Sunday, February 23, 2020

17 ex-rebels complete reintegration

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 23, 2020): 17 ex-rebels complete reintegration (BY RHODA GRACE SARON)

Seventeen former New People’s Army members completed the Army’s reintegration program in Camp Osito Bahian, Malaybalay City on Saturday.

Capt. Ryan Layug, the course director of Primerong Kurso sa Pagbag-ong Kinabuhi Level 3 (PKPK-3) and former spokesman of 403rd Infantry Brigade in Bukidnon, said six of the former rebels are from Misamis Oriental, while the remaining 11 are from Bukidnon.

Layug said alias Jamby, Guerrilla Front 6 secretary from South Bukidnon, was part of the group of political instructors, squad leaders, platoon medic, and commanding officers of the Front Operational Command.

The PKPK-3 is the first part of mainstreaming process for former rebels. They will undergo further capacity-building training in halfway houses managed by local government units, as part of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).

“We believe on the kindness of their hearts before they were radicalized by the Communist Party of the Philippines through the New People’s Army,” Layug said. “Their innocence were abused, they were made to believe that bearing arms and fighting the government is the way to achieve their means.”

The PKPK-3 started on Feb. 5 and ended last Saturday. During the 17-day course, participants and couples also experienced driving a farm tractor as part of the high-value crop production course.

One of the graduates of the course, alias Reslyn, said that, “I have mixed emotions at the moment—happiness and loneliness. Happiness, as I finally met real soldiers that risk their lives for our people and that I have finally felt real freedom. Loneliness, as my daily routine felt strange, but I wanted this to continue in my life.”

Col. Ferdinand Barandon, the newly installed commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade covering Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, commended the graduates.

“I was then a young company commander that covered San Fernando, Bukidnon. Seeing you today after almost three decades and hearing your messages, longing to live a peaceful life with your family melts my heart. It is filled with gratitude that you have finally returned home,” he said during the closing ceremony of the PKPK 3.

Alleged rebel arrested by Paquibato police officers

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 23, 2020): Alleged rebel arrested by Paquibato police officers (BY RHODA GRACE SARON)

An alleged member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who ranked fourth in the Paquibato Police Station’s most wanted list was arrested in Farm Village, Barangay Ilang, Bunawan District at 6:30 p.m. yesterday.

Capt. Rosario Aguilar, the spokesperson of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO),
identified him as Abel Onsad Ali, 31, residing in Barangay Tapak, Paquibato District.

Ali was apprehended during the conduct of anti-criminality, terrorism, and clearing operation of the Paquibato Police Station, led by Capt. Arcadio De Dios, deputy station commander under the supervision of Capt. Mervin Montecillo, the officer-in-charge.

Aguilar said Ali has a standing warrant of arrest for the crime of murder with CC# R-DVO-19-01594-CR.

The order was issued by RTC XI Branch 54 Judge Melinda Alconcel Dayanghirang on April 26, 2019 at Ecoland, Davao City. No bail recommended for the accused.

Allegedly, the suspect tried to resist arrest, which resulted in some scratches throughout his body. He is now detained in Paquibato Police Station.

2 Sayyafs who helped ISIS suicide bomber yield, get gov’t aid

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 23, 2020): 2 Sayyafs who helped ISIS suicide bomber yield, get gov’t aid

PAGADIAN CITY -Special Forces soldiers are holding two Abu Sayyaf fighters linked by the military to an ISIS suicide bombing in the restive province of Basilan that killed at least 11 people in July 2018.

The duo - Suwaib Mungkay alias Black and Nakib Asmad alias Halifa – surrendered
to the 4th Special Forces Battalion in the town of Hadji Mohammad Ajul on February 20, but the military’s Western Mindanao Command only announced this over the weekend.

Military photos released to the Zamboanga Post newspaper show the two Abu Sayyaf fighters after they surrendered to the 4th Special Forces Battalion in Basilan province.

“The surrender was facilitated by the troops of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, 19th Special Forces Company, and the local government of Hadji Mohammad Ajul,” it said, adding, the pro-ISIS members also yielded a rifle and a pistol.

Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan, confirmed the surrender of the militants. “Mungkay and Asmad were involved in the Lamitan bombing last July 31, 2018,” he said.

Both Mungkay and Asmad - despite their involvement in the deadly attack carried out by Moroccan ISIS soldier Abu Katheer al Maghribi – were handed over to the custody of town officials “for their inclusion in the government programs for the rebel returnees.”

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, praised the militants’ surrender. “As I always say, peace is a shared responsibility. I am happy that our partners and stakeholders are always there to support us in our peace campaigns. Through our convergence, we are able to sustain the momentum and attain positive results in our journey towards peace and sustainable development here in the region,” he said.

Maghribi, who fought alongside the Abu Sayyaf, detonated a truck loaded with explosives at a security checkpoint after government militias stopped the suspicious vehicle on a village, about 2 kilometers away from downtown Lamitan.

The powerful explosion obliterated the vehicle and left a huge crater and among those killed were a woman and a child; and the militia commander whose unit was under the supervision of the Philippine Army. Five soldiers and several civilians were also wounded in the explosion.

In July 2019, security forces captured an Abu Sayyaf bomber, Isnaji Hasim, who was behind a deadly attack in Zamboanga City in January 2015 and among those who helped the Moroccan carry out the bombing.

Hasim was tracked down in his hideout in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Naga town. He was a henchman of notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Puruji Indama in Basilan,
one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. He was behind the car bombing outside a bus terminal in Guiwan village that killed 2 people and wounded nearly five dozens more.

Another Abu Sayyaf bomber Hashim Saripa who also facilitated the ISIS suicide bombing remains at large. (Zamboanga Post)

Top NPA member surrenders to Army's 61IB

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 23, 2020): Top NPA member surrenders to Army's 61IB (By Jemin B. Guillermo)

ILOILO CITY, Feb. 23 -- A high ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) -Terrorist from Tubungan, Iloilo surrendered to the Army’s 61st Infantry (HUNTER) Battalion, Saturday, February 22, 2020 at Camp Monteclaro in Barangay Igtuba, Miagao, Iloilo.

Tubungan mayor Roquito Tacsagon personally facilitated the surrender of his “Kasimanwa” (constituent) with the assistance of Senior Fire Officer 3 Russell Gotera of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict G Batara, 61IB Commanding Officer, identified the surrenderer as "Alias Cardo ," 49 years old, a resident of Tubungan, Iloilo and was a high ranking officer of Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay

Realizing that this is for the betterment of his life and his family, Alias Cardo surrendered himself to the government.

He said that he trusts the government and he is at ease that the government especially the local government unit will assist and help him.

He has doubts at first since he was indoctrinated by his leaders in the movement that once he surrender, the army will torture him and that his life will be in great danger, he added.

"But that accusations were absolutely false and that the terrorists were absolutely wrong," Alias Cardo added.

Batara is grateful to the Local Government Unit’s efforts together with the partner stakeholders in this harmonious collaboration to help those members of the NPA terrorist to surrender and have a normal life.

The Army's 61IB will assist alias Cardo to be enrolled in the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

He will also receive assistance from LGU thru Project ROKIT.

On the other hand, 301st Brigade commander, Col. Marion Sison said “ I am glad that alias Cardo finally realized to live peacefully with his family. That is the most important thing, to be with your family. We will assist him in processing his E-CLIP benefits and also, we will turn over him to the Philippine National Police for him to face the charges that was filed against him."

He added "I am also grateful to leadership of local chief executives who facilitated the surrenderee. It is a manifestation that the E.O 70 or the national task force to end local communist armed conflict is functioning and effective in the area of Panay. "

Sison added that "in the next few months since the commencement of E.O70, we are expecting more surrenderrers as we are aiming for peace and development." (With report from 1Lt. Hazel Joy Durotan, 61IB-PA)

Bobon MTF-ELCAC trains for RCSP implementation

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 23, 2020): Bobon MTF-ELCAC trains for RCSP implementation (By PIA-8 and NICA-8)

Featured Image

TACLOBAN CITY, Feb. 23 (PIA) -- The Bobon Municipal Task Force - End Local Communist Armed Conflict (MTF-ELCAC) in Northern Samar is now capable of implementing the Retooled Community Service Program in its barangays.

The MTF-ELCAC recently underwent an awareness orientation under the SAKM RTF8-ELCAC & PTF8-ELCAC NSamar.

The awareness orientation which was held on February 19 was attended by 75 Municipal Peace and Order Council and Municipal Development Council members of Bobon composed of LGU department heads, Punong Barangays, town-accredited Civil Society Organizations and NGOs.

The participants were led by Vice Mayor Elena Sia-Balite, municipal administrator Reny Celespara and MLGOO Carmelit Diaz.

Also present were Malou Ortega of LGOO-NSamar, Bobon MPS COP PCapt Ricardo Bajawan and 43IB PA Ex-O Maj. Balweg.

LGOO Ortego explained the MTF-ELCAC’s role in the implemention of EO-70 and the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP).

Maj Balweg and PCapt Bajawan took turns in discussing about the security situation and peace and order situation in Bobon and nearby areas.

On the overall, the MTF members were optimistic to carry out the RCSP in some barangays in their town which is noted to be frequented by the CTGs.

Bobon town is among the first in NSamar that declared the CPP/NPA/NDF as persona non grata.

Displayed on the stage of the covered court is the tarpaulin about the town's declaration. This is also displayed at the entrance gate of the Municipal Office. (PIA8/NICA8)

Mindoro pursues localized peacetalks with NPAs

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 24, 2020): Mindoro pursues localized peacetalks with NPAs (By 4th Infantry Battalion)

For the longest time, peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front failed to gain headways due to impossible and unattainable demands which the government negotiating panel cannot agree because of conflict with the Philippine Constitution and the Filipino people’s moral foundation. (PIA Mimaropa File Photo)

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal, Feb. 21 -- Through a resolution of the Provincial Peace and Order Council that was approved by Gov. Humerlito Dolor on Feb 4, Oriental Mindoro has taken the first major step in forging a peace deal which will end insurgency in the province.

​The council members, voting unanimously, resolved to express their collective “desire to pursue localized peacetalks through the creation of an expanded sub-committee on Anti-Insurgency”, read the document that was released on Friday.

​The resolution cited the council’s mandate to strengthen the capacities of governance actors "to effectively address socio-economic divides, create modalities and strengthen capacities of communities to resist violence and participate in peace-building and development.”

​Major General Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division which covers Southern Tagalog, welcomed the resolution and lauded the people of Oriental Mindoro for taking “an admirable stand in attaining the much coveted peace, prosperity and progress which every Filipino truly deserves.”

​He described the provincial government’s action as “crucial and necessary” in finally ending communist armed conflict which has hampered the country since “localized peacetalks will directly address the distinct social issues prevailing in every area,” something that negotiations in the national level cannot “because communist leaders in that level are not attuned to the real sentiments on the ground, thus, making their position irrelevant to their fighters and supporters.”

​For the longest time, peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front failed to gain headways due to impossible and unattainable demands which the government negotiating panel cannot agree because of conflict with the Philippine Constitution and the Filipino people’s moral foundation.

​The Local Peace Panel of Oriental Mindoro is chaired by BGen. Antonio R. Lastimado, Commander of the 203rd Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over the island, with six other members coming from the provincial council, DILG Regional Office, Philippine National Police, Provincial DSWD, civilian sector and a municipal mayor.

​BGen. Lastimado expressed his optimism that “the initiative will lead to cessation of hostilities which will further boost the bullish economic and tourism potentials of Mimaropa Region thereby uplifting the lives of our constituents.”

​“The government has taken the first step and we hope that the NPAs will follow our lead. The panel is looking forward to meeting with our counterparts from their side so that, together, we can finally write the closing paragraphs of this dark chapter in Philippine history”, ended BGen. Lastimado.

​MGen. Burgos ended his statement by declaring the resolution as “the first step toward the irreversible collapse of insurgency not only in this part of the country but also across the entire nation.”

​President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been pushing for a localized peacetalks ever since the negotiations between the GRP and NDF was terminated on January 2017.

This was supported by Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., the AFP Chief of Staff, saying that “localized peacetalk is the best way to end insurgency because it will bring faster gains since the Local Chief Executives will be directly talking with the local NPA commanders.” (4th Infantry Battalion)

Samar army hits NPA anew over school encampment claim

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2020): Samar army hits NPA anew over school encampment claim (By Sarwell Meniano)

OUTREACH PROGRAM. A soldier joins a gift-giving activity in a school in Las Navas, Northern Samar. The Philippine Army said on Friday (Feb. 21, 2020) that the New People's Army is lying when it claimed that soldiers have been using schools in the Samar provinces as a “waiting area” during their operations against the communist terrorist group. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The claim of the New People's Army (NPA) that soldiers have been using some schools in the Samar provinces as a "waiting area" during their operations against the communist terrorist group is a lie, a military official said.

The military in Eastern Visayas strictly complies with directives prohibiting encampment within school premises, Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Pio Diñoso III, said on Friday.

“We have a strict policy not to use schools as temporary armoring area, patrol base, or stay overnight. These accusations are not true,” Diñoso told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Soldiers, he said, are only visible if they are invited by the local government, government agencies, and private organizations to assist community outreach programs held in the covered courts of schools.

“If there are accusations, make them bear the burden of truth. They should take photos, identify the army unit, and tell us the specific time and date. Don’t just make accusations by making (up) stories and posting it online,” Diñoso said.

He called the claim as another lie of the communist terrorist group in its attempt to regain former strongholds in the Samar provinces.

Department of Education (DepEd) - Northern Samar schools division superintendent Gorgonio Diaz said in a text message that they have not received any report from school officials and teachers about the presence of government troops in schools.

“As a rule, our schools are zones of peace. I believe the military know(s) this,” Diaz told PNA.

In 2018, the DepEd-Northern Samar field office said no military encampment in schools transpired in the area as the 78th Infantry Battalion and a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit are positioned far from schools in Las Navas town.

The education department issued the statement after left-leaning groups staged a rally in front of DepEd to support the campaign of a group of farmers from Northern Samar who relayed the alleged military encampment of campuses in Las Navas town.

In 2018, left-leaning human rights groups in Eastern Visayas also claimed that five public schools in Samar and Northern Samar were used by soldiers as waiting areas for their operations.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

4th suspect in MisOr encounter killed in pursuit ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2020): 4th suspect in MisOr encounter killed in pursuit ops (By Divina Suson)

Google map of Libertad town, Misamis Oriental.

ILIGAN CITY -- One of the suspects in a fatal shootout in the Misamis Oriental town of Libertad was killed in an encounter with police operatives Friday morning, an official said.

Capt. Princess Joy Velarde, information officer of Misamis Oriental Police Office, said the suspect--only known by his alias, Bolaw--was shot by authorities after he was seen armed with an explosive.

Bolaw was with three other armed men on board a white Mitsubishi Mirage when one of them fired and killed a police officer who flagged them down at the checkpoint.

Velarde said Bolaw was sighted in a forested area of Barangay Poblacion, some kilometers away from the bridge on a dried-up river where he and his cohorts jumped off after firing at the police at the checkpoint.

Velarde said the suspect was knocking on a house to ask for drinking water and slippers.

"The resident identified his face because we have distributed their pictures to residents. He was immediately reported to the police," Velarde said.

The shootout on Monday resulted in the death of a police officer and the driver of the armed men. Another cop was wounded.

Two suspects were also arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday, as police scoured the town following the shootout.

With the death of Bolaw, Velarde authorities are now pursuing only one more suspect in the shooting.

Capt. Dino Magno, chief of Initao Municipal Police Station who was in the pursuit operation, said the suspects are now in the custody of Libertad police for interrogation.

‘NPA militiaman’ nabbed in Surigao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2020): ‘NPA militiaman’ nabbed in Surigao Sur (By Alexander Lopez)

REBEL MILITIA. Government forces arrest Juanito Tejero Calipay, an alleged militiaman of communist New People’s Army, in an operation Thursday night (February 20) in Purok 6, Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Calipay has five standing warrants of arrest for attempted murder and frustrated murder. (Photo courtesy of Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Office

Government forces arrested an alleged communist rebel militiaman Thursday night in the Surigao del Sur town of Lianga, a police official said.

Col. James Goforth, Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Office (SDSPPO) chief, i
dentified the suspect as Juanito Tejero Calipay, of Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, and an alleged member of the Milisya ng Bayan of the New People's Army (NPA).
Goforth said the 28-year-old Calipay was arrested near his residence during a joint operation of the police and the military.

Calipay has five standing warrants of arrest for attempted murder and frustrated murder, the police official said.

Goforth also lauded the efforts of the joint government forces that led to the arrest of the suspect.

He said Calipay is now under the custody of Lianga Municipal Police Station for proper disposition.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Prosecutor, 2 others injured in Maguindanao ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22, 2020): Prosecutor, 2 others injured in Maguindanao ambush (By Edwin Fernandez)

Google map of Cotabato City.

COTABATO CITY– Three persons, including a deputy provincial prosecutor, were injured in an ambush here Friday afternoon, police said.

Col. Portia Manalad, city police director, said the victims were in a white Toyota Grandia heading toward Featherville Subdivision when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire at them at 2 p.m.

Manalad said Maguindanao Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Tocod Ronda and two companions, whose identities have yet to be determined, were injured and were getting medication.

Maguindanao Provincial Prosecutor Rohaira Lao called on the local police to investigate the incident and identify the perpetrators.

2 members of armed group killed in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22, 2020): 2 members of armed group killed in Maguindanao clash (By Noel Punzalan)

SEIZED. The guns and other war materiel were seized by a composite team of Philippine Army, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and police elements during an operation against a lawless group in Barangay Lipao, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao on Friday (Feb. 21, 2020). The items were recovered by government forces following a clash with the group of a certain Commander Grasscutter, a sub-leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and linked to major illegal drug activities in the province. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

Government forces neutralized two lawless elements in a joint operation in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao Friday morning.

In a report, Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, said composite elements of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Buluan municipal police station operated against the lawless group around 6:50 a.m.

“Two died in the enemy side following a fierce gun battle in remote Barangay Lipao of Datu Paglas town,”
Carreon said.

The lawless group’s leader, a certain Commander Grasscutter, a sub-leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a known major drug pusher in the province, managed to escape.

Grasscutter has long been wanted by the law since 2017 due to illegal drug trafficking and other nefarious activities.

Aside from the bodies of two lawless elements, government troopers also recovered an M14 rifle, an M16 rifle, bandoliers, and magazines at the clash site.

Carreon lauded the operating composite team as he vowed to continue law enforcement operations against lawless groups in Central Mindanao.

Convergence projects eyed in insurgency-cleared DavOr villages

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23, 2020): Convergence projects eyed in insurgency-cleared DavOr villages (By Che Palicte)

DAVAO CITY -- The provincial government of Davao Oriental is optimistic that the province will be able to implement meaningful projects in insurgency-cleared barangays starting next year, an official said Sunday.

Karen Lou Deloso, provincial information officer of Davao Oriental, said priority quick impact projects – mostly infrastructure and livelihood – are proposed by the local government units and national government agencies for implementation.

Deloso said these projects are expected to foster peace and end the long-running communist insurgency.

The projects are part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace to end local communist armed conflict (ELCAC).

For the entire Davao region, 55 villages have been identified as priority barangays, 10 of which are from Davao Oriental.

Deloso said Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, together with municipal and city mayors, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), is set to present the projects at the Regional Development Council (RDC) this week.

During the workshop of the Regional Task Force (RTF) ELCAC last week, Budget Secretary and concurrent Cabinet Secretary for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) Wendel Avisado assured there would be funding for the priority projects in the barangays declared as “cleared” by the security sector.

Avisado urged the agencies to submit projects tagged as convergence ones under RTF-ELCAC since it is the priority of the national government to cater communities vulnerable to armed conflict.

“On our part, we will endeavor to prioritize all RDC-endorsed RTF-ELCAC priority projects during the technical budget hearing of all department agency proposals for final inclusion to the national expenditure program,” he added.

Whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency gains ground: AFP spox

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23, 2020): Whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency gains ground: AFP spox (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo (File photo)

The government's whole-of-nation-approach in ending local communist armed conflict is gaining ground with the neutralization of some 10,938 members of the New People's Army and their supporters in 2019, a top-ranking official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said on Sunday that since the issuance of Executive Order No. 70, the number of communist terrorist group (CTG) members who surrendered, apprehended, or died in combat operations "increased exponentially".

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte issued EO No. 70 in December 2018 establishing a whole-of-nation approach in ending local communist armed conflict through the creation of a national task force (NTF) that will take the lead in institutionalizing a national peace framework.

"The number of neutralized members of the NPA indicates operational gains of the AFP attained through whole-of-nation endeavors to end local communist armed conflict," Arevalo said.

Arevalo said in 2019, there were 10,520 regular NPA members and supporters belonging to "Milisya ng Bayan", "Samahang Propaganda Lokal", and other underground mass organization and supporters who have voluntarily surrendered to the government, 142 killed during operations and 276 arrested.

Some 1,860 firearms -- 925 high-powered and 935 low-powered firearms -- were either seized or surrendered; improvised explosive devices or anti-personnel mines captured or surrendered amounted to 452, and NPA hideouts overrun totaled 449.

Arevalo said this can be attributed to the trust and confidence of Filipinos, who tip-off to the military the presence of NPA members in their areas, to the military.

"People now tip-off CTG presence in their localities resulting in AFP’s operational advantage," he said.

He said people in the countryside no longer provide safe haven to the NPA terrorists, forcing them to be constantly on the run.

"We are confident that the end is near for the CTG—and they know and can feel the noose tightening," Arevalo said.

The military also reported significant success against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) following the neutralization of 178 terrorists last year.

Some 84 ASG members surrendered while 71 were killed during operations and 23 arrested; 144 high-powered and 22 low-powered guns were seized from the terrorists.

Anti-personnel mines captured amounted to 69 while terrorist hideouts seized reached 18.

The AFP also recorded success in the campaign against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as the military neutralized 61 with 14 killed, 45 surrendered, and two captured last year.

Operations against the Daesh-Inspired Maute Group led to the neutralization of 107 terrorists with 39 killed, 34 surrendered and 34 captured.

Malaysian experts train BARMM leaders on parliamentary governance

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 24, 2020): Malaysian experts train BARMM leaders on parliamentary governance (By Noel Punzalan)

GOVERNMENTAL TRAINING. Parliament members of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) listens to a Malaysian expert on how to run a parliamentary form of government. The training from Feb. 22-24, 2020 aims to equip BARMM leaders with knowledge on legislation that will benefit the Moro people through the moral governance of the regional government. (Photo courtesy of BPI-BARMM

Members of the Parliament (MPs) of the Bangsamoro government are set to wrap up Monday a three-day training on parliamentary rules and procedures facilitated by a foreign agency in support of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) moral governance.

“The three-day activity also included MPs staff and personnel,” BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim said over a local radio station.

Experts provided by The Asia Foundation (TAF), through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), facilitated the activity held at the Bangsamoro parliament building in Cotabato City attended by members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)— the interim body that governs the regional government.

"The sessions included discussions on the function and composition of the parliament, house rules, legislations, among others and attended by about 120 parliamentarians and MP support staff," Murad said.

MP Raby Angkal, BTA secretary-general, said the presenters included Dr. Muhammad Sayuti Hassan, a senior parliamentary lecturer from Sultan Idris Education University Malaysia, Muhammad Sujuri Abdullah, secretary of the senate Parliament of Malaysia, and Augustine Leonard Jen, Malaysian parliament research specialist.

Ebrahim lauded the Malaysian government for sending its experts in legislation and parliamentary procedures.

Army reservist’s motivation to serve

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23, 2020): Army reservist’s motivation to serve (By Christine Cudis)

INSPIRING OTHERS. Active Army Reservist Sgt. Carlito Baurile Jr. works as a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) instructor in his spare time to several university students in Cavite and nearby provinces. In the photo, he assists an ROTC cadet to do descending rappel as part of their disaster preparedness exercise. (Contributed photo by Jun Baurile)

From maintaining the safety of his municipality as chief of security to teaching university students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), Sgt. Carlito Baurile Jr. still finds time to help his community as an Army reservist.

Baurile works for Alfonso, Cavite Mayor Randy Salamat and he leads about 22 security officers in his team.

On weekends, he imparts to the students at several universities in Cavite and nearby provinces his military training and other useful skills they might need in the event of emergencies and calamities.

Baurile, 53, shared in an interview with the Philippine News Agency that he has always wanted to enter the military as a child, being raised by his soldier-father whose passion to serve the country he witnessed growing up.

“I have had several attempts to enter the military but there was always something that comes up – I did not pass the entrance exam when I first took it and when I had another chance, I was already with a family and my wife barred me from entering because we already have a child then,” he explained.

Not having the chance to become a soldier like his father was, Baurile settled to being a reservist in the Army.

“Pareho lang naman. Saka ang gusto ko talaga ay yung tumutulong, na pwede kang asahan ng ibang tao kapag may nangyari (It’s the same anyway. And I was really after helping those in need and they can count on you when something happens),” he added.

He said being in the reserve force in the Philippines gave him a “rewarding feeling” and he always sought ways to improve his skills and rank as well.

While serving, he had an opportunity to become a VIP Protection Agent.

The 402nd Community Defense Center offered him three-month training under a foreign instructor who was formerly the security personnel of a United States senator in 1995.

After he was certified and had his first VIP client, more people wanted his service due to referrals from previous employers.

“It became my bread and butter. It fed my family and it sent my children to school. It’s just amazing that my dream job, which is to protect people, has also become a good source of income. It was something that I wanted to do and in return, it has also given me something that I needed,” he added.

Baurile has been able to keep this job going and volunteer whenever the Army calls for back-up during relief or rescue operations. He even started a small group of responders in his Barangay in Luksuhing-Ibaba, a sitio situated far from the town’s poblacion where the district hospital was.

“We have educated the men in our area who are willing to learn some basic first aid skills, management, and organization in times of disasters,” he said adding that he and his men were among the first to respond to victims when Taal Volcano in nearby Batangas province erupted.

In another interview with Reservist and Retiree Affairs deputy chief of staff, Rear Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez, he said the primary goal of producing reservists is to equip civilians or the people on the ground the skills of the military.

“When disaster strikes, they know what to do and they can help other victims on the spot while help is on the way to them,” he added.ROTC students of the University of Cavite learn various emergency response training from their instructor, Jun Baurile. (Contributed photo by Jun Baurile)

Military training for reservists

As part of their military training, the Army reservists engage in mobilization exercises (MOBEX) at least three times a year to ensure that they function well in times of need.

Maj. Eric Dema-ala, Reserve Force Utilization Branch chief, said that at least 420 personnel from the 303 Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion (RRIBn) went through several exercises for the weekends of October in 2019.

The RRIBn Battle Staff conducted the Military Decision-Making Process through Staff Exercise and Command Post Exercise.

The participants were taught on Infantry Operations, Mechanized Infantry Operations, Field Artillery Operations, Signal Operations, Combat Casualty Care, as well as Medical Evacuation and Casualty Evacuation.

The staff also taught them Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations that include crowd control, Individual Development Plan management, and Urban Search and Rescue in collapsed structures.

In an interview with Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, executive officer to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs, he said MOBEX has paved the way for reservists to experience realistic missions where they work as teams to accomplish various tasks leading towards attaining the given mission.

“They were handed scenarios that provide them with a laboratory for continuous learning and adaptation in a complex environment. As a result, the reservists will learn to become better in everything that they do in their professional and personal lives,” he added.

In times of emergencies and calamities, the reservists are well-prepared and capable to act as first responders and/or force multipliers in the scene.

During the MOBEX, the reservists also develop their positive mental attitude towards work.

Through the challenges presented in the exercise, the reservists learn to innovate and become creative in their work. Most importantly, they will appreciate the value of professional development as citizen-soldiers who will be tasked to defend the country during external aggression.

The next MOBEX is scheduled for the second quarter this year at the 12 RCDG, Dema-ala said. (PNA)

List of Muslim students for 'Salaam Center': NCRPO

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2020): List of Muslim students for 'Salaam Center': NCRPO (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

NCRPO chief, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas. (File photo)

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on Friday clarified that an updated list of Muslim students in the region is for a legitimate purpose.

NCRPO chief, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, made the remark after a photo of a memorandum on the measure went viral on social media.

He said the data from this will be used for the Salaam Police Center which conducts programs geared toward strengthening the partnership between the police and Muslim communities. 

"(The Salaam Police Center was established to) oversee the diverse cultural differences and concerns, especially in the aspect of safety and security,” Sinas said in a statement.

In a memorandum dated January 31, the Manila Police District ordered its commanders to provide an updated list of Muslim students in their area of responsibility.
He said among its function was to do close monitoring, networking and liaising activities with Muslim communities and other communities in addressing terrorism and lawless violence in their respective areas.

“PNP conducts short ugnayan (dialogues), training, seminars and continuing education for our Muslim brothers that aims to establish a good rapport with the community. We firmly believe that one’s religion should never hinder us in pursuit of lasting peace and harmony thus, PNP through the DPCR (Directorate for Police Community Relations) includes Salaam Police Center as one of its top priorities,”
said Sinas.

He noted that the NCRPO is one with Filipino Muslims in praying that peace and order, public safety, equality and progress of the nation will be achieved despite diverse beliefs.

Palace to heed SC ruling on VFA issue

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22, 2020): Palace to heed SC ruling on VFA issue
(By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. (File photo)

Malacañang on Friday said it would heed the Supreme Court (SC) in case it rules that President Rodrigo Duterte’s abrogation of the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) needs prior consent from the Senate.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace respects the Senate’s plan to question before the High Court the legality of Duterte’s termination of VFA sans the concurrence of the chamber.

“Eh ‘di (i)-elevate nila. Wala namang problema doon (Elevate the issue, if they want. There’s no problem with that),” Panelo told Palace reporters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on February 11 sent to the US the formal notice of the Philippines’ revocation of the VFA.

The VFA, signed in February 1998, stipulates conditions for the conduct of visit of US forces to the Philippines.

The agreement, which was deemed by Duterte as disadvantageous to the Philippines, will be terminated 180 days after Washington received the formal termination notice.

Panelo, however, acknowledged that while Duterte has no plan to overturn his decision, SC has the final say on VFA’s fate.

He said the executive branch will follow the SC in the event that it sides with senators that there is a need for Senate nod on the withdrawal of the military pact.

“Eh di susundin natin. Basta kung ano ang batas yun ang susundin natin. Yung ang sabi ni Presidente (We will follow SC. Whatever the law says, we will comply. That’s what the President said),” Panelo said.

Some senators, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, are expected to file a petition before SC, questioning Duterte’s move to scrap the VFA.

Last week, Sotto said the Senate respects Duterte’s power to uphold an independent foreign policy but wants SC to rule whether the chamber’s blessing is needed for the termination of the military accord.

Drilon, meanwhile, warned that the executive’s insistence that Duterte has the sole authority to terminate VFA would lead to “serious consequences.”

US President Donald Trump earlier said it was fine that Duterte ended the military deal, as Washington DC would be able to “save a lot of money.”

Panelo earlier said Duterte scrapped the VFA to pursue his plan for the Philippines to stand on its own when it comes to boosting its military’s defense capabilities.

Navy patrol vessels to get weapons upgrade

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22, 2020): Navy patrol vessels to get weapons upgrade (By Priam Nepomuceno

A Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessel of the Philippine Navy. (File photo)

Plans to install heavier weapons on the three Gregorio del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels of the Philippine Navy (PN) are in place, its chief said Friday.

"That will come later. Right now the (ongoing) del Pilar-class upgrade will involve the installation of (a) sonar (system), installation of (a) combat management system, and the installation of (an) air-search radar,"
Navy flag-officer-in-command, Rear Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, said in an interview.

The del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels are armed with a 76-mm. Oto Melara automatic cannon, 25-mm. and 20-mm. light cannons, and .50-caliber machineguns.

Bacordo added that a sonar system would be useless if it is not augmented with a weapon system capable of prosecuting hostile submarine contacts.

"If you put on a sonar (system), what will (you use to prosecute) a submarine (contact)," he added.

Bacordo was referring to the del Pilar-class upgrade program bagged by South Korean defense manufacturer Hanwha Systems Co., Ltd. and has a contract price of PHP1,304,200,000.

This seeks to beef up the three ships' electronic capabilities and make them more capable of patrolling and conducting inter-agency operations in the country's territorial waters.

Fewer attendees in this year's PMA alumni homecoming

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22, 2020): Fewer attendees in this year's PMA alumni homecoming (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

PMA spokesperson, Capt. Cheryl Tindog. (PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

Fewer attendees participated in this year's alumni homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Fort del Pilar here on Saturday.

"The turnout of the alumni entering the PMA is not so high, which is kind of new, this is an indicator that it is low. The closing of alumni homecoming to the public is a precautionary measure, we are trying to protect the health of the public," PMA spokesperson Capt. Cheryl Tindog said in Filipino during a chance interview with reporters.

The PMA was earlier closed to outsiders amid the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Meanwhile, the entry of parents who would want to visit the cadets will be allowed on a case-to-case basis

Health practitioners in the camp would assess the temperature and if the visitor exhibits symptoms of Covid-19.

So far, no cadet has manifested symptoms of the disease, Tindog said.

"Kapag nag-exhibit na may hindi magandang nararamdaman sa katawan ay di na pinapapasok [If a cadet exhibits any symptoms, he or she is not allowed to report to classes]," she said.

The PMA has a station hospital that could respond to any Covid-19 case, she added.

This year's PMA alumni homecoming originally set from February 14 to 16 was moved to February 22. The academy also closed the activities for the alumni homecoming to the public.

This year, Senator Panfilo Lacson and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Gregorio Honasan both received Cavalier Award.

Tindog said Honasan and Lacson, both from the PMA Matatag Class of 1971, were hailed for their services in public administration.

Philippine National Police chief, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa also attended the event.

Hosts for this year’s homecoming are the classes of 1960, 1970, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015.

Interventions in place to curb violence among cadets: PMA

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22, 2020): Interventions in place to curb violence among cadets: PMA  (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

Philippine Military Academy cadets. (File photo)

BAGUIO CITY — Measures are in place to prevent hazing and other forms of maltreatment of cadets, an official of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) said Saturday.

"We see to it that the PMA will be extending necessary assistance and required interventions. We are not only looking at the symptoms but also at the root cause," PMA spokesperson Capt. Cheryl Tindog told reporters.

She said the academy wants to boost the honor system among the cadets and officials to prevent malpractices inside the camp.

She also acknowledged the importance of character development among cadets for the academy to be free from violence.

The PMA has also hired additional guidance counselors and psychologists who will look after the mental well-being of the cadets.

Asked on developments on the probe of hazing cases, she noted that they are "finishing the investigation and now waiting for the result".

The accused cadets and PMA officials are now at the holding center of the General Headquarters of the PMA in Camp Aguinaldo where they are undergoing court-martial proceedings.

In September last year, Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio was maltreated by his fellow cadets, which eventually resulted in his death.

Dormitorio's family filed murder, hazing and torture charges against several PMA cadets and tactical officers over the incident.

Lanao Del Sur youth urged to end culture of violence

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23, 2020): Lanao Del Sur youth urged to end culture of violence

YOUTH ROLE. A participant interacts during the Provincial Youth Leadership Summit held in Butig, Lanao del Sur on Saturday (Feb. 22, 2020). The youth leaders were urged to help the government put an end to the culture of fear and violence in their communities. (OPAPP photo)

BUTIG, Lanao del Sur – Youth leaders from seven municipalities across Lanao del Sur were urged to help the government put an end to the culture of fear and violence in their communities during the Provincial Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) held here Saturday.

With the theme “Developing thru Genuine Friendship and Service to Humanity,” the summit aimed to harness the potential of the 123 youth delegates and transform them into agents of peace and development.

The event included lectures and workshops on leadership development, peacebuilding and advocacy, environmental awareness, causes and effects of terrorism, and ways to prevent criminality and drug addiction.

Building an army of peacebuilders
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Director Pamela Ann Padilla-Salvan encouraged the youth leaders to play a more active role in helping prevent and counter the spread of radical ideologies and beliefs in their communities.

“One of the most challenging issues that we face today is the armed conflict and terrorism. Because of these, our communities have become prisoners by the culture of violence,” Salvan said in the vernacular during the summit.

“It is time to end this problem. Let us, once and for all, put an end to these twisted and radical ideologies,” she added.

Salvan suggested ways to help the youth carry out this crucial task. First, is for them to be responsible members of society and always seek the truth. Second, is for the youth to use their voices to spread the message of peace and solidarity.”

Further, she encouraged the delegates to learn from the experiences of their local leaders who understand the sentiments of their people. And lastly, for the youth “to be active partners of the government in implementing peace and development initiatives in their communities.”

For his part, Butig Mayor Dimnatang “Jimmy” Pansar expressed the local government’s continued support to the youth as they make their journey as peacebuilders.

“It’s an honor to welcome you in the municipality of Butig. Rest assured, you have our 100 percent support for this endeavor for the youth leadership program,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Edgar Allan Villanueva, commanding officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion, said he is optimistic the summit will help increase the youth’s capability to respond to the issues confronting them.

“This YLS will be a big help to you all because you will be exposed to situations that can help improve your awareness on the government’s program for the youth,” he said.

In a statement issued by Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. for the summit delegates, he said OPAPP is pleased to support community-driven peacebuilding initiatives such as the youth summit.

Galvez noted the recent activity complements his agency’s efforts, which are focused on implementing measures that aim to prevent and counter violent extremism (PCVE) in the country.

“These terrorist groups take advantage of the most vulnerable groups of our society, especially the women, youth and marginalized sectors,” Galvez said.

“PCVE should not only be a concern of the government alone but of all stakeholders in the community. Let us remember that the safety and security of our children lies in our hands,” he emphasized.

The Provincial Youth Leadership Summit was spearheaded by the Joint Task Group “HARIBON,” with supports from the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, 49th Infantry Battalion, 103rd Brigade, local government units and OPAPP.

Support to Marawi’s recovery
Over the past three years, OPAPP has been implementing its Social Healing and Peacebuilding (SHAPE) Program under the peace and order sub-committee of Task Force Bangon Marawi.

The SHAPE Program is part of the agency’s early recovery and rehabilitation efforts in response to the humanitarian crisis which broke out during and after the five-month siege.

The program is designed to enhance social cohesion, promote peacebuilding, and contribute to enhancing peace and security conditions in Marawi using a Conflict Sensitive and Peace Promoting Approach (CSPP).

Aside from the SHAPE Program, OPAPP is also carrying out other interventions in Marawi such as the Build Peace Project, Welfare Assistance to Vulnerable Entities (WAVE) project, and College Educational Assistance Project (CEAP).

These programs are being implemented through partnerships with the Marawi City government and its 72 barangay local government units, World Food Program, and the United Nations Development Program.

During last year’s peace month celebrations, OPAPP conducted interfaith dialogues, peace conversations, and peace bazaars, which seek to promote the principles of peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding among the people of Marawi.