Friday, May 15, 2020

Newly recruited minor flees NPA in Agusan Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2020): Newly recruited minor flees NPA in Agusan Norte (By Alexander Lopez)

SAFE ESCAPE. A minor identified as Alias “Yunik”, 17, managed to escape from the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and return to his parents last May 10, 2020. He was turned over to the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion and the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) for proper interventions. (Photo courtesy of CMO, 29th IB)

A newly recruited minor managed to flee the communist New People’s Army (NPA) after a week of staying with the rebels in the Agusan del Norte town of Jabonga, an official of the Army's 29th Infantry Battalion said Friday.

Capt. Miguel O. Borromeo, 29IB civil-military operations officer, told the Philippine News Agency on Friday (May 15) that
“Yunik”--not his real name--managed to return to his parents in Jabonga on May 9.

“The parents informed us of the return of their son from the hands of the NPA. We immediately fetched the minor to provide him the necessary assistance and relief,” Borromeo said, adding the teen also received help from the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office.

“We first allowed the minor to recover from trauma. After a week with the Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs), the boy experienced fear, hunger, and too much exhaustion,” Borromeo said.

He said “Yunik” was assigned as an armed member of the Sangay Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) 16A of the Guerilla Front Committee (GFC) 16 of the NPA's North Eastern Mindanao Regional Command (NEMRC).

“He told us that after a week with the CNTs, he could no longer bear the difficulties, the hiking in the mountains, hunger, and the lack of sleep,” Borromeo said.

He added that the minor also witnessed how the NPA combatants intimidated and took away food from the residents in remote villages, most of whom depended only on government-provided relief goods.

Borromeo said the 29IB will continue its drive against the NPA recruitment in the province, even as he sought help from parents whose children were lured by the rebels to join their ranks.

“On May 7, 2020, the parents of three recruited minors went to us and asked for help and voiced out their concerns through our radio program. These children were recruited by the NPA last May 1, 2020,” Borromeo said.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Isagani O. Criste, 29IB commander, said “Yunik” was lucky to escape from the hands of the NPA.

“I hope he has now been fully awakened from the deceptive lies of these devils,” Criste said, as he called on the remaining NPA rebels to surrender and return to the mainstream society.

AFP, partners turn over patient care center to Caloocan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2020): AFP, partners turn over patient care center to Caloocan (By Priam Nepomuceno)

PATIENT CARE CENTER. AFP Chief Engineer, Brig. Gen. William Ilagan (left) and Architect William Ti Jr. of WTA Architecture + Design Studio (right) lead the inspection and turnover of an emergency quarantine facility (EQF) to the Caloocan City government on Thursday (May 14, 2020). The 16-bed EQF is located at the Caloocan Sports Complex in Barangay Bagumbong. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in cooperation with WTA Architecture + Design Studio, has turned over an emergency quarantine facility (EQF) to the Caloocan City government on Thursday.

In a statement, AFP public affairs office chief, Navy Capt. Jonathan Zata said the 16-bed EQF is located at the Caloocan Sports Complex in Barangay Bagumbong.

He added that the facility will be managed by the Caloocan City Health Office and will augment the city’s critical care capability.

The EQF was funded by the Caloocan City government and the Samaritan’s Purse Philippines and constructed by WTA and the 51st Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army.

"The EQFs are designed to treat and isolate Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients with mild to no symptoms and should help decongest hospitals and increase the country’s capacity to contain the Covid-19 pandemic," Zata said.

The facilities are the brainchild of Architect William Ti Jr. and WTA, which has already built 63 sites nationwide with the help of donors and volunteers.

Their goal is to construct 75 sites and hopes to raise more funds to fulfill requests from different hospitals and local government units.

“The AFP thanks once again WTA, the Caloocan City government and health unit, and the Samaritan’s Purse Philippines for this achievement. We, of course, do not wish that it will be used, but it is always good to be prepared as we face this pandemic collectively and together eradicate the threat of Covid-19 in the country,” AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said.

AFP gets medical supplies donation from Metrobank

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2020): AFP gets medical supplies donation from Metrobank (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MEDICAL SUPPLIES DONATION. AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. (left), receives medical supplies donated by the Metrobank Foundation, represented by its executive director Nicanor Torres (right), in a turnover ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo on Friday (May 15, 2020). The donation, which consists of N-95 masks and surgical gloves, will be given to soldiers deployed to front-line duties amid the Covid-19 crisis. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday received 5,000 N-95 masks and 54,000 pairs of surgical gloves from the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI).

AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr. received the items during a turnover ceremony held at the General Headquarters Canopy Area in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Nicanor L. Torres, MBFI executive director, and assistant program manager Hero Hernandez handed over the donations.

The items will be given to soldiers combatting the coronavirus disease (Covid- 19) outbreak on the front lines.

"The AFP maintains a dynamic partnership with the MBFI who recognizes the efforts of the military in protecting the people against threats to their safety and freedom," AFP public affairs chief, Navy Capt. Jonathan Zata said in a statement.

Among the foundation’s flagship programs is the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos, which awards public servants, including soldiers, for exemplary service and promotion of positive change and influence in their communities.

The AFP thanked the MBFI for its contribution to the battle against Covid-19, saying its sincere desire to help the country’s imperiled front-liners continue to inspire soldiers on the ground to better perform their duties towards winning the fight against the dreaded virus.

AFP turns over P16.9-M cash donation to OCD

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2020): AFP turns over P16.9-M cash donation to OCD (By Priam Nepomuceno)

DONATION. AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. (left), and Office of Civil Defense Administrator Ricardo Jalad do an elbow bump during the turnover ceremony of the AFP's PHP16.9-million cash donation on Friday (May 15, 2020). The amount was raised through salary deduction based on the rank of soldiers, including cadets, candidate soldiers, and probationary officers. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday turned over its donation pledge worth PHP16.9 million to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD). 

AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., presided over the ceremony at the OCD Building inside Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He handed over the check worth PHP16,901,934.27 to Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, OCD administrator and executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The amount was raised by the AFP general headquarters; Philippine Army; Philippine Air Force; and Philippine Navy from a portion of their members’ salaries.

The percent deduction was equitable to the soldier’s rank, including cadets, candidate soldiers, and probationary officers.

As head of the AFP, Santos gave the biggest contribution of PHP10,484, while the lowest ranking soldier -- a private, an airman, or an apprentice seaman -- donated PHP100.

The amount reflected the AFP’s present fill-up of personnel, except civilian human resources.

The AFP’s pledge of donation was a humble gesture of solidarity with the government as it shares the nation’s burden in battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Aside from the donation, the AFP continues its nationwide operations in support of combatting the deadly disease.

As of May 13, a total of 23,464 combined active soldiers and reservists have been deployed to quarantine assistance stations nationwide.

On the other hand, the military’s mobility operations since April 20 have resulted in the accommodation of 70,607 passengers and distribution of more than two million food packs in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

Various air and naval assets have also helped carry out importation and transportation missions of medical equipment, protective gear, and supplies for patients and front-line workers.

Meanwhile, the military’s "Kapwa Ko Sagot Ko" program has already benefitted more than 55,000 persons through various lines of efforts in the National Capital Region.

These include humanitarian activities, such as the Mobile Kitchen, Tulong-Uwi, Pagkain sa Walang Bahay, Ayuda sa Mag-aaral, Sagip Kapwa, and Kabalikat Front-liners operations.

500 families in Taguig get relief packs from AFP, partners

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2020): 500 families in Taguig get relief packs from AFP, partners (By Priam Nepomuceno)

RELIEF DRIVE. AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. (middle) leads the distribution of relief packs for residents of Purok 1 and 2 in Barangay New Lower Bicutan, Taguig City on Thursday (May 14, 2020). The relief operation was made possible with the AFP Leadership Development Center and private sector partners. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. led the distribution of relief packs to around 500 families in Purok 1 and 2, Barangay New Lower Bicutan, Taguig City Thursday.

In a statement, AFP public affairs office chief Capt. Jonathan Zata said the initiative is under the Civil Relations Service AFP's "Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko" campaign.

The program also includes the distribution of hot meals to less fortunate individuals and families using the military's mobile kitchen.

The relief operation was made possible together with the AFP Leadership Development Center and private sector partners Jollibee Food Corporation and Yaman Foundation.

The relief distribution is in support of the government's efforts to assist families and individuals during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, following the call that, "No Filipino will be left behind in this battle against (the coronavirus disease 2019) Covid-19”.

The AFP thanked its private partners for their help which resulted in the success of the relief operation.

"The cooperation between the private and public sector shows that the 'Bayanihan' spirit lives on even in this trying time in the country," Zata said.

China’s Naval Aviation Force Shows up at Fiery Cross Reef

From BenarNews (May 13, 2020): China’s Naval Aviation Force Shows up at Fiery Cross Reef (Drake Long)

A Chinese Y-8 military transport or KJ-200 maritime patrol aircraft is visible on a runway in Fiery Cross Reef, May 3, 2020. Planet Labs Inc.

Chinese military aircraft have been sighted once again at its largest base in the disputed Spratly Islands, suggesting that People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force could be starting to use it as a base of operations, according to Jane’s.

The reported presence of the PLANAF at Fiery Cross Reef is the latest sign of China’s efforts to assert control over the South China Sea from the bases it finished building atop reefs and rocks in 2016. It comes amid a slew of Chinese actions at sea and administrative measures that appear intended to reinforce Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims.

Jane’s, which covers defense and intelligence issues including the capabilities of other countries’ militaries, says commercial satellite imagery taken Monday shows two kinds of surveillance aircraft alongside a military helicopter at Fiery Cross Reef, which is the seat of China’s new “Nansha” administrative district spanning the entire Spratly chain.

China has placed aircraft on its artificial islands and bases in the South China Sea before including the first H-6K bomber landed on Woody Island in 2018, which lies north in the Paracel Islands. However, those deployments came from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The aircraft spotted by Jane’s belongs to the PLANAF, the fast-growing aviation wing of China’s navy.

“Two sightings of surveillance aircraft within a month could indicate that the PLANAF is beginning to periodically base aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef,” Sean O’Connor, principal analyst at Jane’s, said in a press release. “Aircraft could be regularly rotated through the base from other PLANAF units in the South Sea Fleet.”

He said sufficient hangar space is available for at least three surveillance aircraft, although others could be parked in the open.

Jane’s said satellite imagery also showed a Type 071 amphibious transport ship docking at Fiery Cross Reef – another display of China’s growing naval and expeditionary might as it militarizes the South China Sea and intimidates other claimants to its waters.

These most recent deployments were preceded by the appearance of a Y-8 military transport or KJ-200 maritime patrol aircraft on Fiery Cross on May 3 – both types of aircraft are closely related and appear similar when viewed from above.

Previously, China promised not to use its string of artificial islands in the Spratlys as a base for military action. Speaking at the White House in September 2015 after a meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping pushed back on U.S. concern over this issue, telling a news conference: “there is no intention to militarize.”

Since then, China appears to have backtracked on that commitment. Fiery Cross boasts hangars for fighter jets, bombers, and military transport planes, and has a deep harbor for accommodating warships and ships of the China Coast Guard traveling far out into the South China Sea. China has also deployed surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles on Fiery Cross Reef, threatening any nearby navies and aircraft.

Fiery Cross has become a center of operations for a wide range of activities by China. It set up an ecological monitoring station there in January, a station for deep-sea research in March, and has permanently stationed ships of the China Rescue Service at Fiery Cross Reef’s new search and rescue bureau as of February.

Then on April 19, China announced two new administrative districts governing the South China Sea, with “Nansha District” holding jurisdiction over the Spratly Islands despite claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan to the area. The announcement was immediately condemned by Vietnam.

The United States has stepped up its own shows of military might in the South China Sea in recent weeks.

After China sent a survey ship and a formidable escort of ships into Malaysian waters where a Malaysian-contracted oil drillship was operating, U.S. and Australian warships sailed nearby to show their presence. The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords has deployed twice in two weeks, most recently on Tuesday after another littoral combat ship, the USS Montgomery, took a turn patrolling the area on May 7.

“There is no better signal of our support for a free and open Indo-Pacific than positive and persistent U.S. Naval engagement in this region.” Rear Adm. Fred Kacher said in a statement released yesterday by the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet.

But as of Tuesday, the drillship West Capella had withdrawn, according to a statement by its operator, confirmed by vessel-tracking software. The Malaysian government and Petronas, the state petroleum company that had contracted the ship, did not respond to request for comment Wednesday. The ship operator said the West Capella had “finished its planned work.”

The Chinese presence in the area of the West Capella for the past month was widely viewed as trying to pressure Malaysia out of exploring for resources in seas that China also claims. The Chinese survey ship remains in the area.

5 key NPA officers killed in encounters

From Tempo (May 15, 2020): 5 key NPA officers killed in encounters

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – Five alleged top officials of the New People’s Army (NPA) were among the 15 guerrillas killed in a series of fierce clashes between the rebel group and the Philippine Army at the border of Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental, the military reported Friday.

Brig. Gen. Maurito L Licudine, commanding general of the Army’s 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade, said the remains of the three killed NPA officials were turned over to the local government of Gingoog City for proper identification, burial and disposition.

The key slain personalities were identified by their former comrades as certain “Ka Gian”, secretary of Guerrilla Front (GF) 4-A; certain “Ka Lema”, finance officer of the CPP-NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC); one “Ka Sangka”, platoon commander of SYP “Sikop”; and “Ka Aloy”, political officer of GF 4-A.

The series of encounters in the hinterlands of Agusan del Norte and Kamanikan area in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental started at 4 a.m. on May 10, 2020.

The initial skirmishes resulted in the killing of 10 NPA fighters.

The rebels scampered in different directions, but the government troops pursued them deep in the forested areas, killing five more NPA rebels during the running gunbattle, Brig. Gen. Licudine said.

The soldiers seized at the encounter sites two M16 Armalite rifles, one AK47 rifle, a carbine rifle, one M14 rifle with assorted magazines and live ammunition, communication gadgets and devices, bomb-making materials including 10 anti-personal mines (APM), assorted medical items and personal belongings of the rebels, the brigade commander reported.

Troops of the 23rd Infantry (Masigasig) Battalion under the 402nd Brigade clashed again with about 80 fleeing rebels on Tuesday.

Licudine said the rebels belong to the Guerrilla Front 4-A (GF 4-A) of the CPP-NPA North Central Mindanao Committee (NCMRC).

He said his troops engaged the NPA after responding to reports from the villagers about the rebels’ presence and extortion activities in the area.

The remains of the killed rebels are now at Mata Funeral Homes and St. Peter San Guillermo Funeral Homes in Gingoog City. (Mike U. Crismundo)

Another rebel surrenders, seeks to live peaceful life

From Panay News (May 15, 2020): Another rebel surrenders, seeks to live peaceful life (By Ruby Silubrico)

Another member of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

The 35-year-old Botoy (not his real name) was a resident Tubungan town and member of the Sibat Platoon, Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay of the NPA.

“Botoy’s longing for a normal life with his family gave him the courage to abandon the armed struggle,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, commanding officer of the 61IB.

Tubungan’s Mayor Roquito Tacsagon helped in Botoy’s surrender.

Batara commended Botoy for his bravery and determination to have a peaceful life.

“We warmly welcome him. He is a victim of the rebels’’ propaganda and deception,” he said.

Batara promised to assist in Botoy’s enrollment to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) where the latter could avail himself of assistance from the local government unit of Tubungan through the integration program dubbed “Project ROKIT”.

The 61IB appealed to other rebels to follow Botoy’s example.

“With the support of local government units we will continue to encourage the remaining rebels to lay down their arms and give peace a chance,” said Batara.

Early this May, a 20-year-old lad surrendered to the 61IB. He said he was an NPA member and was present in the rebel group’s April encounter with government troops in Miag-ao.
The young man was a resident of Miag-ao and was accompanied by his mother and barangay officials during the surrender.

“He joined the rebels in February this year. He was fetching water when armed men approached him and offered an education scholarship if he went with them,” said Batara.

The young man accepted the offer thinking he would be able to continue his studies.

“But he and other recruits were surprised to be handed out guns for tactical offensives against government troops,” said Batara.

The young man told the Army he participated in the NPA’s attack on government forces in Sitio Anoy, Barangay Cabalaunan, Miag-ao on April 18.

“He was assigned as a perimeter security. But when he had the chance, he escaped from the group, leaving behind his firearm. He went home straight,” said Batara.

Duterte's final gambit to end insurgency: task force vs communists

From Rappler (May 14, 2020): Duterte's final gambit to end insurgency: task force vs communists (By JC Gotinga)

If the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict sees the ABS-CBN shutdown as a counterinsurgency issue, that's because the task force is meant to sniff out 'rebel influence' from anywhere

As if the government shutting down the country’s largest media company wasn’t messy enough, its anti-insurgency task force jumped into the fray by turning it into an issue of communist propaganda.

When the government ordered ABS-CBN off the air on May 5, journalists and various groups immediately denounced it as an attack on press freedom. President Rodrigo Duterte had finally made good on his threat to block the network’s franchise renewal.

The following day, May 6, Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr, chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), posted on his and Solcom’s Facebook pages a defense of the government’s move against ABS-CBN.

“Stop harping on a non-issue unless you have been paid to do so,” the general said in the post addressed to Amnesty International Philippines head Butch Alano. Parlade blasted the watchdog for accusing the government of attacking press freedom.

“Yes to law and order! Otherwise you might just get the martial law that you deserve,” added Parlade, who is also a spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

On May 9, NTF-ELCAC posted on its Facebook page an erroneous defense of the ABS-CBN shutdown. It also posted a meme accusing Rappler CEO Maria Ressa of “spreading fake news” when she misspoke that ABS-CBN had 11 million employees. Ressa had by then already owned up and apologized for the mistake.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) shared NTF-ELCAC’s posts, and then took them down after journalists and netizens cried foul.

Why is the NTF-ELCAC, an anti-communist body, so involved with the ABS-CBN issue?

To stay updated on news, advisories, and explainers, check out our special coverage page, “Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.”

On May 10, PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, also a spokesperson for NTF-ELCAC, provided an answer. “We are fully cognizant about how the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front] exploits the ABS-CBN closure and views it as an opportunity to sow chaos and division, through its broad alliances like Amnesty International that has meddled and weighed in with the narrative they force on us: suppression of press freedom,” Badoy said in a statement.

Parlade summed it up in a succeeding statement on May 12: “Reds free-ride on [the] ABS-CBN issue.”

What is NTF-ELCAC?

If Parlade and Badoy are seeing red in an issue that most people would not associate with the communist insurgency, such as press freedom and a TV network’s woes, it’s because they are part of a government body that’s meant to do just that.

President Duterte created NTF-ELCAC in December 2018 as his administration’s definitive vehicle that mobilizes the entire bureaucracy, its networks and resources to crush the 50-year-old communist rebellion – a campaign promise. His term ends in two years. (READ: The end of the affair? Duterte's romance with the Reds)

The Philippine president who's been most friendly to the communists is now hell-bent on dealing them the final blow through the following:
  • unrelenting battelfield operations
  • red-tagging of perceived and known communist supporters and sympathizers
  • massive propaganda war
  • legal offensives here and abroad
  • localized peace talks
  • development and livelihood projects
  • money for rebel returnees
When he came to power in June 2016, Duterte welcomed the top leaders of the CPP to Malacañang – a first in recent history.

As proof of their good ties that go way back to when he was mayor of Davao, Duterte appointed leftist leaders to his Cabinet, freed political prisoners, and reopened the negotiating table between the government and the CPP's political wing, the NDF.

But by November 2017, the air was fraught with accusations of ceasefire violations on both sides. The government found the rebels’ demands too steep. An angry Duterte called off peace talks, and hostilities resumed.

The military estimates the NPA to have 3,400 armed regulars today, down from a peak of 25,000 in the late 1980s. (READ: The end of the affair? Duterte's romance with the Reds)

5 DECADES OF WAR. Members of the New People's Army-Melito Glor Command in the lower Sierra Madre mountains in Quezon province celebrate the 50th year founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26, 2018. File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

With NTF-ELCAC, the Duterte government is taking the fight against communist insurgents to villages and communities with more intensity than in previous administrations. The task force tracks down rebel presence and influence in all areas of society, and shapes public opinion against them.

This expanded battlefield is the so-called “white area,” where rebels supposedly derive resources and recruits from unarmed communities and legal organizations.

The task force covers “the socio-politico-economic dimension of the counterinsurgency campaign," AFP deputy chief of staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, Brigadier General Edgardo de Leon told Rappler. "It is not a purely military concern – to effectively address the insurgents’ exploitation of human dissatisfaction to instigate violent and radical change, rather than peaceful transformation."

Explained AFP chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr: “They are the ones integrating the ‘whole of nation’ approach [to counterinsurgency]. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) takes care of the armed group, New People’s Army. NTF-ELCAC integrates all efforts to eliminate all other strategies of the CPP-NDF to totally eliminate the armed conflict."

“Counterinsurgency is not only armed confrontation. NTF-ELCAC addresses those who help the communist armed group,” Santos added.

Who comprise NTF-ELCAC?

Placed under the Office of the President, NTF-ELCAC is chaired by Duterte himself, with National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr as vice chair. It includes Cabinet secretaries, the chiefs of the military and police, and a few other members.

Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 70, signed on December 4, 2018, “institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach” to battling the communist insurgency, and establishes NTF-ELCAC with the following members:

  • Secretary, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)
  • Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Secretary, Department of National Defense (DND)
  • Secretary, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
  • Secretary, Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
  • Secretary, Department of Finance (DOF)
  • Secretary, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
  • Secretary, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
  • Secretary, Department of Education (DepEd)
  • Director General, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)
  • Director General, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)
  • Director General, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)
  • Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
  • Presidential Adviser on Indigenous Peoples’ Concerns
  • Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
  • Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
  • Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
  • Secretary, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO)
  • Two representatives from the private sector
The Cabinet secretaries may designate an undersecretary or assistant secretary from their agency to represent them in the task force.

Also comprising the task force are:

  • NCIP Chairman Allen Capuyan, NTF-ELCAC Executive Director
  • PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson
  • AFP Solcom chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr, NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson
Rappler asked Parlade and another official who the two private sector representatives to the task force are. They could not name them as of writing.

SECOND IN COMMAND. National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr effectively leads the task force that is headed by the President. File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Arroyo’s military men

Esperon, Capuyan, and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año are all former Army officers who played key roles under the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who ran an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign.

Esperon was military operations chief when Arroyo ran for president in 2004. He served as AFP chief of staff and then peace adviser under her, whose term was marked by a spate of killings and disappearances of political activists.

Capuyan was operations chief of the military’s intelligence service (or Isafp) under Arroyo. He allegedly ran wiretapping operations on Arroyo’s political foes.

Capuyan and Esperon were tagged in the “Hello, Garci” scandal, in which Arroyo and then-elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano allegedly conspired to rig the 2004 national elections. Having served in Mindanao, Capuyan became one of the early supporters of Duterte within the military.

Año was with the Army’s Intelligence Security Group in April 2007, when activist Jonas Burgos was abducted in a mall in Quezon City allegedly by Army intelligence agents, and was never heard from again.

Touted “the Rebel Hunter,” Año’s intelligence coups led to the arrests of the rebels' top guns, including CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon in March 2014, during the administration of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. He also, on the other hand, plotted the arrest in 2014 of the rebels' nemesis, retired general Jovito Palparan.

Año became AFP chief of staff under Duterte, and he saw through the 5-month siege of Marawi City by the Maute terror group in 2017. Upon his retirement from the military, Año was appointed interior secretary.

It's no wonder then that the NTF-ELCAC program echoes the Arroyo-era Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2, which aimed to “neutralize the White Area command and communist movement personalities in sectoral organizations providing support to the…armed struggle.”

Local governments on the front lines

With EO 70, the government acknowledges that the communist rebellion, or any insurgency, is rooted in social ills like poverty and injustice. This is why it pulls nearly the entire Cabinet into NTF-ELCAC.

In terms of strategy, the task force brings the focus of counterinsurgency down to the ground, among individual guerrilla fronts scattered all over the country.

Duterte’s security officials said CPP leaders Joma Sison and Luis Jalandoni have lost touch with their fighters on the ground, so it’s better to deal directly with NPA guerrilla units – through local governments.

The DILG outlines 12 “lines of effort” in its implementing guidelines for NTF-ELCAC:
  • Local Government Empowerment – Local governments must be able to “sustainably take the lead in peace-building efforts.”
  • International Engagement – The government will counter the messaging of the CPP-NPA-NDF among foreign organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union.
  • Legal Cooperation – The goal is to “equip units of the government…with effective and adequate legal skills and knowledge relevant to the communist-terrorist predicaments confronting the governments efforts” at peace.
  • Strategic Communication – This is the government’s counter-propaganda against the CPP-NPA-NDF, led by the PCOO.
  • Basic Services – The goal is to “provide responsive delivery of basic services” to make communities “conflict-resilient.”
  • Livelihood and Poverty Alleviation – The TESDA steps in among “marginalized communities” to teach them a trade.
  • Infrastructure and Resource Management – The DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will provide infrastructure and manage local resources “to contribute to the attainment of peace.”
  • Peace, Law Enforcement, and Development Support – This is the military aspect of the task force, led by the DND.
  • Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management – This means intelligence work on the CPP-NPA-NDF, led by the NICA.
  • Localized Peace Engagement – or “localized peace talks” led by the DILG and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
  • E-CLIP and Amnesty Program – At the core of efforts to disarm the insurgents, the DND and DILG distribute cash and livelihood assistance to rebels who surrender to the government.
  • Sectoral Unification, Capacity Building, Empowerment and Mobilization – Involving 11 government agencies, this basically means they will fulfill their mandates to achieve good governance, to cut the roots of rebellion.
Legal fronts and propaganda

The first 4 “lines of effort” – local government empowerment, international engagement, legal cooperation, strategic communication – all involve the white area.

An example of the lengths NTF-ELCAC was going to in order to cut the communist rebels’ alleged above-ground sources of support was its “Truth Caravan” to Europe in February 2019.

Parlade and a delegation from the PCOO went to Bosnia, Switzerland, and Belgium to urge the European Union and the Belgian government to cut funding for some 30 progressive groups whom they accused of being legal fronts for the CPP-NPA-NDF.

In the Philippines, security officials, including Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, pushed Congress to amend the Human Security Act to broaden the definition of “terrorism,” and to give state forces more leeway in surveilling, arresting, and detaining terror suspects.

The government considers the CPP-NPA-NDF a terrorist organization, and the amended law is designed to include them in its ambit.

Rights advocates denounced the updated measure, saying it effectively criminalizes dissent and opposition to the government.

With the broadened anti-terrorism law, progressive groups feared that, with a veneer of legality, they could be targeted by state forces who associate them with the communist insurgency.


The rights group Karapatan said 3,399 members of progressive groups have been arrested over allegedly trumped-up charges since the start of the Duterte administration in June 2016.

In 2019, with EO 70 already in effect and NTF-ELCAC on top of anti-communist operations, government forces began raiding offices of progressive groups with legitimate warrants from courts of law.

On October 31, joint police and military troops swooped down on offices of labor rights and activist groups in Bacolod City, and arrested 56 members accused of being members of the NPA.

A similar operation in Manila on the same day led to the arrest of 3 urban poor activists.

In both cases, operatives said they found firearms and explosives in the groups’ offices. They bore search warrants issued by the same Quezon City Regional Trial Court judge.

On November 4, 44 of those arrested in Bacolod City were formally charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Days later, in a briefing at the House of Representatives on November 7, the DND and the military accused the Gabriela Women’s Party, Oxfam Philippines, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and 15 other groups of being CPP-NPA-NDF front organizations.

Government's social media accounts have also been used to red-tag media companies and journalists.

Members of progressive groups condemned these and other forms of intimidation from state forces, calling them a “crackdown” and a violation of the constitutional freedoms of assembly and expression.

The DILG said this was nonsense: all the police and military’s actions were covered by court warrants.

Old guard arrests

Among the thousands of people arrested in recent years for alleged links to the NPA were two aging officers of the rebel army, “Ka Diego” and “Kumander Bilog.”

Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla was seeking treatment for heart disease at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City when he was arrested on November 26, 2019.

Said to be in his 60s, Padilla is the spokesperson of the NPA’s Southern Tagalog Melito Glor Command. He was accused of murder and kidnapping.

Rodolfo Salas, or “Kumander Bilog,” was arrested on February 18, 2020 in Angeles City, Pampanga. He was concurrently chairman of the CPP and commander of the NPA at the height of its strength in the 1980s.

Salas was first jailed in 1987 and then released in 1992. Now 73, he reportedly surrendered peacefully when he was arrested again, this time for his alleged involvement in a mass grave in Leyte.

Arrests like these push the government’s narrative that the CPP-NPA-NDF has lost its fire and relevance, its old guard either in exile or behind bars.

A precursor: Task Force Balik-Loob

If the government uses force to intimidate members of progressive groups with supposed links to the NPA, it has quite a different strategy with actual NPA members out fighting in the jungles.

When military troops are not attacking NPA lairs, the government entices its guerrillas to defect by offering them cash and a promise of a peaceful return to civilian life.

“Balik-loob” means “return to the fold,” and this is the name of another task force Duterte created before NTF-ELCAC. This old rebel surrenderees program is a throwback to even the Cory Aquino years. Duterte simply added a twist to it.

Task Force Balik-Loob was established through Duterte’s Administrative Order (AO) 10 on April 3, 2018, to “centralize” government efforts to “reintegrate” former rebels into society.

It runs the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which offers guerrillas incentives in exchange for their surrender:
  • P15,000 upon enrollment in the program
  • P50,000 worth of livelihood assistance when their social reintegration process is completed
  • Remuneration commensurate to the value of firearms they surrender
  • Housing assistance or a housing unit from the government
  • Security guarantee from the local government, PNP, and AFP for 3 years
  • Health and medical assistance
  • Legal assistance if necessary
  • An option to enroll in the government's conditional cash transfer program
Meanwhile, a military or police unit receives P21,000 for each former rebel they take under their wing, “to defray their subsistence or meals cost while in custody, and other incidental costs incurred” such as in securing clearances and government documents for them.

This program is led by the DND and the military, with the help of local governments.

Weapon of choice

When NTF-ELCAC was created, Task Force Balik-Loob came under its purview. The E-CLIP and the 2011 socio-economic program Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) have become the government’s weapon to starve the NPA of fighters, even as military and police offensives continue.

Security officials and the military top brass have hailed these “localized peace talks” by NTF-ELCAC as a counterinsurgency success.

They believe in it so much that Esperon and Lorenzana openly disagreed with Duterte when he attempted to revive peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF in December 2019. The two former military generals said NTF-ELCAC was working just fine, and talking to Sison would be a waste of time.

With EO 70 in force, the AFP said the communist rebels lost 10,918 fighters in 2019. They were either killed in armed encounters, apprehended, or had surrendered to the government.

In his assumption speech in January 2020, AFP chief Santos said nearly 1,200 guerrillas surrendered in 2019 in Eastern Mindanao, where he was the military commander before becoming the AFP chief.

On April 24, Duterte revealed in a taped speech that he scrapped Sison’s last-ditch proposal for peace talks from December after the military rejected the rebel leader’s demands.

‘Law and order’

On several occasions, Santos said he is confident the military can stamp out the 5-decade-old insurgency by the end of the Duterte administration in June 2022.

This, because he believes NTF-ELCAC got the formula right – offer tired, battle-scarred, poor guerrillas a reset button, and weed out the organizations that inject new blood into the armed struggle.

Yet Duterte keeps brandishing the NPA as a threat nearly as ominous as the coronavirus pandemic, judging by the amount of time he spends talking about it during his televised addresses.

In a taped speech aired on Tuesday, May 12, Duterte offered a P2-million reward to anyone who would capture or kill “top NPA commanders.”

More than once, he threatened to declare martial law if the NPA’s “lawlessness” persists through the pandemic.

This is the same threat – martial law – that Parlade hurled at Amnesty International and anyone who would accuse the government of attacking press freedom by shutting down ABS-CBN.

The shutdown, in his view, was “law and order” at work, and anyone who disagrees just gives the communists fodder for their dwindling fire. – with a report from Jodesz Gavilan/

No parents, guests at PMA graduation on May 22

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 15, 2020): No parents, guests at PMA graduation on May 22 (By: Kimberlie Quitasol)

The commencement exercises for the graduating Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Masidlawin” Class of 2020 have been set for May 22, but parents and guests will not be allowed to attend to spare cadets from being infected with the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), officials said on Thursday.

President Duterte has not indicated whether he will attend the exercises, a task all presidents undertake because the commander in chief must commission the new graduates into junior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The ceremony will be live-streamed on the PMA’s official Facebook page, said Navy Capt. Cheryl Tindog, the academy spokesperson.

Details about the top 10 cadets will be released at a virtual news conference on May 20.

The PMA had enacted health protocols as early as February and was locked down in March when Luzon was placed under an enhanced community quarantine.

SOLDIERS OF THE PEOPLE In this 2019 photo, graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City stand in the rain as they wait for their commencement rites to end. The PMA has decided to livestream the graduation ceremony this year while health and quarantine restrictions are in place. —EV ESPIRITU
Online instructions

Subsequent activities have been restricted to teachers and personnel inside Fort del Pilar while cadets continued with their academic and military training, Tindog said.

Due to the social distancing rule, some cadets took instructions online from their barracks. They also wore masks during training.

Tindog said that while many events that required a big gathering were canceled, graduation would proceed because the military “needs more warm bodies on the field.”

“Even during the pandemic, the New People’s Army and the Abu Sayyaf are still active,” she added.

But social distancing and the mandatory wearing of masks will be followed during the graduation rites. “There won’t be any shaking of hands, no ‘beso-beso’ (kissing on the cheeks),” Tindog said.

“We have sent invitations [to Mr. Duterte and other dignitaries], but we are still waiting for their response. We hope they could come, but we would understand if they would not be able to because they have a more urgent pandemic to respond to,” she said.

The only time the PMA had to cancel its graduation was during World War II. According to the PMA yearbook, Academy Scribe, Class of 1941 was unable to complete four years of training when the Japanese Imperial Army bombed Camp John Hay after attacking Pearl Harbor on Dec. 8, 1941.

“The members of Class of 1942 stand as the only class which was not able to experience the joy of graduation,” the Scribe said. PMA alumni referred to this group as “the class to remember.”

Members of Classes 1942 and 1943 were commissioned and their ranks accelerated to third lieutenants to face the invading Japanese.

According to the Scribe, “the rites were unimpressive and simple but full of meaning.”

PHL, US enhance counterterrorism ties despite probable termination of VFA

From the Business Mirror (May 13, 2020): PHL, US enhance counterterrorism ties despite probable termination of VFA (ByRene Acosta)

US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim

THE United States and the Philippines continue to enhance their counterterrorism partnership in other aspects despite an earlier initiative by the Duterte administration to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Early this week, both countries worked to enhance collaboration and coordination on terrorist investigation and prosecution through a virtual workshop hosted by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (DOJ-OPDAT) in the Philippines.

“No country can fight the battle against terrorism alone because terrorists recognize no borders, and they honor no laws,” US Ambassador Sung Kim said in opening the workshop.

“Terrorists view a global crisis as an opportunity. So public officials must be vigilant against this threat, even in the midst of a public health crisis. We are thrilled to be able to build on our strong counterterrorism cooperation. I am confident that the initiatives like this workshop will continue to strengthen our shared fight against terrorism,” he added.

The workshop was joined by 65 participants, including officials from the US Department of Justice, the Department of Justice in Manila and a Filipino judge.

In February this year, the Philippines notified the US of its scrapping of the VFA, a security agreement that has continuously trained Filipino soldiers on counterterrorism and had provided them with technical assistance in dealing with terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and other local organizations allied with the Islamic State.

During the workshop, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz of the US Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, who also delivered the opening remarks, said that the use of “battlefield evidence” is critical in criminal prosecutions and cooperation among governments.

“Police and prosecutors need to work collectively around the world. This is a worldwide partnership to identify terrorists that threaten citizens of all nations. I look forward to the work we continue to do together in fighting terrorism,” Swartz said.

Among the topics at the workshop were police-prosecutor cooperation, proper handling of explosives and other battlefield evidence, training police and military on chain of custody issues, and the use of digital evidence.

The workshop featured a panel discussion on counterterrorism investigations with an Assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Philippine experts.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said the activities of terrorists are making lives more complicated amid the novel coronavirus.

“Clearly, Covid or no Covid, terrorists have no agenda for peace. Their aim is destruction of lives and properties. It is but fitting that we face these enemies with the full force of our laws. It is imperative for us to collaborate with our citizens, law enforcement agencies and other important partners in combatting these terrorist groups and their activities,” he said.

CPP/NPA-Negros Island: Ang pagka-epokrito kag pasista nga kapintas ni Sinas kag sang lockdown ni Duterte — NPA-Negros

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (May 15, 2020): Ang pagka-epokrito kag pasista nga kapintas ni Sinas kag sang lockdown ni Duterte — NPA-Negros

MAY 15, 2020

Dapat lang sang malapad nga pagkundena ang nabuyagyag nga arogante nga pagbale-wala ni NCRPO chief Gen. Debold Sinas sa mga laye sang kwarantina nga siya mismo ang nagapanguna nga tagapagpatuman sa National Capital Region. Ang tuman ka matingkad nga laragway sini ang pagka-epokrito sang mga pwersa sang estado nga nagatapak sa kinamatarung sang mga komunidad sa ngalan kuno sa pag-likaw sa Covid-19 ang nagahatag sang dugang nga kabangdanan sa malapad nga pumuluyo agud manindugan, mag-isa kag pamatukan ang lockdown kag ang kabilugan nga militarista nga pamaagi sang rehimen Duterte sa panahon sang pandemya.

Importante nga mapahanumdum sa pumuluyo nga ang ipokrito nga si Sinas ang isa man sa mayor nga arkitekto sang Oplan Sauron sa Isla sang Negros nga brutal nga nag-utas sa kabuhi sang madamu nga mangunguma kag aktibista sadtong tuig 2019. Ang mga pasista nga berdugo kaangay ni Sinas ang nakatrentsera sa mga importante nga posisyon sa gobyerno nga nagbalay kag nagapatuman sang mga plano nga pang-emerhensiya nga wala sang iban nga padulungan kundi ang pagbutang kay Duterte bilang pasista nga diktador.

Ang mga laye nga ginabalay kag ginapatuman sang gobyerno ni Duterte angut sa pag-atubang sang sining pandemya makategoriya sa duha ka klase. Makita ini sa isa ka bahin nga ang ordinaryo nga pumuluyo pilit nga ginapasunod sa gusto sang ara sa poder, samtang ang nagapatuman sang laye simple lang nga wala nagasunod kag ginalapas ang ginhimo nila nga laye.

Madamu sang ginpangdakop, ginpangkastigo kag ginpriso bangud wala nagtakod sang face mask, wala naga-obserba sa social distancing, pagtipon-tipon, pag-inum, nagapanahor, nagapanghatag sang pagkaon sa mga imol pareho sang ginhimo sang pila ka militanteng organisasyon. Sa pihak nga bahin may isa ka heneral sang pulis nga masupog magpatuman sang laye, apang amo man ang hayagan kag wala-huya nga naglapas sining laye nga ila ginhimo. Nagaputok man ang butse ni Duterte sa mga nagapanahor apang simple lang nga gintugutan ang mga POGO operators nga magpadayon sang ila operasyon.

Sa baylo nga dakpon kag pasakaan sang kaso, ang PNP chief nga si Gen.Gamboa nagpangapin sa iya malain nga ginabuhat. Wala man sang bayulente nga reaksyon si Duterte kag wala man naghaboy sang iya paborito nga pamuyayaw nga “P I”. Nagpahayag ang pamunuan sang kapulisan nga imbestigahan, apang nakahibalo na ang pumuluyo nga magapadulong lang ini sa pag-whitewash para malibre ang ila heneral.

Si Sinas isa ka berdugo kag mersenaryo nga heneral, utok sa paglunsar sang Suaron 1 & 2 nga nagpatay sang masobra 20 ka tawo sa Syudad sang Guihulngan kag Canlaon, banwa sang Manjuyod, Mabinay, Siaton kag Santa Catalina. Madamu pa ang ginpangdakop kag napriso bangud sang mga pato-pato nga kaso bunga sang pagtanum sang ebedensya. Isa sang paborito nga heneral ni Duterte si Sinas bangud daw robot ini nga nagasunod sa iya mandu.

Ang pag-imposar sang lockdown, ECQ, GCQ, modified ECQ kag GCQ taktika lang sang rehimen Duterte agud padayon nga kontrolahon ang pumuluyo, ini nagtuga sang tuman nga halit nga sobra pa sa natuga nga halit sang Covid-19. Ang mayor nga tuyo sini amo ang pag-imposar sang diktadura nga gahum sa bilog nga pungsod gamit ang isyu sang Covid-19, isyu sa insurhensya agud suluhon ang gahum politika kag magpabilin sa poder tubtob buhi. Natural lang kay Duterte nga mangita sang loyal sa iya nga heneral agud matigayon ang iya handum bisan nga ginakangil-aran sang pumuluyo.

Sa pumuluyong Negrosanon, palig-unon ang aton paghili-usa. Pamatukan ang maitum nga tuyo sang rehimen Duterte nga mag-imposar sang diktadura nga gahum. Koliktibo nga awayon ang berdugo kag teraniko nga rehimen kag palayason sa poder.###

CPP/NPA-Negros Island: WATCH | NPA South-Central Negros’ serbisyo medikal indi militar

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (May 15, 2020): WATCH | NPA South-Central Negros’ serbisyo medikal indi militar

MAY 15, 2020

CPP/NDF-KM: Duterte is the virus who will kill the struggling masses — Kabataang Makabayan

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (May 15, 2020): Duterte is the virus who will kill the struggling masses — Kabataang Makabayan

MAY 15, 2020

A time line of Duterte’s failures in the face of the pandemic

Rodrigo Duterte is a fascist, war mongering tyrant who is using the COVID-19 pandemic to establish his dictatorial rule. His compounded stupidity, incompetency, and neglect threatens the entire nation and our collective future.

Last 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). But today, a humanitarian crisis, more than just a public health issue, haunts the lives of Filipinos every day; and no one is to blame but the Duterte administration’s negligence and downright apathy.

The pandemic came as a surprise and a challenge for governments and people around the globe. Unsurprisingly for Duterte, he responded only with the narrative that he knows best – feigned understanding of the situation and incompetent resolution-building, coupled with the brute force of the police and military. Yet again, he failed to enact effective preventive and precautionary actions and resorted to drastic countermeasures, at the risk of the lives and well-being of the Filipino people. Instead, he created the perfect recipe for a national crisis; and he used these 3 main ingredients:

1. Neglected weak healthcare system
The Duterte administration’s disconnect from the Filipino people and apathy towards the societal and economic problems plaguing it failed to even take into account the poor healthcare system in the country.

“I assure you, even without the vaccines, it will just die a natural death.” These were the words of Duterte during his February 3 media interview, one of the earliest among his media and public addresses regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. On the same day, the WHO released its Strategic Preparedness and Research Plan (SPRP) highlighting the importance of mass testing, accurate information, “communicating critical risks, and identifying, isolating and caring for patients early on.” All the things Duterte failed to do. Still, Duterte had the gall to face the press and the public, and with all his hubris and stubbornness, downplay the looming public health crisis.

Two weeks after the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case and while the rest of the world is trying to limit interaction with one another, Duterte on Valentine’s Day encouraged Filipinos to “travel with him around the Philippines” as a campaign to promote domestic tourism. Also, three months after and despite growing public clamor, the government has only just started launching a mass testing program for the country, still nowhere near close to being comprehensive. Moreover, almost 8,000 confirmed cases and more than 500 deaths later, the Department of Health (DOH) is yet to release its “finalized” guidelines on the proper use of personal protective equipment for health workers (PPEs) – a clear disservice to the health workers risking their lives everyday and the Filipino people who are desperately trying to keep themselves and their families safe.

The lack of PPEs also factor into the quickly growing number of health workers infected with the novel coronavirus, intensifying the already bad conditions of healthcare in the country. The most recent count showed more than 1,000 healthcare professionals infected with the virus. 26 have died.

All the irresponsibility shown by Duterte’s administration merely magnify the problems we already have. When the outbreak first started, the country had to send all its samples to Australia for COVID-19 screening. It was only a week later, 29 January, that the DOH announced that it can now conduct testing inside the country. But at that time, it was capable of only 300 tests a day and since then, it has improved to only 5,000 to 8,000 tests a day – a far cry from other countries’ 20,000 tests per day.

Yet, given the chance to allot a sizable budget for the procurement of medical equipment including PPEs and testing kits, the Duterte administration decided to prioritize their own pockets, press releases, and stalling techniques.

But of course, Duterte’s crisis recipe will not be complete without his second ingredient.

2. Economic unrest

Farmers are throwing away their crops because of low demand and unavailability of transport. The working class is experiencing what might be the largest mass unemployment in recent years. Students are struggling with extreme levels of stress due to graduation rites and promotions put on hold. The Filipino masses are hungry and anxious. And Duterte’s government is doing next to nothing to alleviate the situation.

It started as a Php27.1-billion package to fight the novel coronavirus. Released a day before the official start of the enhance community quarantine (ECQ) on Luzon, it was not without controversy. Included in the package was a Php14-billion allocation for tourism which Duterte’s economic team defended to be the “most affected” sector.

While health workers were being offered a meager Php500 daily allowance (below minimum wage in the National Capital Region) for volunteering to work in COVID-19 designated hospitals, a questionable Php14-billion tourism allocation was reported by the Department of Finance (DOF) to help in the recovery of the estimated losses to be incurred by the tourism sector during the COVID-19 fight. It was also disclosed that it was to be sourced from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) – funds that have been allocated even before the COVID-19 crisis started in the country. This raises the question: what merited the said allocation in a budget specifically for the COVID-19 fight?

Today however, the Php27.1-billion fund in question seems to be nothing next to the expected Php1.4-trillion budget. The new fund reportedly aims to support the government’s “4-pillar socioeconomic strategy.” Namely: (1) emergency support for vulnerable groups and individuals; (2) expanded medical resources; (3) fiscal and monetary actions; and (4) economic recovery plan. But, this new budget outline remains to be nothing but an exaggeration of Duterte’s earlier deceitful funding package.

Scrutinizing the so-called “4 pillars” of Duterte’s fight against COVID-19, we see that only the first two pillars are aimed at directly aiding in the pandemic’s economic fallout and public health problems. The third pillar merely alludes to loan programs, prioritizing only business firms and companies, while the fourth pillar focuses on the aftermath of the pandemic. Between the first two of the “4 pillars”, neither have so far been effective.

Even though Duterte’s “social amelioration program” has started rolling out in the past few weeks, less than 1/3 of the government’s targeted 18 million families have received aid and relief despite the continuing and extending ECQ in some areas. Other families received aid only from private institutions and individuals while complaints about the inefficiency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Social Security Service (SSS) keep coming in floods. Secondly, in spite of the budget allocation for medical resources, there still has been an astounding lack of PPEs and it still has not helped the cause of mass testing.

Everyday, more and more Filipinos realize the extent of Duterte’s indifference toward the plight of the masses and are forced by hunger and desperation to break quarantine rules in spite of their own worries about contracting the virus. Meanwhile, Duterte goes on using his weekly media addresses to slander his political enemies, chastise his critics, and make empty promises and futile attempts to pacify the restless public.

Still, a growling stomach is louder than a foolish president’s echoing words. And when Duterte’s twisting tales start to fail, he uses the ingredient he is most familiar with.

3. Opportunistic fascist rule

Ruthless violence and abuse of military power has always been Duterte’s signature dish ever since. As the people had been made privy of, Duterte let the Philippines’ drug issue, a public health problem, be handled by trigger-happy men in uniform who would jump at the chance to get a shiny gold medal for shooting another alleged drug pusher. Children, minors, elderly. Their bullets chose no one, spared no one.

Unfortunately for Duterte, his medieval machismo will not save the country from the public health problem it faces. It did not work in the first three years, it will not work today.

It was on 12 March when Duterte first announced the imposition of the lockdown on Metro Manila due to the declaration of Code Red-Sublevel 2. The decision caused panic and confusion in the entire metro – with people scrambling to get home to their provinces and residents flocking to supermarkets to stock up on supplies, all in nervous anticipation of the lockdown.

The snafu continued until 16 March when news headlines all over the country told of the utter failure the Metro Manila lockdown turned out to be. Military checkpoints, instead of being a way to “ensure peace and order” and practice physical distancing, saw hundreds of individuals and motorists crowded together. People who were determined to reach their homes outside Metro Manila walked for days on end with little to no food, sleeping only on the sidewalks when their feet could no longer carry them. People’s health are worsening and risk exposure is at an all-time high.

Thus, Duterte decided to act. But instead of issuing clear guidelines for the Metro Manila lockdown, creating preventive recommendations on a local and national level, and focusing on public health as he should have in the first place, he announced the start of the ECQ on Luzon, putting the military and police at the forefront of its execution. According to him, it was due to the “worldwide trends” that demand “stricter measures” for containment of the virus. However, as early as 10 February at a meeting with local chief executives, he already stated intent to use the military and police to maintain people’s obedience in the case of a pandemic.

“This is not martial law. Don’t be scared,” Duterte said. Yet just 10 days afterward, a police official in Manila was caught on video threatening to shoot those who would be caught breaking quarantine and curfew protocols. And things only got worse after Duterte’s 01 April speech when he told military and police to shoot to kill uncooperative quarantine violators. Since then, the media has erupted with issues of policemen disrespecting and completely disregarding the rights of civilians.

There have been two cases of policemen barging into private residences in two cities in Metro Manila, with firearms and without warrants. More recently, barangay task force members were also seen beating a fish vendor for breaking quarantine rules. A mentally challenged retired military was shot dead at point-blank range by policemen who then reasoned that they thought he was reaching for a gun. The same policemen then ignored procedure when they took the victim’s bag without the presence of Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) then later claimed that a .38 caliber gun was recovered from his personal effects.

In a blatant attack to free press, Duterte’s administration ordered the cease-and-desist of the operations of broadcasting corporation ABS-CBN. Duterte couldn’t have doen this without his attack dog Solicitor General Jose Calida, also the culprit behind the ouster of former Chief Justice Lourdes Serreno; Duterte’s minions in Congress, who are culpable for their neglect of duty; and his massive troll army attacking ordinary citizens and even personalities speaking against the company’s shutdown.

As if the state got no shame, NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas was exposed throwing a party in the middle of the lockdown, drawing ire from various government and other personalities. Impunity is evident under Duterte’s regime. His cronies and allies walk away scot-free, while most Filipinos suffer from his grave actions. Two citizens are already arrested after airing out that they want the murderous president dead, a teacher was arrested by barangay officials, while the shameless Koko Pimentel threatens those who had spoken against him with libel cases.

Yet Duterte has remained silent on these cases of abuse of power and neglect of duty. Instead, he is using lies against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) to cover up his failures and real objectives. The people is growing tired of Duterte using the revolutioanry movement as a scapegoat for his failures when in fact the masses know that since the beginning of the pandemic, the Communist Party had directed its revolutionary organizations to aid the broad masses in responding to the national crisis.

On 27 April, Duterte made a show of thanking his military men for allegedly helping local government units and agencies in delivering food and aid to the people in far-flung areas. He then went on raving, like the madman he is, about how the CPP-NPA has been attacking the same soldiers who were “only helping.” Predictably, Duterte threatened to impose martial law if the NPA’s “lawlessness” were to continue.

What Duterte intended to conceal was the fact that in the two instances he mentioned, it was the operations of his soldiers that caused the clash between the groups and that it absolutely did not involve delivery of relief goods and aid.

In the first instance on 19 April in Negros Occidental where three soldiers were killed and four were wounded, Duterte failed to mention that the involved 94th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initiated the attack against the NPA 10 kilometers from a barangay where residents were scheduled to collect aid from the DSWD.

Two days later in Aurora, two more soldiers were killed and three were hurt in what they claimed was a “ruthless and treacherous” ambush by the NPA, but what was in reality an active defense reaction to the nonstop counterinsurgency operations being conducted by the 91st IB in the area in the area since the start of March, not letting up even when Duterte declared a ceasefire.

The CPP had since released a statement to refute Duterte’s words and even question the AFP’s excessive use of their helicopters during this pandemic – one hour of a Huey helicopter flight costs at least Php110,000. Aerial bombings have been incessant in areas like Sarangani province.

While NPA units have been abiding by the ceasefire declaration by the CPP, set to last until 30 April, they have also been focusing on launching medical service campaigns in their areas to help the masses cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. To support the concrete actions of the guerilla revolutionary fighters, the CPP has also been demanding accountability from Duterte and his administration and calling for more focused and comprehensive measures.

This COVID-19 pandemic would only go on to reveal how inutile and apathetic Duterte is. Even in the Filipino people’s darkest and most difficult days, Duterte cradles only his military and police. The hungry working class is as good as left for dead. The government is prioritizing debt and tourism over monetary aid and relief goods which could be the difference between life and death for the urban poor. He declares a pretentious ceasefire while continuously endorsing and promoting violent counterinsurgency operations to harm not only the NPA but also the masses in the countryside.

The country is writhing in pain due to a public health crisis that cannot be solved by fascist policies. Still, Duterte is determined to stand by his martial law-like quarantine. He hurls the word “lawlessness” in the wind as if it will not blow right back to him and his uniformed men. He is using the problem as an opportunity to solidify his dictatorship and he is not intent on truly solving the crisis as long as it serves him well.

The revolutionary forces are yet again reminded of the truth that crises, no matter the form, shows only the inefficiency and injustice of the reigning global system. This time of the COVID-19 pandemic calls on all of us to raise our consciousness and take our place in the revolution to strive towards a country that can provide effective healthcare to all its citizens and support all their economic needs. We are demanded by this shared time of struggle to fight for a society that will give genuine power to the people.

The national democratic revolution remains to be the only solution to the problems faced by the Filipino masses today- and the only thing Duterte does, in all his arrogant and vicious demeanor, is to prove exactly that.

Kalinaw News: Quezon’s TF ELCAC welcomes two NPA rebels

Posted to Kalinaw News (May 15, 2020): Quezon’s TF ELCAC welcomes two NPA rebels (By 2nd Infantry Division)

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – Two NPAs surrendered to Quezon Province’s Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or TF ELCAC after local peace engagements at San Narciso town on Thursday.

The peace negotiating team was composed of combined elements from the Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion, Quezon Provincial Police Office and the Local Government Unit.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Cabahug, Commanding Officer of 85IB, the negotiations which took place in Brgy White Cliff were anchored on the fact that “the former rebels grew tired of running away from our troops’ unrelenting focused military operations while suffering from severe hunger since the people are no longer willing to feed them due to scarcity brought about by the prevailing pandemic.”

He identified the surrenderers as alias Ramon and alias LG who “admitted their membership to the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee’s Platun Japson operating in Bondoc Peninsula.”

“The former rebels are now undergoing DSWD’s profiling and will subsequently undergo check-up and counselling by health professionals to ensure that they are free from Covid-19 infection and psychological trauma while undergoing the enrolment process to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, ” ended Lieutenant Colonel Cabahug.

Per military intelligence, the two former rebels were present during the April 1 encounter at So Puting Bato, Brgy White Cliff of San Narciso town wherein an NPA terrorist was killed and soldiers were able to recover two (2) firearms after the community reported the terrorists’ “offensive posturing”.

Brigadier General Norwyn Romeo Tolentino, Commander of 201st Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over Southern Quezon, said that “containing the spread of this deadly corona virus is not, and will never be, an excuse for us to not to pursue our aspiration of freeing our people from the clutches of communist terrorism.”

As of the moment, 2ID has facilitated the surrender of 601 former rebels who turned over 108 firearms to the government, a considerable portion of which returned to the folds of law during the NPA’s 50th anniversary last year as well as during their 51st anniversary last March 29.

Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division which covers Southern Tagalog, lauded his soldiers for “continuously performing our mandate to advocate peace while continously securing the people from the threats of terrorism amid the country’s fight against the deadly corona virus.”

On the other hand, he congratulated the former rebels “for choosing their families over the terrorists, for choosing peace over conflict and for choosing to be one with the Filipinos during the most challenging of time to humanity.”

According to him, the unprecedented number of NPA surrender in their area “is a testament to the fact that insurgency in Southern Tagalog is already on the verge of collapse primarily due to the loss of mass base support that they used to enjoy from our constituents in this part of the country.”

“Your soldiers’ dedication to accomplish our mission to defend our people from the communist terrorists will never waver as we commit ourselves to the urgent task of containing the spread of COVID-19,” ended Maj Gen Burgos, while reiterating his call upon the few remaining NPAs “to put down their weapons, return to mainstream society and help in solving the serious problems which the country is currently facing.”

[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: 91IB provides manpower assistance in repacking of relief good

Posted to Kalinaw News (May 15, 2020): 91IB provides manpower assistance in repacking of relief good (By 7th Infantry Division)

Baler, Aurora – The Province of Aurora is situated in the northern portion of Central Luzon connecting Isabela and Quirino Provinces which was placed under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) effective May 01, 2020.

In order to ensure the continuity of logistical support to the local residents, the 91st Infantry (Sinagtala) Battalion, 7ID, PA led by SSg Reynaldo H Manuben (Inf) PA provided manpower assistance by repacking of relief goods at DSWD RO3 Aurora Extension Office Warehouse, Sitio Yanig, Barangay Bacong, San Luis, Aurora together with the employees of DSWD and MSWDO of San Luis, Aurora on 07 May 2020.

Relatedly, another one (1) squad of reservists from 307th Ready Reserve Infantry Bn with SINAGTALA troopers assisted the repacking of relief goods at Centro Baler Gymnasium, Barangay Suklayin, Baler, Aurora on 11 May 2020.

On 12 May 2020, one (1) squad of Bravo Company 91IB led by Sgt Dave B Dacanay (SC) PA, CMO NCO provided manpower assistance in the repacking of food packs at Multi-Purpose Hall, Barangay Zone 2, Dinalungan, Aurora together with BFP, personnel of MSWDO headed by Ms Jelica Marie E Rada, RSW.

A total of 2,700 food packs were repacked during the separate activities and ready for distribution to the local populace in the province.

LTC REANDREW P RUBIO INF (GSC) PA, Acting Commanding Officer of 91IB, 7ID, PA appreciated the efforts of the reservists and the SINAGTALA troopers for being very active not only in the conduct of checkpoint operations and visibility patrols but even in repacking and distribution of relief goods in the area.

“Our reservists are considered as force multipliers and they are very much willing to help any agencies of the government especially during this time of crisis,” RUBIO said.

Likewise, COL ANDREW D COSTELO INF (GSC) PA, Commander 703Bde, 7ID, PA commended the efforts of the SINAGTALA troops and the active participation of the 307th RRIBN for supporting the LGUs and other stakeholders in the repacking of relief goods prior to its distribution.

“We can survive this COVID-19 crisis if we are helping each other coupled with discipline and unity,” he said.

[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:]