Monday, January 27, 2020

AFP-CRS: Samar mayor issues ultimatum to NPA rebels

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 27, 2020): Samar mayor issues ultimatum to NPA rebels

A town mayor in Samar has issued an ultimatum for members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to give up their illegal activities and return to the folds of the law.


[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: Congratulations, on your well-deserved promotion!

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jan 25, 2020): Congratulations, on your well-deserved promotion!

Image may contain: 2 people, text

Commander, Civil Relations Service, AFP

[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.]

MNLF in Sulu welcomes GPH-MNLF peace developments

From the Manila Standard (Jan 28, 2020): MNLF in Sulu welcomes GPH-MNLF peace developments

Indanan, Sulu—Around 2,000 members of the Moro National Liberation Front in this province met here last week to thank the government for taking steps to fulfill the remaining commitments under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement signed between the government and the MNLF.

GRATEFUL IN SULU. Some 2,000 members of the Moro National Liberation Front meet in Indanan to thank the government for taking steps to fulfill the remaining commitments under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement signed between the government and the MNLF.They also vowed to continue supporting the Duterte Administration’s Peace and Development Agenda.

“President Rodrigo Duterte and I have met at least 16 times already, and I am impressed by the dedication of our President to fast-track the implementation of the peace agreement.” MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari told the MNLF members gathered inside Camp Astanah Bud Nagha in this town on Friday.

“In our meeting I asked him: ‘Brother President, can we fast-track the peace process to ensure the full implementation of government commitments during your time?’ The President replied: ‘I understand your concern. I, myself, want to fast-track the peace initiative to achieve long-lasting peace in Mindanao during my term,’” Misuari shared.

He was referring to the Dec. 13 meeting in Davao City, where President Duterte met with members of the newly-established Government-MNLF Peace Coordinating Committee.

The committee has been primarily tasked to seek the cooperation of the MNLF in achieving immediate peace in Sulu by, among others, helping to combat the Abu Sayyaf Group and convincing MNLF relatives from the ASG members engaged in illicit activities to return to the folds of the law.

Early this week, Duterte signed the appointment paper of Misuari as the Special Economic Envoy on Islamic Affairs to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to sustain the gains of GPH-MNLF peace process.

The President said he chose the MNLF chairman for the post due to his vast experience in dealing with the OIC, as well as the leadership skills he displayed as the governor of the now dissolved Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Responding to the President’s acts of goodwill, Misuari vowed to secure the full support of OIC member-countries to ensure the completion of the remaining deliverables contained in the Tripartite Review Process of the 1996 peace accord.

“I am appealing to all members of the MNLF to support the initiatives of the government [to ensure the full] implementation of the 1996 peace agreement,” he told his comrades during the gathering.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr, who was in Sulu to attend the MNLF gathering, announced the arrival of top OIC officials next week who will facilitate the visit of the organization’s Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen.

The OIC was instrumental in resolving contentious issues which arose at the peace negotiations between the government and the MNLF during the Ramos administration.

The influential Islamic block mediated the talks until both parties signed the historic peace deal.

In 2016, the OIC also helped address key concerns related to the implementation of the GPH-MNLF peace agreement, leading to the conclusion of the TRP.

Based on the results of the TRP, two commitments have yet to be complied with on the side of the Philippine government.

These include the establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund and the creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee.

The TRP, which was jointly carried out by the government, MNLF and OIC, was concluded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in January 2016.

Galvez said the President expects to see “substantial results” in the implementation of the remaining commitments under the GPH-MNLF peace agreement within the first quarter of this year.

“The main commitment of President Duterte is to bring peace in the Bangsamoro homeland,” he said.

As a former official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Galvez was assigned in Sulu in early 2000. His stint in the province allowed him to see the ugly face of war which brought untold suffering to the people and claimed the lives of his men.

This situation, he said, must come to an end.

“I lost many of my soldiers here. It’s about time to change the condition of Sulu through peace and progress,” Galvez said.

“And every time the President learns about people being killed because of this so-called cycle of violence, he is hurt,” he added.

According to the peace adviser, the government, through the Peace Coordinating Committee, will carry out socio-economic programs and projects to uplift the lives not only of MNLF members in Sulu, but the Bangsamoro people as a whole.

Aside from complying with the remaining commitments contained in theTRP, he bared the government will also allocate funds to the committee which shall be used to implement initiatives which seek to bring a greater sense of normalcy to the lives of residents in MNLF communities.

In particular, Galvez said the Peace Coordinating Committee will implement skills and capacity-building training and education for MNLF members that will help them make the transition to peaceful and productive civilian life.

The members, he added, will also be given financial assistance packages which they can utilize in earning sustainable incomes for themselves and their families.

Suspected rebel in Maasin police station raid falls

From Panay News (Jan 28, 2020): Suspected rebel in Maasin police station raid falls (By Ruby Silubrico)

ILOILO City – A suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) linked to the rebel raid of the police station of Maasin, Iloilo in June 2017 was arrested in Barangay Aquino Nobleza West, Janiuay, Iloilo on Jan. 26 at around 7 p.m.

Karma John Suarez, 34, of Barangay Conaynay, Santa Barbara, Iloilo
, was taken to the Janiuay police station.

The arrest warrant for the crime of rebellion was issued by Judge Judith Orendain-Tonogbanua of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 20 in Mabusao, Capiz.

According to Police Captain Dadje Delima, Janiuay police chief, Suarez belonged to the NPA-Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay southern and central fronts and used the aliases “Ka Fred” and “Ka Dennis”.

“We have been looking for him for more than a year already. He used fictitious names,” said Delima.

Judge Tonongbanua set the suspect’s bail bond at P40,000 for his temporary liberty.

The daring, broad daylight June 18, 2017 incursion on the Maasin police station was swift. Within 15 minutes beginning around 10:30 a.m., the rebels shanghaied eight M16 rifles, four Glock .9mm pistols, five handheld radios and their base, two laptops, P29,000 cash, and jewelry.

The rebels did not harm the nine police officers present at the police station but handcuffed them. They also used the police station’s patrol car to flee.

The other policemen of the station were not around during the raid.

Before leaving the police station, the rebels – numbering between 40 to 50 – distributed statements to residents explaining the raid.

Maasin is some 25 kilometers from Iloilo City. The rebels were long gone when troops from the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) of the PRO-6 reached the police station together with Senior Superintendent Christopher Tambungan, then the deputy regional director for operations.

Witnesses said the rebels fled toward the town of Alimodian./

PH military caught in a bind as VFA termination pushed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 28, 2020): PH military caught in a bind as VFA termination pushed (By: Frances Mangosing)

Philippine, US Marines train for the annual Balikatan exercises in San Antonio, Zambales on April 23, 2019. /US MARINES/ DVIDSHUB

The Philippine defense establishment has found itself in a tight spot after President Rodrigo Duterte declared he would terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and United States in retaliation for the revocation of the US visa of one of his closest allies, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

It was not the first time, however, that Duterte threatened to sever ties with the US, a long-time ally and former colonizer, and perhaps currently one of the Philippines’ most important security partners.

The two countries had weathered Duterte’s temper flares and his rant against the decades-old alliance since rising to power in 2016, which has put in a precarious situation the Philippines’ highest ranking civilian defense official, defense chief Delfin Lorenzana, who has had long experience dealing with the US.

In a carefully worded statement on Duterte’s latest rant against the Philippines’ defense partnership with the US, Lorenzana acknowledged that, indeed, the Philippines may “unilaterally” initiate the process of terminating VFA.

He said it is “well within the right of the Philippine government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest.”

While he did not elaborate on the impact on the Philippines of scrapping the VFA, Lorenzana said he would discuss with the President “various scenarios” if the pact was terminated.

On Monday (Jan. 27), the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to submit its study on the process needed to terminate the VFA.

The latest rant of Duterte directed at the US came last week after Dela Rosa said he found that his multiple entry visa to the United States had been cancelled.

There was no official reason given but it was likely because of his role in the Duterte administration’s bloody campaign against drugs, which had killed thousands of suspects and raised questions about human rights.

The cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa was also perceived as an effect of the Global Magnitsky Act of the US which imposes sanctions on human rights violators.

“I’m warning you. This is the first time,” an angry Duterte said in a speech on Thursday. “If you do not correct that, I will terminate the basis of Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.

“I’m giving notice. I’m giving the American government one month from now.,” he said.

The next day, the President’s interview with Russian government television network RT, which had been taped a week before, aired on social media.

Duterte lavishly praised Russia and China in some parts of the interview, saying bluntly why he would rather pursue stronger relations with the two countries instead of the US.

“America continues to look at us as a vassal state because we were under the Americans for 50 years,” said Duterte in that interview.

“I cannot get a credible posture from the Americans, I can get it from the Russians and China. It’s because they respect the sovereignty of the country, which America is totally, totally lacking,” he said.

Viewing the President’s recent foreign policy statements in its totality, some security analysts see the latest rant targeting the VFA as an endgame for pivoting away from the US.

They say Dela Rosa’s visa woe was just a convenient excuse for Duterte to push for what he had wanted all along—a dramatic shift in alliances from the US to the United States’ biggest rivals in the world stage, Russia and China.

Since he came to power in 2016, the President was very vocal about his lack of faith in the United States and his desire to pivot to China and Russia.

Observers, though, see a VFA-less Philippines to ultimately benefit China, which has claimed virtually the entire West Philippine Sea as its territory and which the US sees as a strategic rival and military threat.

One of China’s demands in the ongoing negotiations for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is that parties involved do not hold military exercises in the disputed waters with countries outside the region unless concerned parties had been notified and did not object.

Military analyst Jose Custodio said the VFA, which was ratified in 1999, was a result of China’s occupation of Mischief (Panganiban) Reef in mid 1990s after Philippine senators in 1991 voted against the extended presence of US forces in Subic, once the largest military naval base in Asia.

“When the Chinese saw the Philippines had weakened, they started moving in to Mischief Reef,” said Custodio.

“As a response to that, we have the VFA. The existence of the VFA was triggered by the Chinese,” he said in an interview with ANC on Saturday. “Now he wants it basically scrapped,” Custodio said, referring to Duterte.

Mischief Reef is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, which China in recent years had transformed into a massive military outpost with harbors, airstrips and other facilities.

But the Hague court’s 2016 ruling said Mischief Reef belonged to the Philippines. Part of the ruling said the reef is part of the Philippines’ EEZ and continental shelf, and China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights with its island-building frenzy in the area.

The same 2016 ruling that invalidated China’s “historic rights” over the disputed waters, was put in the back burner by Duterte, as he pursued warmer ties and solicited economic investments from China.

The US is not a claimant in the South China Sea, but would not want complete Chinese control of sea lanes in the area. The US regularly deploys air force and navy assets to surveil the disputed waters.
‘VFA essential to Mutual Defense Treaty’

Malacanang said on Sunday that the possible termination of the VFA would not affect the other existing defense agreements with the US.

“It’s only the VFA that will be terminated. So there is nothing to speculate about our alliance with the US… The alliance will remain the same,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in an interview over DZIQ.

The VFA governs the guidelines for visiting American troops in the Philippines. It covers the policies on visa regulations and jurisdiction over crimes committed by US military personnel.

The agreement is also the foundation for the US military to stage large-scale joint exercises with counterparts in the Philippines, such as the Balikatan, Maritime Training Activity Sama-Sama and Kamandag — trainings that further strengthen the interoperability of the two militaries in the face of rising domestic and regional security threats.

The VFA has also allowed American troops to help the Philippines fight Islamic militants during the Marawi siege in 2017, the country’s longest urban war in recent years and the biggest security crisis that ever confronted the Duterte administration.

The US has also conducted humanitarian and civic missions across the Philippines and is a force multiplier and immediate responder during disasters and calamities.

The VFA is seen as a reaffirmation of the obligations of the Philippines and US under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which mandates both countries to support each other in case of an external aggression.

“The thing is, the VFA had to correct the problem of the situation where we had no governing treaty regarding US military personnel,” Custodio said in the same ANC interview.

“So you strip that, you hit everything else that comes after that. Everything else gets affected after,” Custodio added.

“It governs the presence of foreign troops, so you don’t keep trying to figure out how do you legally justify foreign troops (in the country),” he said.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that while the VFA may be “imperfect,” it is an “essential agreement in effectively implementing the MDT.”

“Without the VFA, making the MDT working would be more challenging, especially since we now have specific external threats as well as more devastating natural calamities,” he said in a statement.

He said Duterte should instead accept President Donald Trump’s invitation to the US and take the opportunity to discuss about improving the MDT and VFA.

Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who see the agreement as “onerous and violative” of the country’s national sovereignty, said that the VFA should be scrapped for the right reasons and not “as a bargaining chip for personal gain.”
PH military to bear the brunt

The Philippines and US have survived challenges in their alliance in recent years. Ties have remained robust and the militaries of both countries have even agreed to step up engagements in 2020.

It is the Armed Forces of the Philippines that will ultimately bear the brunt of scrapping the VFA. Some of their former colleagues are watching how the military leaders are currently walking the tight rope that stretches in the middle of an angry Duterte and a long-time security ally.

It remains to be seen whether the defense and military establishments would let the VFA collapse in exchange for a single person’s US visa.

One retired general pointed out that most of the military and police top brass had been appointed by affinity or had previously served in Davao, the home province of Duterte.

“Normally, defense and security advisers are there to provide information and balanced advice… Will they rise above a crisis and provide their principal a principled advice or kowtow to the whims and caprices of their patron?” said the retired general, who has been closely monitoring the developments on the issue.

“In Cabinet circles, they call President Duterte as ‘mayor.’ Does that make the uniformed services his ‘barangay tanods’?” the retired officer said, using the Filipino term for village watchmen.

Malacañang downplays possibility of U.S. terminating other military pacts

From Rappler (Jan 27, 2020): Malacañang downplays possibility of U.S. terminating other military pacts (By Sofia Tomacruz)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo says the Duterte government is not concerned the United States may terminate other military treaties following the Philippines' move to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement

PH-US WAR GAMES. This file photo shows US soldiers and their Filipino counterparts joining forces in an Amphibious Landing operation as part of the 2015 Balikatan Exercises made possible by the VFA. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo downplayed the possibility of the United States terminating other military treaties with the Philippines, following the Duterte government's efforts to start the process of terminating the two countries' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Panelo said the Duterte administration was not concerned with such a fallout when asked to comment on how the Philippines would respond if the US terminated the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the operational aspect of the VFA – and the overarching Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

"That's in the realm of speculation. I think the treaties benefit more the Unite d States than the Philippines. Strategically, the US needs to be in almost every part of the world to secure itself from its perceived enemies," Panelo told reporters on Monday, January 27.

On Thursday, January 23, President Rodrigo Duterte warned the US government he would scrap the VFA if it failed to "correct" the cancelled visa of his former police chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa. A day after, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr announced he would "start the process" of terminating the VFA.

The VFA, ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, outlined guidelines for the conduct of American troops visiting the Philippines and is the foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US.

It was an affirmation of the Philippines and US' obligations under the 1951 MDT, which is the Philippines and US' commitment to defend each other in case of an attack. The Aquino-time EDCA, which provided for increased military presence of the US in the Philippines, operationalized the VFA.

'Tactical, thinking President'

Panelo refuted criticism that Duterte's decision was rash and disproportionate to the US' cancellation of Dela Rosa's visa, insisting it was a "studied response" from a "tactical and thinking" President.

Aside from Dela Rosa's cancelled visa, Panelo said among the reasons Duterte renewed threats to scrap the VFA was his anger over US lawmakers' efforts to sanction Philippine officials involved in extrajudicial killings and the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier told reporters Malacañang ordered a "preliminary impact assessment on the possible termination of the VFA," expanding the scope of the justice department's initial study on the matter. Guevarra was supposed to submit to Duterte on Monday his legal memorandum procedures to terminate the VFA.

Despite this, Panelo said termination of the VFA was still "in place."

Terminating VFA will make the implementation of Mutual Defense Treaty ‘more challenging’ — former DFA Sec. Del Rosario

From CNN Philippines (Jan 27, 2020): Terminating VFA will make the implementation of Mutual Defense Treaty ‘more challenging’ — former DFA Sec. Del Rosario (By CNN Philippines Staff) Published Jan 26, 2020 10:34:12 PM

File Photo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 26) — Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said ending the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the country and the United States would mean the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) more difficult to implement.

In a statement released Sunday, del Rosario mentioned "several valid reasons" why the agreement should stay, among them, "Without the VFA, making the MDT work would be more challenging, especially since we now have specific external threats as well as more devastating natural calamities."

Del Rosario specifically pointed out how swiftly the US was able to send help to the areas devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013, adding it was possible because of the VFA.

"Other countries wanted to immediately respond but were constrained by their lack of legal arrangements for their troops to enter the Philippines," he said,

He recognized the VFA was "imperfect," but also said doing away with it would "interrupt the benefits of the MDT" especially concerning the "joint training and exercises, the pursuit of modernization" of military forces.

Del Rosario also said that ending the VFA would "serve to actualize our pivot towards China against the strong and vehement objections of our people."

Ex-DFA Sec. Albert del Rosario points out "several valid reasons" on why the decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States should be revisited

6:08 AM - Jan 26, 2020
Twitter Ads info and privacy

110 people are talking about this

[READ: Trust in China among Filipinos tumbles further in Q3]

In a June 2019 interview on CNN Philippines' The Source, del Rosario said there have been many times that China showed that it could not be trusted.

Del Rosario's statement comes in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to terminate the VFA, should the US fail to reverse its cancellation of Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa's visa.

Following the President's speech, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government was now working on the process of the VFA's termination.

Malacañang has not issued a response to del Rosario's statement.

[RELATED: Duterte to soon receive DOJ memo on how to terminate VFA]

The 1998 VFA is the first of two agreements between Washington and Manila about the treatment of their troops when they are in the US or the Philippines.

Under the agreement, US troops are not subject to passport and visa regulations when entering and leaving the Philippines. Their US driving permits and licenses are also considered to be valid in the Philippines.

The US also has the right to retain its jurisdiction over its military personnel when they commit crimes in the Philippines, unless they committed a crime which is punishable in the Philippines but not in US, or if they commit a crime which is related to the security of the Philippines.

The US also keeps jurisdiction over its military personnel in the event of a criminal prosecution, unless the Philippines convinces it to turn over its personnel. The US will make its personnel available for all investigative and judicial proceedings for just one year, after which the US is no longer obliged to do this.

The VFA can be terminated by either the Philippines or the US, by writing to the other party that they want to end the agreement.

Whether the Senate needs to concur with the termination of the treaty is still unclear, as the Constitution only says the upper chamber's nod is needed for a treaty to come into force. This same question is the subject of petitions before the Supreme Court, assailing Duterte's withdrawal of the Philippines from the International Criminal Court.

CNN Philippines' Xave Gregorio and Pia Garcia contributed to this story

Kalinaw News: Female NPA killed in an encounter in Loreto, Agusan del Sur,

Posted to Kalinaw News (Jan 27, 2020): Female NPA killed in an encounter in Loreto, Agusan del Sur (By 10TH INFANTRY (AGILA) DIVISION, PHILIPPINE ARMY)

MACO, Davao De Oro – – An unidentified female member of the New People’s Army was killed during an encounter with the government troops on Sunday, January 26, in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

The encounter was caused the focused military operations launched by the 1001st Infantry Brigade after receiving information from the community of the presence of NPA in their area.

According to the progress report, the encounter took place at around 4:30AM at the boundary of the towns of Lapaz and Loreto, both of Agusan del Sur, involving the troops of 60th Infantry Battalion,and an undetermined number of NPAs believed to be members of Weakened Guerilla Front (WGF) 3, PulangBagani Company (PBC) 4, Sub Regional Committee (SRC) 4 and Headquarters, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

After the firefight, the government soldiers recovered the cadaver of the the female NPA member, who was abandoned by her comrades who flew to different directions.

Also obtained during the encounter were one AK47 rifle, five kilograms anti-personnel Improvised Explosive Device (IED), two improvised hand grenades, two handheld commercial radios, one damaged M16 rifle, two M203 live ammunition, more or less 50,000 pesos, assorted medical supplies, five sacks of rice, two flashlights, one wet battery cell, a solar panel and personal belongings.

As of now, the troops are still pursuing the NPA members.

Colonel John V Oberio, commander of the Army’s 1001st brigade urged the NPA members to come down and return to the folds of the law.

“You will suffer the same fate with your comrades if you insist to fight. We do not endeavor to collect dead bodies as this armed struggle is an exercise of futility. Now is the right time to surrender and avail the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the government.”

He added that the government under President Rodrigo RoaDuterte is doing its very best to provide the basic services that all Filipino people deserve.

Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Randolph Plaza of Loreto lauded that operations of the army as it will drive away enemies of the state that will hinder the entry of investors, and eventually, disrupt the development of the town

“Ganahan minga nay inganingaoperasyonkaydilina mi kulbaanmusaka-saka. Unya peaceful angmgabarangay para nay investor musulod. Kay ugnaasila (NPA) dilimulamboang area. Kinsa may negosyantemusulod kung naasila?”

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: Army’s 402nd Brigade extends medical and dental services in PDZ areas

Posted to Kalinaw News (Jan 27, 2020): Army’s 402nd Brigade extends medical and dental services in PDZ areas (By 4th Infantry Division)

Bancasi, Butuan City – The Medical and Dental Team under the 402nd Brigade extended free Medical and Dental Services to residents of Brgy Mt Carmel, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur and BrgysRojales and Manoligao of Carmen, Agusan del Norte under the Peace and Development Zone (PDZ) program during the Peace Caravan and Peace and Order Council (PPOC) Immersion on January 23 and 24, 2020, respectively.

A total of ninety – three (93) individuals availed of the dental services while 1, 067 had their Blood Pressures Checked-up and medicalconsultations with free medicines facilitated by the 2nd Forward Support Medical Platoon (2FSMP), 4th Forward Support Medical Company (4FSMC) and the 2nd Dental Operating Team (2DOT) under the 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigadein partnership with the LGU and PNP’s Medical and Dental Team.

The Peace Caravan in Brgy Mt Carmel was a prelude to the 4th Regional Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) meeting in Caraga region while the PPOC immersion is the 8th in Agusandel Norte.

402nd Brigade Commander Brigadier General Maurito L Licudine assured the participation of its troops in providing assistance in any undertaking that will complement the initiatives of its civilian counterparts in ending the local communist armed conflictoperationalized under the Whole of Nation Approach (WNA) where all stakeholders, government agencies and private entities/individual, converge to address the root causes of the insurgency problem.

“The services we extended were part of the Army’s efforts in collaborating with the LGAs under the mechanism of RTF-ELCAC in Caragato address common issues exploited by the Communist Terrorist Groups in order to recruit and gain mass support. The priority areas are those included under the Peace and Development Zone (PDZ), the CaragaRTF ELCAC’s banner program to counter insurgency.”

PDZ is a convergence of peace stakeholders. A peace – building initiative/effort which promotes a process that facilitates the establishment of durable peace and to prevent the recurrence of violence by addressing the root causes and effects of conflict through reconciliation, institution building, and political as well as economic transformation.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Bomb recovered

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 27, 2020): Bomb recovered (By Rhoda Grace Saron)

An improvised explosive device (IED) was recovered by authorities in Sitio Latel, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur last Friday.
Maj. Eudisan Gultiano, the spokesperson of the Police Regional Office XI, said the Kiblawan Municipal Police Station received a report regarding a suspected bomb found in Sitio Latel, Brgy. Abnate.

The police station coordinated with the Provincial Explosives Ordnance team and proceeded to the area to verify the information. They found an IED partially buried beside the road, with a protruding wire connected to it.

They believed that it was planted there by the New People’s Army in preparation for an ambush.
“You can never bring back life after death. So, this is just a simple quotation that would remind us how important life is,” Capt. Robert James Carumba, chief of police of Kiblawan Municipal Police Station, said.

“As PNP personnel, we should be vigilant since the lawless armed group is making a move, perhaps to destroy us. But we are glad that we built a strong relationship with the community and was able to utilize our informants,” Carumba said.

16 Samar towns declare NPA as persona non grata

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 27, 2020): 16 Samar towns declare NPA as persona non grata (By 8CMO Battalion, 8ID, PA)

Featured Image

CAMP DAZA, Hinabangan, Samar, Jan. 28 – Thirteen municipalities in Eastern Samar and three in Samar with seven barangays have declared the New People's Army (NPA) as persona non grata in 2019 through a resolution, treating the presence of the armed communists as unwelcomed in their communities.

Colonel Camilo Z. Ligayo, commander of 801st Infantry Brigade said these 16 municipalities include Can-avid, Guiuan, Salcedo, Quinapondan, Dolores, Balangiga, Maslog, Hernani, Mercedes, Jipapad, Taft, Sulat and Arteche, all of Eastern Samar while in the Samar province are the municipalities of Hinabangan, Villareal and Talalora.

Col. Ligayo also bared that in their area of responsibility, a total of seven (7) barangays have also declared the NPA as persona non grata. These barangays are Pelaon and Manaing of Pinabacdao, Buluan, Guimbanga, Magdawat, Beri and Caamlunga, all of Calbiga, Samar. Said areas are cleared from armed threat groups or NPA.

“The declaration is in connection with the Executive Order (EO) No. 70 or the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) issued by President Rodrigo Duterte that aims to institutionalize a Whole-of-Nation approach in attaining peace and end longtime conflict between the government and the communist group,” said Col Ligayo.

Col. Ligayo further said that officials of these barangays have heeded to the call of the DILG chief to take appropriate action to curb the insurgency problem in their respective area of concern.

"They decided to pass a municipal and barangay resolutions to support the call of the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government for local executives and vulnerable groups to make a stand against Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front," Col. Ligayo added. (8CMO Battalion, PA)

Gov't to spend P20-M for each insurgency-cleared barangays, P1.5-M for threatened ones

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Gov't to spend P20-M for each insurgency-cleared barangays, P1.5-M for threatened ones (By Ninfa B. Quirante)

Featured Image

TACLOBAN CITY, Jan. 28 (PIA) -- The national government is ready to spend P20 million for each of insurgency-cleared barangays and P1.5 miilion for each threatened ones.

This was learned during the special meeting of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC) in Eastern Vissayas on January 23 at the DILG Regional Office 8.

No less than the National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. attended the meeting with the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) 8, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario and the members of the RTF ELCAC 8.

Esperon said the proposed budget for threatened barangays will address the much needed projects like water system, barangay centers, repair of schools, support to livelihood programs, fishery projects, road openings and agriculture support.

As to the P20-M per cleared barangay, the amount could provide for farm-to-market roads, school buildings, water and sanitation system projects, National Greening Program, health stations, electrification, agri projects, TESDA training, and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) connectivity projects.

The National Security Adviser said that in the country, there are some 842 insurgency-cleared barangays which will need some P16.84 billion and 2,793 threatened barangays to need some P4.189 billion.

Esperon said that President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the budget in principle.

CORDS 8 Secretary Del Rosario also urged the local government units to deliver the basic social services so that the people can feel the government's presence.

"If we do that, the support of the masses will be given to us," Del Rosario said.

Gov. Ben Evardone of E. Samar and Northern Samar Gov. Edwin Ongchuan who were present in the meeting, proposed some measures to end insurgency.

Evardone asked that barangays in Eastern Samar be given access roads.

Ongchuan asked that former rebels be given homes in Northern Samar.

In the same meeting, the 8th Infantry Division Commander Pio Diñoso requested to bring the two battalions back to Samar to assist them in their peace and security operations.

The 8th ID Commander compared Samar to Sulo, saying that Samar is 13 times bigger than Sulo but there are only six army battalions while Sulo has 12.

To this, Esperon reacted positively.

While CORDS Del Rosario commended the RTF ELCAC 8 for being the third most active in the different activities and for its active engagement with other partners, Secretary Esperon praised RTF-ELCAC for being the most active RTF-ELCAC Viber Group.

"We are on the right direction, let us synchronize and harmonize our efforts in the barangays," Esperon urged the LGUs and the heads of the national government offices present in the meeting.

For his part, Del Rosario also commended the Regional TF ELCAC 8.

"Ipagmalaki, ipagyabang not only in organizing but in the conduct of security and development operations," he said referring to the Regional Task Force.

Based on the army's report, the region has more or less 400 NPAs and 250 Militia ng Bayan operating mostly in Samar island.

The Task Force also reported of some 27 Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) immersed in the barangays weeding out the needed government intervention. (nbq/PIA 8-E. Samar)

AFP, PNP urge Bukidnon bizmen to report NPA extortion activities

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 27, 2020): AFP, PNP urge Bukidnon bizmen to report NPA extortion activities (By 8th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)

Featured Image

IMPASUG-ONG, Bukidnon, Jan. 24 (PIA) — Military and police authorities have urged businesses in Bukidnon province to report immediately any extortion schemes set up by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In a meeting in Malaybalay City on Tuesday with business owners under the Bukidnon Lateral Organized for Development (BukLOD), the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) jointly presented a diagram on what to do if they receive a threat or demand for “revolutionary tax” from the NPA.

The diagram serves as a guide on preventing extortion and the best ways to respond to it. It illustrates the process of reporting and all other approaches in dealing with the extortionists.

The NPAs demand money from businesses through force or threat to finance their terroristic activities. They (NPA) called this “Revolutionary Tax.”

Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, 8IB commanding officer, said the NPA’s extortion activities have been the main problem of the government contractors as it delayed the completion of infrastructure projects in the province.

“We are urging everybody to help us stop the finance of the NPA by reporting and preserving all calls, text messages, and CCTV’s images because we need them to identify the suspects, report it to the nearest Army and PNP offices,” Illana said.

BukLOD president Doy Lopez, likewise, has called on the 21 members of his business group requesting them to display a tarpaulin on their establishments showing the “extortion guide,” including the police and military hotlines to stir awareness among its employees and the public.

BukLOD is a group of business companies organized since 2015 to help the province in realizing its vision for a stable and comfortable life.

“Being the president of this organization, I am encouraging everybody to help our Army and PNP. Do not be afraid to report and cooperate with them. It’s not only the NPAs who are doing extortion but there are other criminal groups and individuals also,” Lopez said. (8IB, PA/PIA)

17 former rebels in Ilocos Sur get E-CLIP benefits

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 27, 2020): 17 former rebels in Ilocos Sur get E-CLIP benefits (By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog)

ILOCOS SUR, Jan. 28 (PIA) - Seventeen former members of the Militia ng Bayan (MB) from different barangays in the province received financial assistance as part of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits.

MB refers to individuals who have been indoctrinated and may or may not be directly involved in violent armed struggle but, when organized, can provide mass support to the “revolutionary movement” of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People's Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF).

Under E-CLIP, former members of the MB, CPP, NPA, and NDF and their immediate families, who desire to abandon armed struggle, are allotted with a package of assistance in order to become productive citizens.

Administered by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), E-CLIP provided more than Php1-million worth of financial assistance, composed of immediate, livelihood assistance and the firearm remuneration to the returnees in the province, which were first certified by the Joint AFP-PNP Intelligence Committee (JAPIC).

The distribution was conducted on January 27 following the two-day Peace-Building Seminar with the theme, “Embracing Peace Within Ourselves Towards a Better Living,” conducted by the Philippine Army, in partnership with the provincial government under the leadership of Governor Ryan Luis Singson.

Major Renante Carsano, executive officer of the 81st Infantry Battalion (IB), 7th Infantry Division (7ID), thanked the provincial government and the different government agencies and other sectors for their effort in maintaining peace and progress in the province.

Major Renante Carsano, executive officer of 81st Infantry Battalion (IB), 7th Infantry Division (7ID) of the Philippine Army speaks in front of the 124 former members of the Underground Mass Organizations in Ilocos Sur who participated in the two-day Peace-Building Seminar held at Bantay, Ilocos Sur. (jmcq/pia)

Maj. Carsano said, “A total of 124 members of the Underground Mass Organizations (UGMOs) coming from different barangays in Ilocos Sur have united for this two-day Peace-Building Seminar and this is the first time that this meaningful event in maintaining peace and progress has been conducted in the province. Hopefully, this won’t be the last. Through your continuous support to the government’s programs in offering peace to rebel supporters, more of them will be able to avail the E-CLIP benefits and enjoy progressive lives.”

Gov. Singson on the other hand, distributed cash assistance from the provincial government to each of the barangays who participated in the seminar.

Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson (left) gives cash assistance from the provincial government to each barangays who participated in the seminar. (jmcq/pia)

“The provincial government is asking for your cooperation to unite and support the government’s peace and development efforts,” Singson said.

Also present were representatives from partner agencies namely: Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, DILG, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Information Agency, and the Philippine National Police. (JCR/AMB/JMCQ/PIA Ilocos Sur)

P7.82-M aid released for ex-rebels in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): P7.82-M aid released for ex-rebels in Eastern Visayas (By Sarwell Meniano)

AID FOR EX-REBELS. President Rodrigo Duterte leads the distribution of benefits to former rebels at the San Isidro Central School in Leyte on January 23, 2020. The national government has released P7.82-million in financial assistance to former rebels in Eastern Visayas from 2019 to early 2020. (Presidential Photo)

The national government has released PHP7.82 million in financial assistance to former rebels in Eastern Visayas from 2019 to early 2020, indicating the sincerity of the national government to convince enemies to return to the fold of the law, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Monday.

A total of 290 former rebels received PHP4.33 immediate assistance, PHP2.25 million livelihood assistance, and PHP1.24 million firearms remuneration said DILG Regional Director Artemio Caneja.

The government held several ceremonies to distribute the financial grant. The biggest gathering was last January 22 in San Isidro, Leyte where President Rodrigo Duterte led the distribution of cash to 262 former rebels.

Former rebels are also entitled to housing grants from the National Housing Authority. A series of skills training have been lined up for them.

All the 290 former rebels received immediate assistance of PHP15,000 each. Forty five of them are beneficiaries of PHP50,000 livelihood assistance, and 12 are recipients of compensation for turning over firearms. The amount varies depending on the type of firearms surrendered.

Of those who surrendered, 46 were New People’s Army (NPA) fighters and 244 are members of Militia ng Bayan (MB).

MB members are individuals who have been indoctrinated by the communist terrorist group and may or may not be directly involved in violent armed struggle. When organized, they can provide mass support to the “revolutionary movement" of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NPA, and National Democratic Front (NDF).

“Through financial grants, ex-rebels are given an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, especially through livelihood financial assistance. This is also to encourage to abandon the communist ideology and be productive citizens,” Caneja told the Philippine News Agency on Monday.

The assistance package is under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) to support efforts of finally ending the local communist armed conflict in the country.

E-CLIP provides a complete package of assistance to former rebels who were members of the CPP, NPA, and NDF, as well as their family members, who have surrendered to the government to abandon armed struggle and become productive members of the society.

This is just one of the clusters of the “whole-of-nation approach” which aims to address the root causes of insurgencies and other armed conflicts and threats by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 70 in December 2018 to institutionalize a "whole-of-nation approach" policy in attaining peace and end the long-time conflict between the government and the communist group.

Soldier wounded in Cotabato City ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Soldier wounded in Cotabato City ambush (By Noel Punzalan)

Google map of Cotabato City.

A soldier was wounded following an ambush perpetrated by motorcycle-riding assailants here on Sunday.

Capt. Rustom Pastolero, Police Station 2 commander, identified the victim as Private First Class Ryan Jay Itao, 24, of Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Itao was on his motorbike traversing Demazenod St. heading towards Camp Siongco--the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in nearby Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao around 4 p.m. when fired upon by one of the unidentified gunmen riding-in-tandem.

“The soldier was hit in the shoulder and neck, causing him to fall off his motorbike,” Pastolero said, adding the attackers sped off towards an unknown direction as concerned citizens brought the victim to the hospital.

“We have yet to determine the motive of the attack,” Pastolero said.
Itao remains under close observation at an undisclosed hospital in the city, police said.

Following the incident, the police said it has increased visibility in the area and have set up more checkpoints in strategic places.

Last week, motorcycle-riding gunmen also ambushed and killed an Army personnel and wounded his back riding soldier-colleague in neighboring Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Joint Task Force Zamboanga boosts security measures

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Joint Task Force Zamboanga boosts security measures (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ENHANCED SECURITY. Col. Antonio John Divinagracia, Joint Task Force Zamboanga commander, on Monday (Jan. 27, 2020) says that he has realigned the troops in downtown areas and other places of convergence in Zamboanga City. He says the move is part of a broader effort to boost the city's security. (PNA photo by Teofilo P. Garcia Jr.)

The chief of the Joint Task Force Zamboanga said their forces are being realigned while conducting "target hardening" as part of a broader effort to enhance security despite the absence of imminent threat in this southern port city.

Col. Antonio John Divinagracia on Monday said the Marine Battalion Landing Team-11 (MBLT-11) has been assigned in the central business district, including the local port, replacing the Army’s 74th Infantry Battalion.

Likewise, Divinagracia said the troops of the Army’s 74th Infantry Battalion were designated in areas where the MBLT-11 forces were pulled out.

Divinagracia said they have established a new detachment in Barangay Mariki, where most of the forces of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) landed during the 2013 Zamboanga siege.

Divinagracia said the detachment in Barangay Sta. Barbara has been moved to Sitio Buggok, Barangay Kasanyangan, to guard the coastline in the area, which the MNLF also used as a landing point of the MNLF during the siege.

Divinagracia said they have also established a detachment in Barangay Lumbangan to secure the bypass road, which links this city’s east coast to the west coast.

Meanwhile, another detachment will be placed in Barangay Limpapa, a popular tourist attraction located in the boundary with the town of Sibuco in Zamboanga del Norte.

Divinagracia said that a team of soldiers has been assigned at the coast line of the Gold Course and Beach Park, which is also frequented by tourists and other visitors.

He said the management of the golf course noted that the number of beachgoers has reached 14,000 people on New Year’s Day due to the presence of the security team.

Security has also been strengthened at the Zamboanga International Airport, Integrated Bus Terminal, and port of Zamboanga, he added.
“We have to enhance our security measures, we cannot be complacent,” Divinagracia said.

Wife appeals to NPA to return missing husband

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Wife appeals to NPA to return missing husband (By Alexander Lopez)

BRING BACK MY HUSBAND. Emalyn Bolando-Astudillo, wife of Taloy Aguilo Astudillo who was seized by armed men believed to be communist rebels on Dec. 3, 2019 in San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur, appeals to the rebels to let her husband go home. Emalyn had given birth to the couple's youngest child on Monday (Jan. 27, 2020). (Photo courtesy of Datu Rico Maca)

The wife of a Manobo tribesman seized by armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Surigao del Sur town of San Miguel last month has appealed to the rebels to release her husband.

Taloy Aguilo Astudillo was abducted in Sitio Inadan, Magroyong, San Miguel, on December 3 last year, police said.

His wife, Emalyn Bolando-Astudillo, 31, implored the NPA on Monday to free her husband "for the sake of our children". Emalyn issued the appeal as she gave birth to her youngest son at San Miguel Community Hospital in San Miguel town.

“Ila unta itug-an asa nila dad-a si Taloy, kung buhi pa ba o gipatay na nila (They should tell us where they brought Taloy, whether he is still alive or if they already killed him),” Emalyn said in a video provided to the Philippine News Agency by Datu Rico Maca, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of San Miguel town.

Emalyn said it would ease her pain if she would know the true condition of her husband, adding that their children, too, are asking when will their father would be home.

Taloy and Emalyn now have four children, the oldest being 12.

Since her husband had disappeared, she said the family has encountered hardships that their children had to stop going to school.

Emalyn said she and her children only rely on Taloy to provide all their needs.

Days after her husband was abducted by the NPA, Emalyn said she and her children left their village because of fear.

Maca said Emalyn only returned to their town to give birth.

Maca said the local government of San Miguel has already provided Emalyn with cash assistance, food, and other needs of her children, especially the newborn.

“I am calling again to the NPA rebels to release Taloy if he is still alive. And if they already killed him then they should tell us where did they bury him,” the tribal leader said.

“I heard his children asking their mother about their father. I just looked at them saying nothing with so much pain thinking about the real condition of Taloy, my fellow tribesman,” Maca said.

He added that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are still searching for the victim.

Duterte’s decision to terminate VFA was ‘studied’: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Duterte’s decision to terminate VFA was ‘studied’: Palace (By Azer Parrocha)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo (File photo)

The decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is a “studied response” against the United States for meddling in Philippine internal affairs, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s decision was prompted by an “accumulation” of a series of disrespectful acts made by some American senators against the Philippines government and its officials.

Contrary to critics saying that it was a rushed judgment, Panelo said the cancelation of the visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Duterte’s close ally, was “the last straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“It’s not, as expressed by some, a decision on a whim. It is a studied response to acts that the President deems to be not only an intrusion but an assault to the sovereignty of this country,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“To those who are thinking that this is a rash judgment, let me remind them that this President is a tactical and thinking president,” he added.

Besides the cancelation of dela Rosa’s US visa, Panelo named three other reasons which prompted the President’s decision to cancel the VFA.

One of these reasons is the repeated calls of some American senators for the release of detained Senator Leila de Lima, which he described as an “intrusion and an insult to the judiciary system of this country.”

Panelo said Duterte also frowned upon the US Senate resolution condemning alleged violations of human rights which he claimed are “lies” peddled by Duterte’s critics and detractors.

The third reason that led Duterte to want to scrap the VFA was the introduction of an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Section of the US budget program.

A provision of the US 2020 budget earlier signed by Trump, titled “Prohibition of Entry,” gives US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the authority to prevent Philippine officials involved in de Lima’s detention from entering the US.

In response, Duterte blocked the entry of three US senators Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Edward Marky for calling for de Lima’s release and supporting the US entry ban.

Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, required the US to explain the reason for the barring of officials involved in de Lima’s detention and for dela Rosa’s visa being canceled.

De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City since February 2017 following her alleged role in the rampant narcotics trade inside the national penitentiary during his stint as Justice secretary.

Benefits the US more

Although he said the planned termination of the VFA was least likely to affect other agreements aimed at boosting military alliance between the Philippines and the US, Panelo emphasized that existing deals benefitted the latter more.

“I think the treaties benefit more the United States than the Philippines. Strategically, the US needs to be in almost any part of the world to secure itself from its perceived enemies,” Panelo said.

Panelo explained that among others under the VFA, the Philippines cannot assume jurisdiction over crimes committed by US military personnel unless the particular crime is of particular importance to the Philippines.

He said even in those cases where the Philippines can assume jurisdiction, under the VFA, the courts are required to finish it in one year with respect to the legal proceedings.

“So under the VFA, they cannot even be arrested or detained; they cannot even be tried in religious and military courts. They’re exempted from the requirements on visa and passport. To top it all, the US aircraft and vessels can move without restriction in the Philippines, unrestricted movement,” Panelo said.

Panelo, however, assured that should the VFA be terminated, the Philippines would still have jurisdiction over US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014.

“Without the VFA, all crimes committed in this country, Philippine courts have jurisdiction. That’s only a privilege granted to them. And we assume jurisdiction precisely because that crime was of particular importance to us,” Panelo said.

The VFA, signed in 1998, accords legal status to visiting US troops in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations without the need to be subjected to passport and visa regulations.

It also gives the US jurisdiction over its military personnel when they commit crimes in the Philippines, unless these are punishable in Manila.

The VFA can be terminated by writing to the other party about their desire to scrap the deal.

Avoid being a lapdog

In an interview over ANC, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar shared Panelo’s sentiment, stressing that the basis for Duterte’s decision is the continuous disrespect on Philippine sovereignty and its judicial system.

“The Visiting Forces Agreement is a treaty that is based on mutual trust and respect. Now, if there is no longer a respect for the country that you have a deal or a treaty with, then there is a problem there. So, we standby the President’s decision,” Andanar said.

He pointed out how previous administrations had always given the US a “freehand” on making decisions on behalf of the Philippine government.

Andanar said by terminating the VFA, Duterte is sending the message that that Philippines is an “independent country.”

“Since the 1940s were already independent and we should stop being a lapdog on the United States. It’s really a matter of the Philippines sending a message to the United States that we are not succumbing to their neocolonialism way of treating the Philippines,” he added.

‘Stay retired’

Meanwhile, Panelo shrugged off the suggestion of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for the President to accept the invitation of US President Donald Trump to attend the Southeast Asian Leaders Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada this March.

Del Rosario said accepting Trump’s invitation would allow Duterte to place on the table his full expectations on Philippines-US bilateral relations.

“I suggest he stays retired. The President knows what he is doing. He doesn’t need advice from those who have failed in their term as government officials, especially from the one who lost the West Philippine Sea to the Chinese government,” Panelo said.

Both Duterte and Panelo have repeatedly blamed del Rosario for losing control over the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) during the previous administration.

Panelo said the issues in relation to bilateral agreements between the Philippines and US do not need to be brought up during the US-Asean Summit since they could be discussed at another time.

AFP chief Santos promoted to 4-star rank

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): AFP chief Santos promoted to 4-star rank (By Priam Nepomuceno)

4-STAR GENERAL. Armed Forces of the chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. receives military honors after he was promoted to the four-star rank of General in a ceremony held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday (Jan. 27, 2020). Santos is the 53rd AFP chief. (Photo courtesy of AFP-PAO)

MANILA -- New Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. on Monday received his fourth star when he was promoted to the rank of General, the highest post in the Philippine military.

Santos' fourth star was donned by the Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during short ceremonies at the DND Building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Present were his family and senior military officers led by AFP vice chief-of-staff Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr.

Santos’ ad interim appointment was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte effective January 14.

He took over as 53rd AFP chief on January 4 replacing General Noel Clement who retired from the service after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Santos is a member of the Philippine Military Academy 1986 while his predecessor was a member of PMA Class of 1985.

Military honors at the General Headquarters Canopy was accorded to the newly-promoted general after the donning ceremony.

Bolstering of PH-Russia defense coop on 'right track': Envoy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Bolstering of PH-Russia defense coop on 'right track': Envoy (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

File photo of Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev

The effort to establish defense cooperation between Manila and Moscow is on the right track, Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev said Monday.

The affirmation comes days after President Rodrigo Duterte renewed calls for closer ties with Russia and hailed it for respecting the Philippines' sovereignty.

"We are on the right track," Khovaev told reporters in an interview in Manila. "We attach great importance to this cooperation and we are ready and we are taking necessary measures in order to help your country to increase your defense capability."

Meanwhile, he clarified that this has "nothing to do between the relationship of the Philippines with any other countries".

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Washington after it revoked the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former Philippine National Police chief who implemented the administration's crackdown against illegal drugs. The VFA, signed in 1988, gives clear instructions on how visiting American troops should be treated in the Philippines.

As a Russian diplomat, Khovaev maintained that he is not in the position to make comments on Manila's domestic political developments and its ties with other nations.

Senate can’t review, petition VFA abrogation: lawmakers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): Senate can’t review, petition VFA abrogation: lawmakers (By Jose Cielito Reganit)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said the Senate cannot review or even petition President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to scrap the government’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

In an interview, Sotto said the Senate can only discuss the planned VFA abrogation either, in a caucus or a hearing, with the purpose of coming up with a unified statement.

“Perhaps ang kailangan ay pag-usapan lang (we only need to talk about it), I am not proposing anything other than to talk about it,” he said.

“Ang importante, mapag-usapan para yung mga perspective or opinion ng mga iba't ibang senador ay mapag-usapan namin tungkol dito (What is important is we hear the perspectives and opinions of the other senators during the discussion),” Sotto added.

He stressed though that any “unified” statement that will come out would have no bearing on the President’s decision.

“It will just be a statement. It will just be a sense of the Senate,” Sotto said.

Sotto also refused to give comment on Duterte’s move to scrap the VFA because he wanted to “retain” the independence of the three co-equal branches of government.

”As Senate President, I would rather not indulge into saying what is right or what is wrong,” he said. “Bottom line, the buck stops with him, he is the President, that is his decision.”

He said it would also be better for the US to review Duterte’s perspective on his decision.

Sotto said Duterte’s abrupt decision to terminate the VFA could not just be blamed on the cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s US visa.

“Maaaring isa sa mga catalyst lang yun pero hindi yun ang trigger, maraming trigger (it could just be one of the catalysts, but it was not the only trigger, there were many triggers),” he said, noting of the various accusations hurled by US senators against the Duterte administration.

“Siguro maganda rin na alamin muna ng United States, ano ba talaga ang mga nasa likod ng issue na ito, di ba? Baka sakaling doon pa lang, magkaroon ng dialogue, para mapabuti ang usapan (Wouldn't it be better if the US find out what really are the reasons behind the issue? Hopefully, from there we can already start a dialogue, and pave the way for better negotiation) thereafter,” Sotto said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson echoed Sotto’s sentiments, saying the purpose of the planned review on the VFA’s abrogation should be clarified first, lest the Senate could be seen as “unnecessarily encroaching on the authority of the Executive.”

In a separate interview, the veteran lawmaker pointed out that the role of the Senate is to “ratify, concur or reject” a bilateral agreement, and nothing more.

“That is why I said that we may have to be clarified kasi baka ma-misinterpret ng executive branch kung ano ang purpose namin (because the Executive might misinterpret our purpose). Bakit kami magre-review ng provisions ng isang (Why will we review the provisions of a) treaty that the president has already decided?” he said.

“Wala kami talagang magagawa e (We cannot really do anything),” Lacson added.

Like Sotto, Lacson said he will not also give any advice on Duterte’s move to terminate the VFA.

PH ships for Mideast mission makes historic stop in Sri Lanka

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2020): PH ships for Mideast mission makes historic stop in Sri Lanka (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) (Photo courtesy of Navy Public Affairs Office)

Two Philippine Navy (PN) ships bound for the Middle East made history as the first Filipino naval vessels to make a stop at the East Container Terminal in The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on Sunday.

The two Navy ships, the offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) and the landing vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), left Pier 13 of Manila South Harbor on January 13 to help in the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers affected by the tensions in the Middle East.

Dubbed as the Naval Task Force (NTF) 82 “Oplan Pagbabalik”, the contingent is the PN’s support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Joint Task Force, “Pagpauli,” said PN public affairs office chief, Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas.

The layover was intended for refueling and reprovisioning only but Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) desired to host it as official visit as it was the first time for PN ships and personnel to pass by this territory and traverse the Indian Ocean, she added.

The NTF 82 headed by Marine Colonel Noel Beleran was accorded a welcome ceremony by counterparts from SLN Western Naval Area (WNA). The party then set to pay courtesy to the WNA commander, Rear Admiral Sumith Ananda Weerasinghe.

Other confidence-building activities were shipboard tour, cultural show, basketball game and reciprocal dinners.

Roxas said the visit was another milestone for the Philippines-Sri Lanka relations that was established in 1961 and recently being sustained and enhanced by naval diplomacy.

In April 2019, the SLN ship P626 made its first-time goodwill visit to Manila.

The historic sail on Indian Ocean by PN ships validates its status as a Navy that is now capable to sustain operations across open oceans.

Malaysia shows commitment to security in Sabah waters: Minister

From the Jakarta Post (Jan 27, 2020): Malaysia shows commitment to security in Sabah waters: Minister

Indonesian sailor M. Farhan hugs his mother as he reunites with his family at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta on Jan. 23. Farhan was rescued by the Philippine military from the Abu Sayyaf militant group on Jan. 15. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu has reiterated the country’s commitment to increasing security in the Sulu Sea region following recurring kidnappings of Indonesian fishermen by southern Philippines militant group Abu Sayyaf, inviting all trilateral counterparts -- Indonesia and the Philippines -- to join the effort.

In a visit to Jakarta on Saturday, the Malaysian politician -- better known as Mat Sabu -- said Malaysia would increase its efforts and role in the existing trilateral maritime patrols around Sulu and Sabah region, calling on relevant parties to follow suit.

“The three countries, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia need to increase security. This was something agreed to by Prabowo [Indonesian defense minister] and [us] yesterday,” Mat Sabu told journalists in Jakarta.

He suggested that one of the many factors of the frequent kidnappings was the fact that Mindanao had remained an unstable region in the Philippines. “As long as the turmoil continues there, there will still be a lot of kidnappings.”

Regarding the upheaval in Mindanao, Mat Sabu said it needed to be resolved to reduce the impact it had on the region -- and eventually prevent similar hostage cases in the future.

Despite the frequent kidnappings, the Malaysian minister said he believed that the trend had shown a decline.

However, due to the characteristics of the group and its long-time activity in the region, he called on consistent reviews of the trilateral security cooperation from time to time.

On Jan. 15, Indonesian fisherman M. Farhan was rescued by the Philippine military from Abu Sayyaf, which held him hostage in the Philippine's southern island of Jolo.

He was, at that time, the last remaining Indonesian hostage after two fellow fishermen in his group -- all three were kidnapped in waters off Tambisan in Malaysia's Sabah in September -- were rescued in December.

The rescue of Farhan came less than 24 hours before another group of five Indonesian fishermen were abducted in the same location.

It has prompted three countries around the Sulu and Sabah waters to react, with Indonesian officials having criticized the "ineffective coordination" of Malaysian authorities in securing their waters.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has urged Malaysia to review the security of its territory, underscoring that all three countries had joined the trilateral patrols and that Indonesia was committed to carrying out patrols in its own territory.

The Philippine’s Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, meanwhile, has set a new deadline of March 31 to dismantle the Abu Sayyaf group, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. (asp)

Dangerous ‘Marwan’ protégé on the loose

From Tempo (Jan 27, 2020): Dangerous ‘Marwan’ protégé on the loose


Authorities are still hunting one of the most notorious protégés of slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” five years after the costly anti-terror raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Major Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao,
identified the notorious bomb expert as Salahudin Hassan, who was among the trusted lieutenants of Marwan who was able to slip away during the infamous Philippine National Police-Special Action Force-led operation on Jan. 25, 2015.

The controversial clandestine operation, which sought to capture Marwan, left three civilians, 44 SAF troopers, and 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters dead. The incident sparked public outrage that led to the scrapping of the then Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Carreon added that Hassan is still operating with about 30 to 40 armed followers in the marshy areas of Central Mindanao.

While reports always showed that military operations have been targeting IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters leader Esmael Abdulmalik, alias “Abu Torayfe,” Carreon acknowledged that Hassan is more dangerous than Abdulmalik.

Carreon claimed that Torayfe is just a titular figure in the Dawlah Islamiyah group while Hassan, who has a P1.3-million bounty, still poses the biggest threat.

A seasoned intelligence officer affirmed that Hassan is indeed more notorious and more influential than Abdulmalik, given his vast network of terrorists’ cells.

He disclosed that from 2009 to 2010, Hassan went to Basilan and linked up with key Abu Sayyaf leaders Furuji Indama, Khair Mundos, and Termiji Akmada, alias “Imran.”

Imran was arrested in Marawi City in 2013 along with Marwan’s brother-in-law Renren Dongon while Mundos was arrested in Manila in 2014.

“One of his missions there was supposedly to discuss the unification of Al-Khobar, Abu Sayyaf, and Indonesian jihadists in the country belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah,” the intelligence officer said.

While in Basilan, Hassan served as one of the instructors of young recruits in bomb making techniques.

In 2013, Hassan brought Marwan to Maguindanao from Basilan, the intelligence officer added.

Hassan was said to be a former member of a Special Operations Group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front before he broke away and formed the Al-Khobar Group sometime in 2005.

The MILF has repeatedly denied the allegation.

Hassan hails from Kidapawan City and a son of religious Maguindanaon preacher.

The intelligence officer said Hassan’s group is mainly composed of his close relatives and operates in the Ligawasan Marsh.

Hassan, who is now about 40-years-old, is facing multiple murder charges before the court for allegedly perpetrating several bomb attacks on bus companies and business establishments in Central Mindanao.
(Keith Bacongco)

Duterte House ally says VFA key to PH security but Reds back move to scrap it

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27, 2020): Duterte House ally says VFA key to PH security but Reds back move to scrap it (By: Jigger J. Jerusalem)

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. From Rodriguez’s FB page

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A Mindanao lawmaker allied with President Rodrigo Duterte expressed alarm over Duterte’s push to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States even as communist rebels supported the President’s move to scrap the pact.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said although it was well within Duterte’s powers to junk the VFA, such a move would be “inimical to our national interest and security.”

Duterte announced he would scrap the VFA in anger over the cancellation of the US visa of one of his closest allies, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who was also Duterte’s first Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Rodriguez said sustaining the military accord with the US was important for the Philippines because of its ongoing territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.

“At a time when we have a territorial conflict with China on our Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] in the West Philippine Sea, this should be the last thing that our President should do,” Rodriguez said in a statement released on Saturday (Jan. 25) yet.

He said China continued to enforce its debunked nine-dash-line claim in the disputed area, which had been declared illegal and “without basis” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Rodriguez said China continued to harass Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal, which is inside the Philippines’ EEZ and tried to prevent the resupply of the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, which is also inside the Philippines’ EEZ.

Rodriguez said the VFA offers protection to the Philippines because it obligates the US military to help the Philippines in case the situation in WPS escalate into a shooting war.

“Only the United States under our Mutual Defense Treaty and VFA can come to our defense in case our vessels are attacked in the South China Sea which is considered an extension of the Pacific Ocean,” he added.

Rodriguez said while the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, which would bar him from entry into the US, was uncalled for, “it can be reconsidered through diplomatic channels.”

“I hope the good President will reconsider this move,” the congressman said.

Communist rebels appeared to be celebrating Duterte’s rant against the VFA.

In a separate statement issued on Sunday (Jan. 26), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) challenged Duterte to “walk the talk” and proceed with junking the VFA.

“For decades, the Filipino people have demanded the abrogation of the VFA which has allowed the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by US military forces, as well as numerous human rights violations, including rape and murder,” the CPP said in a statement posted on its

“The Filipino people are keenly aware of Duterte’s tirades against the US government while playing up to China and Russia with the aim of being prized with economic and military aid,” it added.

The CPP said the people must vigorously push Duterte to abolish the VFA and other “unequal military treaties” and to call for the pullout of all foreign troops from Philippine soil.

The human rights group Karapatan urged Duterte to end “all US military and police aid to the Philippine government and the various US functions with Philippine State security forces that exacerbate the human rights crisis besetting the country.”

The revocation of the VFA, along with other “lopsided military agreements such as the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty and the US-RP Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” is a long-overdue move to assert the country’s national sovereignty, said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general in a statement also on Sunday.

NPA cadre killed in Mindoro clash

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 27, 2020): NPA cadre killed in Mindoro clash (By Jerry Alcayde)

CALAPAN CITY, Oriental Mindoro – An alleged New People’s Army cadre was killed in a five-minute gun battle between government troops and Communist guerillas in Bulalacao town last Saturday afternoon.

Lt. Colonel Connie Salas, police community relations chief of Oriental Mindoro Police Provincial Office (PPO) said
the slain NPA member was identified only as “Ka Sander”, a member of the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Gerilya operating in Mindoro island.

Ka Sander was killed after a team from the Fourth Infantry Batallion swooped down on an encampment in a hilly area in Sitio Lupgis, Barangay Cambunang, Bulalacao in southern Mindoro at about 5:30 p.m. and engaged at least 10 NPAs in a gunfight.

The Army troopers, led by Captain Ruben L. Gadut, recovered from the slain NPA a hand grenade, a 38 caliber revolver, two cellular phones, stethoscope, medicines, extortion letters, and subversive documents.