the region. In August 2019, the administration elevated US diplomatic efforts in the Pacific with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Micronesia — the first by a US Secretary of State.

US officials have worked hard to address regional misgivings — from wariness of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States, to grumblings from ASEAN. But US President Donald Trump’s erratic cost impositions, such as demanding Japan and South Korea pay up to five times current levels to continue hosting US troops, undermine US credibility abroad and threaten to scuttle larger policy objectives.

The fundamental problem with the Trump administration’s policies is Donald Trump himself.

President Trump continues to blast allies and partners for what he sees as unfair trade practices. He views the world in raw transactional terms and holds onto outdated and easily debunked notions of basic economics.

Trump also sends inconsistent signals to Beijing on crises, including the ongoing trade war, protests in Hong Kong and the internment of nearly a million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Instead of defending US values of human rights and democracy, he has dismissed China’s shocking abuse of citizens and identified with the strongman style of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whom he describes as a friend.

The White House’s 2017 National Security Strategy posits that China and Russia threaten American interests and security abroad. But Trump’s behaviour and words overtly contradict his administration’s stated policies. Trump has ceded important ground to Russia in Syria and continues to denigrate Ukraine in its struggle for independence following the invasion by Moscow’s security forces. The looming crisis with Iran may lend further strategic advantage to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the Middle East, according to Strobe Talbott and Maggie Tennis.

Worse still, in November 2019, the administration rankled US allies by demanding that Japan pay four times and South Korea pay five times what they currently do to host US military personnel and bases on their territory. These have already proven difficult demands to even begin negotiating. Leaders in Tokyo and Seoul face domestic constituencies for whom the US military presence is controversial. Calls to raise payments for US troops place added stress on already weakened US credibility under Trump.

In Southeast Asia, the Trump administration has signalled disinterest by failing to show up for important regional summits despite US officials describing it as a ‘priority theatre’. Trump declined to attend for the second year in a row the East Asia Summit — the foremost regional forum for Southeast Asian countries, China, Japan, the United States and other ASEAN partners — to the obvious disappointment of US partners. By comparison, former president Barack Obama attended every East Asia Summit except one in 2013 due to a US government shutdown.

When the United States sent Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien to represent the Trump administration at the US–ASEAN Summit in November 2019, only three of ten ASEAN leaders attended the meeting with O’Brien. It didn’t help the United States’ reputation in Southeast Asia when a US diplomat complained about the perceived ‘effort to embarrass’ Trump.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper followed up with a regional tour of South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. In Manila, where Washington has lost influence since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016, the Secretary agreed to a review of the US–Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which dates back to 1951, in a bid to reaffirm US credibility.

In Vietnam, Secretary Esper announced that the United States would transfer another Coast Guard cutter to the country — following a similar transfer of a Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutter in 2017. Hanoi has welcomed increased security ties with Washington in light of recent aggression from China in waters they claim in the South China Sea. But Vietnam may be one of the only remaining bright spots for the Trump administration’s Asia policy.

With impeachment hearings dogging Trump as he enters a tumultuous election year in Washington, the Indo-Pacific will not be his top priority. In this context, capable bureaucrats may be able to rescue a faltering US Asia strategy, but they have a long way to go to rebuild US credibility among allies and partners in the region.

[Hunter Marston is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University.]

Navy begins crash course on submarine operations

From the Business Mirror (Jan 15, 2020): Navy begins crash course on submarine operations (By Rene Acosta)

The Philippine Navy is beefing up its stock of knowledge and skill in submarine operations, in preparation for its planned procurement of such vessels for the first time.

The acquisition from France of underwater assets was part of the Navy’s effort to upgrade its capability under the overall modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

On Tuesday, Navy officials and future submariners engaged French military officials and submarine experts in discussion under a four-day subject-matter expert (SME) exchange on underwater operations and warfare.

“In preparation for the upcoming acquisition of the submarine as part of the Philippine Navy’s modernization program, a four-day subject-matter expert exchange with the French Navy SMEs was conducted,” said Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas said in a news statement.

The French Navy delegation, who were received at the Navy headquarters upon their arrival, were led by Col. Emmanuel Peltriaux, the nonresident defense attaché to the Philippines.

The mission also included two French submariners, Commander Jean-Christophe Marie and Commander Jeremy Bachelier, whom Roxas’s statement said, are “specialists in French Submarine Forces and Surface Forces.”

France is being eyed as the source of submarines for the Navy, although other countries, including South Korea and Russia, have also expressed their interests in supplying the underwater requirement of the Navy.

The Navy has kept its eye on French Scorpène-class submarine.

Roxas said the French mission was borne by Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad’s bilateral talks with Admiral Christophe Prazuck, the chief of France’s Navy, during the Euronaval 2018 Exhibition held in October 2018 in Paris, France.

During their discussion, Prazuck committed to send a team of French Navy SMEs from “different warfare fields to engage the Philippine Navy as consultants, and share best practices and provide recommendations that could contribute to the submarine warfare capability development program of the Philippine Navy.”

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana signed a nonbinding agreement with France for defense and logistics cooperation, an agreement seen as putting the Philippine military a step closer toward acquiring the Scorpène-class diesel-electric submarine.

Meanwhile, the Navy will send two of its vessels to the Middle East to ferry Filipinos who would be repatriated from Iraq, Libya, Iran and other Middle Eastern states, which are experiencing volatility in their security as result of the death of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

A send-off ceremony for the two ships was scheduled at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, with no less than President Duterte presiding over the event as disseminated by the Navy.

Empedrad said both ships are complimented by 130 crewmen each, and over a hundred members of medical team, SWAG (Special Warfare Group) personnel and repair men, who will form a task group.

“Based on the guidance of the President, the main mission is to bring back affected Filipinos from the Middle East,” Empedrad said.

Opinion: The Pied Piper of Death a.k.a. Anakbayan 101

Opinion piece From the Where I Sit column by Lorraine Marie Badoy posted to the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15, 2020): The Pied Piper of Death a.k.a. Anakbayan 101

HOW does a child become a member of the terrorist group, Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF)?

Is there an office one goes to fill out a form that says, “Yes I want to destroy my one precious life, break the hearts of my parents and in the process, overthrow the government and destroy the democratic processes of my country.

Oh, and while I’m at it, there’s a huge chance, I will get killed, buried in a shallow grave and my parents will walk the earth all the days of their grievous lives searching and never finding me.”?

Is there such an office? Nope, sorry.

Nothing as simple as that when dealing with the most duplicitous scoundrels this side of the planet. If there were such an office, it would have been so much easier for parents to throw their bodies on whatever office that may be to prevent their children from marching off to their early deaths. Instead what faces them is this slow and deliberate dance of seduction by this terrorist group that exploits their nobility and youthful idealism.

For an unbearable number of them, this is where the slippery slope that leads to death and destruction starts: school. And school authorities who look away for a number of reasons –not the least of which is because the tentacles of this terrorist group have reached the academe as well. (And the church, media, Congress, civil society, labor, farmers’ group, women’s sector, ENVIRONMENT, etc etc)

The first step down the road to perdition for a lot of our children—because indeed they are MINORS-- is to be recruited by the above-ground/legal organization of the CPP-NPA-NDF, Anakbayan or the LFS.

At this point, not all of them are aware that these nefarious organizations are headed by the CPP-NPA-NDF. But softening of the ground has started when they join Anakbayan or LFS.

This is where they are radicalized, agitated and taught to hate and have a deep mistrust for the government. Where brainwashing and therefore the rewiring of their brains start.

May problema sa lipunan.
May naapi na sektor.
At walang ginagawa ang gobyerno.

That, basically, is the oft-repeated refrain of Anakbayan/LFS and all above-ground organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Their bait, in other words, to reel in the unsuspecting good-hearted children you raised to be compassionate.

So even if they get an education on the wings of taxpayer’s money (free college education!) and even if they paid a grand total of nothing after surgery at the UP PGH (universal health care!) or even if they read that the President has been giving away land to farmers in record numbers or even if they read about 6 million Filipinos being taken out of poverty by this government, it doesn’t register.

They are taught about societal ills. All well and good because this is what good schools and families ought to teach their children: that social injustice exists and as compassionate human beings, they must take part in leveling the playing field for the poorest of the poor. But unlike good schools and families, the CPP-NPA-NDF has no interest in teaching your children to be compassionate human beings.

The only thing our children are to these terrorists is pieces of meat to be placed in the firing line of a war they wage against the country for which the one and only end goal is to topple the government and install themselves in power. Once inside Anakbayan or LFS, our children are then led even deeper down the rabbit’s hole.

This time to the Kabataang Makabayan -- the below-ground organization of Anakbayan and LFS.

What is the difference between Anakbayan/LFS and Kabataang Makabayan? Anakbayan/LFS are legal organizations that front for KM. Kabataang Makabayan is illegal and operates in the shadows.

What makes the KM illegal? The armed component whose aim is the violent overthrow of the government.

The next step then after membership in the KM is the dreaded ‘immersion’ that happens on the anniversary of the NPA—Dec 26-- where they are brought to the countryside — and where they get to meet for the first time the self-proclaimed ‘tagapagtanggol ng masa’ — the terrorists, NPA. They are then inundated with lies and phony testimonials of heroism by these extortionists and murderers.

The ground has now been softened and the seed can now be planted: may pangangailangan sa armadong pakikibaka. This is the whispered seduction.

When they go back home, the indoctrination and radicalization levels up.

At around March to April, the Pied Piper of Death whispers to your child: “There is a need for warriors to fight this war to overthrow the government. Will you join in our crusade for social justice ek ek?”

And it is at this point when the brainwashing is complete that your child becomes a full-fledged NPA terrorist armed to the teeth, marching to whatever valley of death the macabre Pied Piper leads her to. Because indeed, this has been the sad fate of unbearable numbers of Filipino children whose goodness and innocence were used against them by these monsters, seduced into a movement that spelled nothing but death and destruction of a nation. But not without sacrificing our children first in their altar of extremism.

At the Anakbayan/LFS level, the end goal is to blame the government. At the Kabataang Makabayan level, the end goal becomes the overthrow of the government through violent means — the final alignment with the goal of the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF.

Which brings me to my next point: the Anakbayan Spokesperson, Alex Danday. You can’t be that high up on the hierarchy of Anakbayan if you aren’t a ranking party member of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

I’d like to challenge Alex Danday to publicly deny she is a ranking member of the CPP-NPA-NDF. And in case she does, what I challenge her to do next is to denounce the horrific atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Can you do this, Alex? If you can’t, why not?

None of the officers of Anakbayan are officers⁰ because they were elected by their peers. For the scandalously hypocritical terrorists who claim to fight for democracy, there is no democracy to be had.They were placed there by the highest party members of the CPP NPA NDF. Therefore ALL officers of Anakbayan are ranking members of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Anakbayan, to belabor the point, is CPP-NPA-NDF-led, fully and completely aligned with the communist group's end goal of overthrowing the government and wresting of power from this government. So when they ask for donations supposedly for victims of Taal or Typhoon Tisoy, you already know exactly where your money, clothes, food is going: the terrorist CPP NPA NDF.

And you know what it’s for: to fund and support the destruction of this country.

On top of that, the one major function of Anakbayan is to lure our children into their terrorist lair which is why they have an avalanche of cases filed against them by parents who have lost their children to this terrorist group.

Alex Danday, for instance, personally recruited Queenielyn Gromeo —the child who was run over during the rally in front of the US Embassy in 2016, and Trisha Antoniano — when they were both 16 years old. They have since been confirmed to be card-carrying members of the NPA.

Alex Danday recruited Louvaine Espina when she was 16, just on her 2nd sem in college. The last time anything was heard of Louvaine was December 2018 and there is no proof of life for this child. Alicia Lucena was 16 when she was indoctrinated by Alex Danday as well.

And during the Congressional Hearing on the recruitment of our children by the Anakbayan, it was 18-year old Alicia they chose to face members of Congress. Anakbayan National Secretary General Einstein Recedes who must be in his late 30s, in other words, didn’t have the balls to show up.

And after they had used her, they spirited her away so that her mother would not be able to, at the very least, enclose this child she last saw 6 months ago in her arms. And doubtless, to use her further.

Makabayan members of the House of Representatives looked on as Alicia was used as bait and then refused to give Alicia to her mother. Because indeed, this is what Anakbayan is all about: putting our children in harm’s way and the destruction of our country—at whatever the cost.

Here’s the thing though.

Alex Danday is only 20 years old. Like Alicia, like unbearable numbers of Filipino children, she is being used by this terrorist group headed by the decrepit coward in Nederlands, Joma Sison and his band of ancient crypt keepers to do so much of their dirty work. This matter of asking for donations, for instance, of which Alex Danday labors to justify with all sorts of comical nonsense.

Presidential Decree 564 or the Solicitation Permit Law requires that anyone soliciting from the public ought to have a Permit to Solicit. Anakbayan has NONE, zero, nada according to the DSWD Standards Bureau and DSWD Region 3.

Alex, do you even know this? Your feeble bosses with creaky knees are putting a 20-year old you squarely in the line of fire.

This then is what I want Einstein Recedes to do: deny publicly that Alex Danday is a ranking member of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Then deny that he is a ranking member of the CPP-NPA-NDF. If he denies this, let him prove it by denouncing in public the horrendous atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Betcha this coward won’t. Betcha he’ll let 20-year old Alex fight this battle for the old cowardly fogeys of the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF.

But then, does this even surprise us when the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF is headed by the biggest coward who has the biggest mouth — and ONLY because he is a continent away — and has been living in continental splendor for 37 years in the lap of European comfort while his dimwitted minions starve and sleep in the mud fighting his senseless battle for him?

I am not, in the least bit, surprised.

Piracy incidents spike around Singapore in 2019: ReCAAP

From S&P Global (Jan 16, 2020): Piracy incidents spike around Singapore in 2019: ReCAAP (By Sameer Mohindru)


Singapore Straits comprise 38% of east Asia piracy incidents in 2019

Singapore Straits piracy, sea robbery incidents rises over four fold

Singapore — There has been an 8% increase in sea robbery and piracy related incidents across Asia in 2019, particularly focused around the Straits of Singapore, and perennial danger also lingers over abduction of crew in the Sulu Sea-Celebes Sea region, anti-piracy watchdog ReCAAP said late Wednesday.

The actual incidents, excluding the attempted, increased 15% year on year in 2019 to 71, while in Singapore Straits alone there was an over four-fold increase, ReCAAP said.

ReCAAP is the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

A total of 31 incidents, or almost 38% of total incidents in the region, occurred in the Straits of Singapore, up from seven in 2018, said Masafumi Kuroki, ReCAAP's executive director, while releasing the watchdog's annual report.

"ReCAAP is concerned over the increase in incidents in the Singapore Straits and recommends that law enforcement agencies of the littoral States to enhance surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly," Kuroki said.

These agencies should strengthen joint coordinated patrols, share information on the movement of suspicious boats and the criminal groups involved in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, he said.

The annual report of London-based International Maritime Bureau, or IMB, has also shown a four fold increase in such incidents around the Singapore Straits. "There is a sudden rise in the attacks, specially during the night," the IMB report said.

The shipping industry and ships should step up vigilance and lookout for suspicious small boats, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal state, Kuroki added.

Significantly, there were no piracy or theft-related incidents in the neighboring Straits of Malacca last year.

While such incidents have decreased around Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, there is a spike around Singapore Straits and Malaysia's Bandar Penawar in Johor province, ReCAAP data showed.

Singapore is located along one of the world's busiest waterways, with close to 1,000 ships anchored there at any given time. A ship calls at Singapore port every two to three minutes, bringing the total to around 130,000 ships a year and making it critical for maritime passage in the region to be piracy-free.

Interestingly, according to ReCAAP's statistics that are primarily focused on east Asia, piracy and sea robberies in the region have rebounded after hitting their lowest in more than a decade in 2018.

Naval experts said piracy is trying to revive at a time when geopolitical tensions have increased due to the US-Iran hostilities.
Sulu-Celebes Sea

Kuroki also expressed concern over last year's abduction of crew members from fishing boats near Sabah, Malaysia, by perpetrators believed to be the members of the Abu Sayyaf group. One of the abducted crew members is still in captivity.

"Despite the decrease in incidents, threat of abduction of crew still remains," Kuroki said in reference to the Sulu-Celebes Seas.

He said ReCAAP is maintaining its advisory for ships to avoid the Sulu-Celebes Seas region and reroute from the area, wherever possible.

Ships passing through the region must exercise extra vigilance and maintain communication at all times with the maritime authorities of the Philippines and Malaysia, he said.

Since March 2016, 78 crew members have been abducted in the region, of which 10 either died or were killed, while the rest except one were released or rescued.

From industrial raw material, such as coal to essential food items like rice, to commodities worth billions of dollars move on commercial ships near the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea, industry estimates showed.

[Established in 2006, ReCAAP is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. It has 20 member countries, including all members of ASEAN except Malaysia and Indonesia, with France and Germany expected to join ReCAAP in future.]

Troops nab 2 Abu Sayyaf, seize bombs

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 15, 2020): Troops nab 2 Abu Sayyaf, seize bombs

TWO suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits were arrested while improvised bombs and bomb-making components were seized in Basilan province, a top police official announced Wednesday, January 15.

Police Brigadier General Froilan Quidilla, Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula director,
identified the arrested suspects as Muzrim Illahan and Kadir Ajanal, both followers of Basilan-based bandit leader Furuji Indama.
Quidilla said the two were arrested Tuesday by joint team of policemen and Army troops in the village of Menzi, Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.

Quidilla said seized from them were two improvised explosive devices.

He said also seized from the two were the following: two improvised blasting caps; 14-inch electric wire; 330 milliliter plastic bottle filled with ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO); one plastic bag filled with 350 grams of ANFO; an empty plastic bottle; two dry cell batteries; two kilos assorted nails; two electric wires 25.5 inches in length; one-fourth kilo glass shards; and, a packaging tape.

NPA rebel nabbed in Surigao manhunt

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jan 15, 2020): NPA rebel nabbed in Surigao manhunt (By PJ Orias)

A SUSPECTED New People's Army (NPA) rebel was arrested on Tuesday, January 14, in Surigao City.
Police identified the suspect as Ruel Resma, 30, a construction worker and resident of barangay Bonifacio, Surigao City.

Police said Resma is a member of the Militia ng Bayan under Guerilla Front Committee (GFC) 16, NorthEastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Surigao City Police together with operatives of 30th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army conducted operation in Km. 5, National Highway, Barangay Luna, Surigao City which led to the suspect's arrest.

Recovered from his possession was an improvised explosive device.

Police said Resma was one of the suspects of a robbery incident that transpired last January 5, 2018 in Sitio Banahaw, Barangay Sabang, Surigao City, along with two other suspects who were caught during hot pursuit operation.

Resma was arrested by virtue of a Warrant of Arrest dated February 5, 2018 issued by Jacqueline J. Ongpauco-Cortel of RTC 10th Judicial Region, Branch 29, Surigao City for the crime of Robbery under Criminal Case Number 13569 with recommended bail of Php 100,000.00.

“PNP Caraga will remain true to its mandate which is to serve and protect. In doing so, we need the support and cooperation of the community in reporting the presence of lawless elements and criminals in their place,” Police Regional Office-Caraga regional director Brig. Gen. Joselito Esquivel, Jr said.

RPA-ABB, NPA clash in Alimodian

From Panay News (Jan 16, 2020): RPA-ABB, NPA clash in Alimodian (By Ruby Silubrico)

An undetermined number of New People Army (NPA) rebels ambushed 16 members of their splinter group Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) in Barangay Cunsad, Alimodian, Iloilo yesterday at around 7:30 a.m.

The RPA-ABB men were from Barangay Abang-Abang, Alimodian town. They fired back at the NPA rebels.
The attacking NPA rebels belonged to the Sibat Platoon, Southern Front Committee, according to the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, Captain Cenon Pancito III.

The exchange of fire lasted for some 10 minutes. The NPA rebels retreated toward Leon town.

“The NPA rebels did not stay long. They were afraid they would be cornered. We deployed additional soldiers in the area,” said Pancito.

Prior to the ambush, a loud explosion was heard. Pancito said it was likely an improvised explosive device, but there were no reports of injuries or deaths.

Just this Sunday, Jan. 12, NPA rebels clashed with RPA-ABB members in Barangay Camia, San Joaquin, Iloilo.

One RPA-ABB member, 34-year-old Ramie Cataluña of Barangay Danao, Janiuay, Iloilo, was wounded. He was treated at the San Joaquin Mother and Child Hospital.

The encounter happened at around 4:30 p.m.

Cataluña and four other companions were ambushed by seven NPA rebels, according to Police Staff Sergeant Hector Sandig of the San Joaquin police station.

The attacking NPA rebels belonged to the Southern Front Committee, said Sandig.

The RPA-ABB fired back for several minutes until the NPA rebels retreated.

Pancito expressed support to the RPA-ABB which became an active partner of the military after entering into a peace agreement with the national government in 2000.

Pancito said the RPA-ABB is a “potent threat” to the NPA.

In attacking the RPA-ABB, the NPA wanted to send a message to their former comrades, said Pancito, that the NPA would be running after its splinter group for now supporting the government.

“On our part, we continue to see the significance of our RPA-ABB comrades. We fully support them,” said Pancito.

The formation of the RPA was a result of an ideological split with the NPA and Communist Party of the Philippines in the mid-1990s.

The ABB, the urban assassination unit of the NPA, allied itself with the RPA, thus born the RPA-ABB.

In 1999 the RPA-ABB engaged in peace negotiations with the national government of then President Joseph Estrada. A truce was established in December 2000.

Suspect in ambush of Lanao Sur mayor killed in clash with cops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 16, 2020): Suspect in ambush of Lanao Sur mayor killed in clash with cops (By Divina Suson)

ILIGAN CITY—The suspect in the ambush of a mayor in Lanao del Sur in 2019 was killed in a police operation on Wednesday yet (Jan. 15) in a town in Lanao del Sur province.

Jalaloding Mocsir, prime suspect in the ambush of Masiu Mayor Nasser Pangandaman Jr. on Nov. 10, 2019, was killed at the village of Pagalamatan, Saguiaran town
, when he and a companion allegedly fired at officers serving a warrant of arrest against him for another case of murder, according to Col. Madzgani Mukaram, Lanao del Sur police director.

Mukaram said police were trying to serve the arrest warrant for the killing of a certain Safra Macabantog Pangandaman on Jan. 31, 2017 in Marawi City.

He said police were about to serve the warrant when Mocsir and a certain Nasrullah Capal, a resident of Pagalamatan, fired at the lawmen, leading to a 10-minute clash that led to Mocsil’s killing.

Mukaram said Mocsir, a resident of Moriataobae village in Masiu town, also goes by the alias Laluwa and had been linked to the terror group Dawlah Islamiya-Maute Group led by a certain Osoph Hadji Nasif or Commander Asrap.

Aside from being the prime suspect in the ambush of the Mayor Pangandaman in 2019, which killed the mayor’s bodyguard, Mocsir was also suspect in the Aug. 30, 2019 killing of Mojera Macalangan, chair of Bubong Kadayonan village in Marawi.

He is also suspect in the July 19, 2019 failed ambush on Capt. Basiri Hasan, a police officer.

Security woes will continue to haunt the Philippines in 2020

Posted to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Strategist Blog (Jan 16, 2020): Security woes will continue to haunt the Philippines in 2020 (By Aileen San Pablo Baviera)

Image: Presidential Communications Operations Office/Wikimedia Commons.

Three years, or halfway, into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, both internal and external security concerns remain prominent in the consciousness of the country’s officials and security experts.

Anxiety is particularly acute in the immediate maritime areas: the disputed land features and waters of the South China Sea to the west, and the Sulu and Celebes (Sulawesi) Seas to the south and southwest of the country. In the South China Sea, the main concern has been China’s expansive claim, and developments over the past year point to more trouble ahead over this longstanding issue.

On the positive side, Manila and Beijing have regularly convened a bilateral consultative mechanism that’s exclusively intended for discussion of issues arising from the South China Sea disputes. ASEAN and China continued to work towards a regional code of conduct, making incremental progress on a single draft negotiating text.

However, the incontrovertible facts remain: China has permanently altered the geophysical and security environments in Southeast Asia through its construction and militarisation of artificial islands in the South China Sea since 2014.

China maintains a constant presence near areas occupied by other claimant states, mobilising both civilian and military vessels in assertions of sovereignty and effectively preventing some countries (not only the Philippines but also Vietnam and Malaysia) from undertaking resource exploitation in the disputed areas.

China has also continued to reject the 2016 arbitration ruling that determined many of its actions to be illegal infringements of Philippine maritime rights.

Not only were Chinese actions not restrained by diplomacy or international legal decisions, but it appeared that in the spiralling power competition with the United States (fuelled by trade and technology wars) and domestic power politics in China (where Xi Jinping is driving a deepening of centralised control of his party-state), the Chinese were becoming increasingly nationalistic, ambitious and assertive.

The Philippines–China consultations and ASEAN–China negotiations were intended to be proactive agenda-setters in shaping new directions for relations with China. Yet they may achieve little more than legitimising a new status quo that allows China’s behaviour to go uncontested.

Meanwhile, Duterte remained vocal and resentful of America’s and other countries’ criticism of his human rights record in the war on drugs. However, during a visit to Russia he called the United States ‘a close friend of the Philippines’. He also affirmed that the Philippines continued to uphold the values of freedom and liberalism, signalling that visiting Russia did not signify a break from the West. This was in sharp contrast to his first visit to China in 2016 when he signalled the ‘pivot to China’ by announcing a ‘separation’ from the United States.

On the trade war between China and the US, Duterte explained at the recent ASEAN Summit in Thailand that the Philippines wasn’t taking sides. The independent foreign policy stance was becoming less about a pivot to China and more about diversification of partnerships while strengthening defence capabilities in anticipation of continuing maritime security threats and challenges.

The Philippines’ other major regional security concern is the spread of terrorism and violent extremism. Domestically, peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Muslim Mindanao seems to have been brought within reach through the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Of course, immense governance challenges have to be faced to achieve sustainable development and dependable security for this conflict-torn region.

One lesson the Philippines can draw is that failure to contain conflict within one’s own borders creates spill-over tensions and vulnerabilities in relations with neighbouring states.

The defeat of Islamic State in the Middle East resulted in a spike in extremist influence and activity in Southeast Asia. Some fighters are feared to have returned to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, while others sought to continue their jihadist struggle for a caliphate in places where governance has been traditionally weak, including in Muslim Mindanao.

The five-month siege of the city of Marawi in 2017, led by the local IS-affiliated Maute group, demonstrated the fragile conditions in the southern Philippines, as well as the capacity of extremists to wage urban warfare.

Long steeped in counterinsurgency strategies waged in the Philippine countryside, the Armed Forces of the Philippines now faces the challenge of building the capacity to cope with armed conflict in major population centres, and working with like-minded states to break up the regional and transnational criminal networks that feed violent extremism.

Counterterrorism cooperation between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia acquired a strong maritime dimension with the implementation of the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement in 2016. The three countries conduct intelligence-sharing, coordinated maritime patrols, and joint air missions over an area of common interest in the Sulu and Celebes (Sulawesi) Seas.

The signing of the agreement was followed by a drastic decline in Abu Sayyaf kidnappings . The drop was attributable not to the agreement per se, but to more effective control and prevention of border movements unilaterally imposed by Philippine and Malaysian authorities in their areas of jurisdiction. Nonetheless, the scourge of terrorism can be defeated only through cooperation with neighbouring countries and with others who share this major global concern.

The Duterte government’s promotion of a more diversified and omni-directional foreign policy—including preservation of traditional alliances—may be exactly what is needed to foster the agility that huge uncertainties in the external environment demand.

Ultimately, however, the only reliable guarantee—whether of foreign policy autonomy, territorial integrity, or security against external armed threats and internal destabilising forces—is a government that takes the development of its defence and security capabilities seriously.

[Aileen San Pablo Baviera is a professor at the University of the Philippines and president of Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress. This is an edited version of a chapter in the Regional security outlook 2020, published by the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.] Image: Presidential Communications Operations Office/Wikimedia Commons.

ACLED Regional Overview – Southeast Asia (5 - 11 January 2020)

Posted to the Relief Web (Jan 16, 2020): ACLED Regional Overview – Southeast Asia (5 - 11 January 2020)

REPORTfrom Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project
Published on 16 Jan 2020 —View Original

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In Southeast Asia, key developments last week include: children killed in the ongoing conflict in Rakhine state in Myanmar; increased fighting between state forces and communist rebels in the Philippines; separatist violence in Thailand and Indonesia; and a deadly demonstration over a land dispute in Vietnam.

In Myanmar, last week was a deadly week for children in Rakhine state. Clashes continued in the state between the military and United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA), during which five children were killed. Four Rohingya children died in an explosion in Buthidaung township. Later in the week, a ten-month-old Rakhine child was killed by bullets fired by the military near Myebon township. Children have frequently been casualties in the ongoing conflict (UNICEF, 10 January 2020).

Prior to the State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, visiting Kachin state on Kachin State Day, the military attacked a Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) training camp in northern Shan state. While conflict between the military and KIO/KIA declined significantly in 2019, the KIO/KIA is a member of the Northern Alliance and has held to the idea that bilateral ceasefires would need to be signed between the military and all four members of the alliance in order for the group to consider further negotiations regarding the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) (Kachin News Group, 13 January 2020).

After the end of the Christmas ceasefire in the Philippines, clashes between state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) increased. Meanwhile, attacks on drug suspects during police raids continued as Vice President Leni Robredo released a report last week covering her findings from her time on the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) (Philippine Inquirer, 13 January 2020). Robredo has been a critic of President Duterte’s ongoing “War on Drugs.”

Separatist violence was reported in both Thailand and Indonesia. In Thailand, suspected separatists shot and reportedly killed a civilian in Narathiwat province. In Indonesia, a clash between state forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) was reported last week in Papua province. Clashes in Papua have been occurring more frequently over the past month.

Demonstrations over land disputes were reported in Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Vietnam, a land dispute turned deadly when farmers and state forces clashed in Hanoi province, leaving three policemen and one civilian dead. Many of the demonstrators were subsequently arrested. The dispute over compensation for land used to build a military airport in the province has been ongoing for several years (Radio Free Asia, 13 January 2020).

Finally, in Malaysia and the Philippines, protests were reported over the current conflict between the US and Iran. In the Philippines, a protest was held after President Duterte’s speech calling on the armed forces to be prepared to deploy as needed. As many as one million Filipino migrants work in Middle Eastern countries (Associated Press, 6 January 2020).

Church Bomb Plot Foiled in Southern Philippines, Police Say

From BenarNews (Jan 16, 2020): Church Bomb Plot Foiled in Southern Philippines, Police Say

Police investigators examine the site after bombs exploded outside a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in the southern Philippines, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 80 others during a Sunday Mass, Jan. 27, 2019. AP

Security forces foiled an alleged plot to bomb a Catholic cathedral in Basilan province in the southern Philippines and arrested two suspected Abu Sayyaf militants tasked with carrying out the attack, police said Thursday.

Joint police and military forces launched the operation Tuesday
based on an intelligence report that an Islamic State-linked faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was planning to attack the church in the predominantly Muslim province.

“They were arrested in their hideout in the village of Menzi, barely a few kilometers from downtown Isabela City,” regional police chief Brig. Gen. Froilan Quidilla said.

Police combat troops from the Special Action Force and the criminal investigation group were backed by a military bomb squad during the raid, Quidilla said. They recovered explosive materials, including more than 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) of assorted nails, blasting caps, 1.5-volt batteries, and wires.

The arrested suspects, identified as Muzrim Illahan and Kadir Ajanal, are both followers of Furuji Indama, the Abu Sayyaf’s overall leader on the island and a protege of Isnilon Hapilon, police said.

Hapilon was an Abu Sayyaf commander who was the known Southeast Asian commander of the extremist group Islamic State (IS). He was killed in October 2017 after leading hundreds of foreign and local militants in a five-month siege of southern Marawi city.

The two suspects in custody confessed that they were instructed to carry out the bombing last month, but did not push through with the plan due to tight security, the police chief said, adding that they were being interrogated about another possible bomb plot.

It was not clear immediately clear whether the suspects had any links with militants under the command of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, a senior Abu Sayyaf militant who is believed to have replaced Hapilon as the regional leader of IS.

Sawadjaan masterminded a twin bombing at a church on southern Jolo island in January 2019 that left more than 20 people dead and was carried out by Indonesian suicide bombers, Philippine authorities said.

The arrests of the pair of Abu Sayyaf suspects came a on the eve of the rescue of Indonesian fisherman Muhammad Farhan, 27, weeks after two of his compatriots were rescued from the militant group’s custody in southern Sulu province.

The rescue was a “remarkable accomplishment,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of military forces under the Western Mindanao Command.

“This proves that our sustained rescue efforts and security operations to run down and degrade ASG have been effective,” Sobejana said.

115 days in Sayyaf camp: Indonesian fisher fed once a day, traumatized by gunfire

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 18, 2020): 115 days in Sayyaf camp: Indonesian fisher fed once a day, traumatized by gunfire (By Julie S. Alipala)

Appearing distraught, Indonesian kidnap victim Muhammad Farhan spoke before reporters in Zamboanga City on Thursday following his rescue on Wednesday evening in Indanan, Sulu. Photo by JULIE S. ALIPALA, Inquirer Mindanao

ZAMBOANGA CITY—An Indonesian fisherman who was held captive for 115 days by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu recalled being made to eat only once a day, but wad once to call his father back home.

“My happiest moment is when I see food, when there’s food to eat,” 25-year-old Muhammad Farhan said in a press briefing here on Thursday (Jan. 16).

He spoke in Bahasa, which was translated to English by a female interpreter.

Farhan said all throughout his captivity, he ate only once a day, the bandits serving “sometimes sardines, sometimes noodles.”

“The Abu Sayyaf needs money to buy food, they asked for money for food,” Farhan said, without elaborating if the money demanded was ransom for his liberty.

He admitted that while in captivity, he was able to speak to his father in Indonesia who told him to stay alive and return home safely.

Farhan was rescued on Wednesday (Jan 15) at the village of Bato-bato in Indanan, Sulu. He is the last to be freed among three Indonesian fishermen who were snatched by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Lahad Datu, Sabah on Sept. 24, 2019.

Last Dec. 22, following fierce fighting between the bandits and government troops at Pugad Manaul village in Panamao, Sulu, two of his fellow fishers—-Maharudin Bin Lunani, 48, and Samiun Bin Maneu, 26—-were able to escape.

Despite the ordeal, the Indonesian kidnap victim appeared to be healthy, except dor signs of mental anguish from the long captivity.

“Physically he is okay, he appeared healthy. But we cannot say the same about his mental well-being,” said Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Sulu.

“Farhan is still traumatized. In one of the encounters before, he collapsed,” Vinluan added.

Farhan failed to join his two companions in escaping last Dec. 22 because he collapsed due to fear. He was dragged back to an Abu camp, Vinluan said.

Two days ago, he was brought to Indanan. While his captors were asleep, Farhan found an opening to escape, ending up at Bato-bato where civilians kept him when they discovered he could not speak Tausug, Vinluan added.

The civilians then contacted the Join Task Force Sulu which sent operatives to retrieve him from Bato-bato.

Farhan disclosed that the memories of the loud burst of gun fires are still stuck in his mind, and seems to be ringing in his ears.

“I have fears in me. The clashes are still in my mind. I have fear of war,” said Farhan who appeared lost and detached.

Now freed, he said he looks forward to reuniting with his family in Indonesia and to finish high school.

Vinluan said the rescue of Farhan will change the militaryapproach in pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

Farhan was turned over to the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) which will facilitate the case buildup against the Abu Sayyaf, said Maj. Joseph Bagsao of the AKG in Western

OPAPP: We do not need CASER — Galvez

Posted to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Website (Jan 10, 2020): We do not need CASER — Galvez

MANILA, January 10, 2020 — The Filipino people have no need for the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms (CASER) whose passage is being aggressively pushed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr.

“CASER is based on an obsolete framework and is no longer relevant since it is largely based on the pre-industrialization and pre-globalization era. It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez said.

He also described the CASER as an “irrelevant proposition and simply a copycat of the programs of the CPP-NPA-NDF” as outlined in the plagiarized content of Jose Maria Sison’s publication “Philippine Society and Revolution.”

“The CASER insists that the Philippine Government surrender its sovereignty and trample on its own integrity by forcing upon the state outmoded and erroneous concepts that were conceived more than half a century ago,” Galvez said.

The peace adviser pointed out that adopting the CASER and the Interim Peace Agreement could be likened to committing treason since the programs of the CPP-NPA-NDF based on its own constitution will be implemented across the nation, while the government bends its laws, norms, and other institutional democratic foundations.

“In hindsight, most of the CPP-NPA-NDF’s demands are almost impossible to implement mainly because they are totally skewed in favor of the interests of the communist insurgents,” Galvez said.

Discussions on the CASER has once again taken center stage, as the communist group’s top leadership has been insisting on its passage as a pre-condition for future talks with the government.

Questionable provisions

Among these questionable provisions, Galvez said, is the one on Financing National Industrialization, wherein funds for such purpose will be sourced from “confiscated and expropriated assets of foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists.”

“First of all, we cannot agree with the language in which this particular provision has been framed. It has been crafted in such a way that we expect it to cast a dark cloud over the nation’s economy,” Galvez said.

“And second, such a measure will surely put the country at loggerheads with the international financial community, and consequently, could lead to the weakening and eventual decline of the country’s economic standing in global markets,” he added.

“In fact, if we don’t have an insurgency problem, our country’s gross domestic product could even hit double-digit figures,” Galvez said.

He noted that another worrisome provision contained in the CASER is the demobilization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which states that the military must stand down its troops across the country.

As a former AFP chief of staff, he stressed that it is the armed force’s duty to protect the Filipino people from both external and internal threats, saying, “Clearly, the military shall lose its capability to carry out this crucial function once it is demobilized.”

“If the CPP-NPA-NDF does not have any hidden agenda, then why does it want the AFP to demobilize its troops and yet the rebel will not do the same with its armed wing? Since 1992, the CPP-NPA-NDF has not given any indication that they accept the conditions of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of their members,” Galvez emphasized.

The CASER, he said, is also advocating for the establishment of a coalition government with the communist group by setting up “programs for the People’s Democratic Government…”

Galvez said another objectionable provision of the CASER and the proposed Interim Peace Agreement which the CPP-NPA-NDF has been pushing for is the major role the rebel group in endorsing the involvement of the NPA with the “national democratic and people’s organizations” which will take part in the implementation of the land reform, and other rural development programs.

He said these provisions of the CASER and the Interim Peace Agreement will unwittingly set the stage for power-sharing with the government, explaining that “The provisions will compel the government to accept the rebel group’s belligerency status, while the more serious and objective requirement of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration are being schemingly blocked off by CASER and the Interim Peace Agreement.”

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people who have suffered the most during this decades-long armed conflict,” Galvez pointed out.

According to Galvez, CASER is a “perfect formula for sabotaging our current economic gains, will lay to waste the distribution of more than 100,000 hectares of land for our poor farmers, and disregard the significant peace gains achieved under Executive Order No. 70 which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and institutionalized the Whole-Of-Nation Approach on good governance.”

According to Galvez, these are among the main reasons why former chief negotiators decided not to compromise with the NDF’s terms since it will blatantly surrender our sovereignty and the integrity of our constitution, saying, that the peace talks were based on the wrong framework and grossly disadvantageous to the government.

For years, the talks were anchored on the Hague Declaration of 1992, which is being used by the CPP-NPA-NDF to assert their status of belligerency, and the Joint Agreement for Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of 1995 and Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIL), which have been blatantly abused and violated by the communist insurgents.

“CASER will also send our country backward because it contradicts with existing laws, such as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997. Under CASER, the CPP-NPA-NDF takes away the direct participation of the IPs in issues such as agrarian reform,” Galvez said.

Galvez also lambasted the communist group for continually using the peace talks as an opportunity to bring more recruits to their fold, and carry-out criminal activities.

At present, 45 provinces, 340 municipalities, 21 cities and 3,229 barangays have already expressed their rejection of the CPP-NPA-NDF and its activities by declaring them “persona non-grata.”

In Davao City, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has expressed her opposition to the resumption of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“To believe that they desire a peaceful end to the insurgency problem would be playing ignorant of their bloody habit — how they slaughtered countless civilians in the past and made many countryside communities suffer from poverty and underdevelopment, and blaming the government for it,”Duterte-Carpio said.

Duterte-Carpio’s stand found backing from the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) 11, which issued a joint Regional Peace and Order Council-Regional Development Council (RPOC-RDC) resolution against the peace talks resumption.

For his part, Davao de Oro governor Jayvee Tyron Uy said the local peace engagement is a more viable track than resuming talks with the group of Mr. Sison.

“The last three years saw major improvements in the peace and security situation in Davao de Oro. An unprecedented number of former rebels returned to the folds of law and are currently accessing livelihood assistance, communities are now actively participating in the government’s campaign for peace and national government agencies and non-government organizations are converging with local government units to help address the causes and triggers of conflicts,” Uy, who the chair of the RDC 11, said.

“These achievements prove that local peace engagements are viable and effective. In my view, it is necessary to sustain our momentum so that we may be able to secure enduring peace and inclusive development,” he added.

“Real peace cannot be achieved without decommissioning of all NPA combatants and Normalization and Social Healing of conflict affected communities,” Galvez said.

Galvez stressed that genuine peace can only be achieved through the process of normalizing the way of life of residents in communities and decisively ending the armed conflict through the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration or normalization of rebels, proposals which have been flatly rejected by the NDF.

He also called for more extensive discussions on social justice, a greater dedication and commitment to good governance, and a holistic approach in delivering much-needed services and reforms to underdeveloped, “last-mile” communities.

“All of these initiatives are already being implemented under EO 70 and the social reform agenda of the Duterte administration. They are pushing for CASER because they want to take credit for the achievements of the Duterte administration,” Galvez said.

“However way we look at it, CASER is a flawed document. And even if the government signs the agreement, it cannot be implemented due to legal issues. We can therefore expect the Red to use the government’s non-compliance of the CASER as a justification for committing acts of violence in the future,” he added.

Galvez added the government is currently implementing major policy reforms covering the areas of agrarian reform, anti-poverty social programs, education, universal healthcare, labor and employment, and indigenous people’s rights.

These programs successfully lifted more than six million Filipinos from poverty, dramatically reduced unemployment, distributed more than hundred thousand hectares of land, free education and irrigation, and provided universal health care to marginalized individuals.

The peace adviser said this led to the surge of President Duterte’s latest public approval rating to 87%, or nine points higher than the previous survey done by the Pulse Asia released in December 21, whose results were unprecedented.

“What the government is doing now is way beyond what CASER can achieve,” he said.

Government economic managers had projected during the early part of this year that the Philippine economy would expand within the range of 6 to 6.5 percent in 2019.

He stressed that the Duterte Administration has, time and again, demonstrated its willingness to walk the extra mile for the sake of peace. This sincerity, he said was best exemplified by the ceasefire agreement the government declared with the rebels during the holiday season.

“Unfortunately, the CPP-NPA-NDF has failed to match that same level of sincerity of the government, as they continue to attack our soldiers, burn public and private installations, and worse, kidnap, rape and kill innocent civilians whom they profess to serve, Galvez said.

“If Jose Maria Sison cannot command his forces to stop carrying out such unlawful acts and to stand down, how then can he effectively lead an organization whose main goal is to help uplift the lives of the masses? As I have previously said, we must walk our talk,” he said.

“Sison and his organization must not demand for the passage of CASER because the communist terrorist group (CTG) has no territorial jurisdiction over any part of the country in the first place,” Galvez said.

“So far, the forces of the CTG are diminishing by the day, with their area of operations mostly limited now to the provinces of Samar, Bicol, and Negros,” he added.

Sustaining the gains of peace

In the meantime, Galvez said, the government, in collaboration with its local and international partners, will continue to implement initiatives that will build on the gains of peace achieved over the past years and bring development to remote, conflict-affected areas in the country.

To date, he said, thousands of communist rebels have peacefully laid down their arms. According to these former rebels (FRs), they are fed up with the lies being peddled by the rebel group’s leadership, and the extreme hardships they have been made to endure in the mountains.

“These FRs have found a true ally in the government and are now reintegrating themselves into mainstream society as peaceful and productive citizens. In fact, some of them have come forward to speak about the various atrocities being committed by their former comrades,” Galvez said.

“And through localized peace engagements (LPEs) under the Whole-of-Nation Approach, which are being spearheaded by local government units, we expect more rebels to return to the folds of the law as help them develop the capacity to earn a sustainable living,” he added.

“If the CPP-NPA-NDF leadership is truly sincere in forging a peaceful settlement with the government, it must demonstrate a greater level of reciprocity and must stop setting impossible preconditions, such as shoving CASER down the Filipino people’s throats,” Galvez concluded. ###

OPAPP: Peace talks should be within the bounds of law and will of Filipino people – OPAPP

Posted to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Website (Jan 17, 2020): Peace talks should be within the bounds of law and will of Filipino people – OPAPP

PASIG CITY, January 17, 2020 – The government is not closing the door on the possibility of resuming peace negotiations with the communist insurgents. However, future talks should be within the framework of the Philippine Constitution, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

“The government has always been supportive of peace talks with the communist group. However, it must, first and foremost, adhere to the Philippine Constitution and the democratic process,” Attorney Wilben Mayor, OPAPP chief-of-staff and spokesperson said.

Mayor was reacting to recent statements made by the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) that the government is not inclined to resume the stalled peace negotiations.

He noted that what the CPP-NPA-NDF is actually pushing for is their “own brand of peace talks” which is anchored on the adoption of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms (CASER) as a precondition for the resumption of the talks.

“In the first place, CASER is flawed. The document is filled with unconstitutional provisions. What the insurgents are trying to do is to sell the idea to the public that the government does not want to engage in peace talks with them,” Mayor pointed out.

“But their real intention is only to hold the peace negotiations hostage by shoving CASER down the government and the Filipino people’s throats. The document is part of their grand scheme to seize power from the government,” he said.

Mayor admitted that the government has learned a lot from the many years it has been dealing with the communists across the negotiating table.

“The communists have been using the peace negotiations as a weapon against the Filipino people. And we will not allow this to continue. There should be a mechanism in place to prevent them from exploiting the peace talks,” he said.

It is a known fact, Mayor said, that the rebels have aggressively carried out recruitment of cadres and continued to harass military and civilians even while the peace talks were ongoing.

Constitution is non-negotiable

According to the OPAPP executive, the best way for the future peace talks to resume is for both parties to develop a new framework that is within the ambit of the Philippine Constitution, that there is only one sovereign state, one constitution, and one armed forces.

“The government’s stand is very clear that any talks should be within the ambit of the constitution and the rule of law because this is where we derive our mandate in the first place,” he emphasized.

Former chief negotiators such as ex-Philippine ambassador to the Holy See and Malta Howard Q. Dee, who chaired the GPH Peace Panel with the CPP-NPA-NDF from 1993 to 1999, and Atty. Alexander Padilla who led the talks during the Aquino administration, have called for a thorough review of previous agreements signed by both parties.

Dee and Padilla have pointed out that the communists are merely using these same documents to mislead the people and push forward their organization’s agenda.

Among these agreements, Dee said, is the 1992 Hague Declaration which he described as “poisoned from the beginning as it hid the ill intentions of the NDF which has been finally unveiled during the course of the peace negotiations.”

“The Hague Declaration was designed as a subterfuge to disable our Constitution and neutralize its sole and indivisible sovereignty with an undefined ‘sovereignty’ that is mutually shared,” Dee wrote in his assessment report of the GPH-NDFP peace talks in 2002.

“Therefore, any further reaffirmation of the commitment to the Hague Joint Declaration is anathema as its ‘inherent character’ is neither apparent nor transparent,” he explained in his report.

When adopted, the document will “paralyze our Constitution and deprive us of a legal regime that will ensure the legality and enforceability of our agreements,” Dee added.

The former ambassador also believes that the communists have a skewed understanding of the true intent Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which it signed with the government in 1998.

Dee pointed out that the rebel group has been pushing for the approval of the document even without a proper legal framework for its mutual implementation. Similar on what they are doing now for the affirmation of CASER prior to the affirmation of peace talks.

“What would happen if we allow the implementation of the CARHRIHL in accordance with this NDF process? The result is predictable: One, the NDF would now claim that they have the right, that is recognized, respected and confirmed by us, to arrest, prosecute and punish whomever they accuse as violators of human rights,” he said.

“Second, without the protection of our own legal framework, we would be moving out of the ambit of our Constitutional authority and we would be called to task by Congress for implementing an agreement that would impinge on our constitutional sovereignty. Third, we would be recognizing their claim to a status of belligerency…” he added.

This is the same argument made by Padilla who wrote in 2016 that the CARHRIHL “adheres to the old tenet that only the State can violate human rights, a doctrine that has been rendered obsolete by International Humanitarian Law.”

He added that the communist’s “premise on constitutional reforms is based on their non-recognition of our Constitution.”

“How could negotiations begin on such fundamental flaw? Government, the communists, or even both of them acting in unison cannot amend or change the Constitution through a simple agreement,” Padilla said.

“This is done either through a Constitutional Convention or Constituent Assembly of Congress and then subjected to ratification by our people. Our Constitution does not recognize shortcuts, certainly not one resulting from a mere peace agreement,” he emphasized.

Communist abusing JASIG

Padilla said the communist group has, over the years, been using the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) to their advantage.

“Releases have always been a condition of theirs but after more than 30 years of government’s confidence-building measures, including the release of [NDF leader Joma] Sison himself in 1986 under then President Corazon Aquino, a peace settlement is nowhere in sight,” he said.

“In fact, under PNoy’s term where nine out of their most valued consultants have been set free, it never engendered goodwill for the continuation of the talks. On the contrary, four of those nine even went underground to continue waging ‘people’s war’ against the government,” Padilla added.

According to the former peace negotiator, the communist groups have been using this tactic to fool the Filipino people.

“In other jurisdictions, the releases of captives usually happen after the after a final peace agreement has been inked, not before. Releases, even as goodwill measures, do not result in trust and confidence nor do they move the parties closer to an agreement,” he noted.

Under the Duterte administration at least 21 members of the so-called consultants were released to join the peace negotiations. However, many of them have rejoined the underground movement after their temporary release lapsed.

“For the last 30 years and over the five presidents, the communists have been demanding confidence-building measures, but without giving any return. They fancy themselves as the savior of the people, which is why in negotiations, they are adamant in aspiring to solve the basic ills of society. They delude themselves into thinking that they and only they represent the true causes and concerns of the Filipino people. In short, despite being in the minority, they believe they are the vanguards of the people who know what is best for them,” Padilla said.

Peace process to continue

For Mayor, even if there are no ongoing formal peace negotiations between the government and the communist, the Duterte Administration continues to push forward the peace process in order to address the roots of the decades-long armed rebellion.

“Let us remember that peace negotiations are only part and parcel of the entire peace-building process,” he said, adding that there are several paths to peace that the government is utilizing.

The six paths to peace are: 1) Pursuit of social, economic and political reforms; 2) Consensus-building and empowerment for peace; 3) Peaceful negotiated settlement with different rebel groups; 4) Programs for reconciliation, reintegration into mainstream society and rehabilitation; 5) Addressing concerns arising from continuing armed hostilities; 6) Building and nurturing a climate conducive to peace.

Mayor stressed that even if the peace talks have been terminated, the government has continued to implement initiatives that are designed to build on the gains of the peace process.

These interventions include localized peace engagements or LPEs under Executive Order No. 70, which institutionalized the good governance through the Whole-of-Nation Approach to end local communist armed conflict.

“We are conducting LPEs all over the country, wherein we involve the communities in problem-solving sessions and consultations, as well as hold dialogues with the communist rebels. These are all designed to swiftly and directly address their needs on the ground, the end result of which is for the rebels to return to the folds of the law,” Mayor said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte terminated the peace talks in 2017 following a spate of attacks perpetrated by the CPP-NPA, which resulted in the death of innocent civilians and children and the destruction of government and privately-owned facilities.

EO 70 aims to address gaps not only in the delivery of basic services to the people, especially those residing in the countryside, and also pursue reforms in government policies through good governance.

Mayor said that the communist insurgents have refused to lay down their arms in exchange for genuine peace, adding, “Never has it been the rebels’ intention to demobilize their armed wing even if both parties sign the final peace agreement.”

As further proof of the communist group’s insincerity to forge a just and lasting peace agreement with the government, the CPP Central Committee declared in 2016 that they have no plans to abandon armed struggle.

“While engaging the Duterte regime in peace negotiations and possible alliance in order to advance the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people, the revolutionary forces will continue to relentlessly advance the people’s armed resistance and democratic mass struggles,” the communists said in a statement posted on their website.

“While open to cooperation and alliance, they must relentlessly criticize and oppose any and all anti-people and pro-imperialist policy and measure. There will be no honeymoon with the Duterte regime,” the statement further said.

Mayor underscored that in order to end the armed conflict and for genuine peace to be achieved, all agreements must adhere to the Philippine Constitution and democratic processes.

“The conduct of local peace engagements follows the constitutional mandate of the government, which is to serve the people. It worked during the time of one our great peace advisers Haydee Yorac with the successful negotiation and settlement of conflict with CPP-NPA Rejectionist Group, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) under Father Conrado Balweg and Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade Group,” Mayor said.

“LPE will address both the vertical and horizontal conflicts. The people will have a sense of ownership because the process is all-inclusive. LPE worked and it is working well even today,” he concluded. ###

AFP-CRS: Kidnapped Indonesian Rescued in Sulu

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 17, 2020): Kidnapped Indonesian Rescued in Sulu

An Indonesian national kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group was rescued by military forces in Indanan, Sulu.

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[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: CPP/NPA/NDF, An Organized Crime Group

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 17, 2020): CPP/NPA/NDF, An Organized Crime Group

The Joint RPOC-RDC XI is expressing solidarity support to the desire of the President to put an end to the communist armed conflict and achieve sustainable peace in the country.

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Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: Stronger Enactment of Executive Order 70

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 17, 2020): Stronger Enactment of Executive Order 70

Sec. Cusi, emphasized the significance and importance of the NTF-ELCAC, which was established by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 70, in ensuring the efficient and effective implementation of the whole-of-nation approach for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace in the country.

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Image may contain: 1 person

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: 2 CPP-NPA Rebels Surrender in Nueva Ecija

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 17, 2020): 2 CPP-NPA Rebels Surrender in Nueva Ecija

Two members of CPP-NPA have decided to return to the fold of the law as a result of the implementation of the “whole-of-nation” approach in ending local communist armed conflict.

#AFPyoucanTRUST l

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: Duterte Confers Medals on Marawi Marines

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 16, 2020): Duterte Confers Medals on Marawi Marines

President Duterte has honored 140 Marines who helped liberate Marawi from extremists in 2017. The President conferred the Order of Lapu-Lapu on eight officers and 132 other personnel of the Marine Corps.

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Image may contain: 6 people, possible text that says '15JANUARY2020 DUTERTE CONFERS MEDALS ON MARAWI MARINES "Our nation is forever grateful to the brave men and women of our Marine Corps who went above and beyond the the call call of duty to fight terrorism and and insurgency secure our sovereignty. O CRSAFP PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE crsafp CivilRelationsServiceAF #AFPyoucanTRUS'

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]