Monday, May 25, 2020

BARMM, Army conduct parallel probe on Maguindanao mortar shelling

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2020): BARMM, Army conduct parallel probe on Maguindanao mortar shelling (By Albashir Saiden)

BLAST SITE INSPECTION. MILG-BARMM Minister Naguib Sinarimbo (back to camera) on Monday (May 25, 2020) visits the site of the mortar shelling that killed two minors and wounded 14 others at Sitio Amai Zailon, Barangay Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, and had a dialogue with the families of the victims. Sinarimbo also visited wounded victims (inset photo) at the hospital and assured them that the BARMM government will take care of their needs. (Photo courtesy of BPI-BARMM)

The Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MILG-BARMM) and the military's Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) will conduct a parallel investigation on the recent mortar shelling in Maguindanao that killed two minors and wounded more than a dozen others.

MILG-BARMM Minister Naguib Sinarimbo met Monday with Westmincom chief, Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, and Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, for a thorough investigation on the incident.

“We will get to the bottom of this incident to avoid making hasty conclusions pending the completion of the investigation,” Sinarimbo said.

Sinarimbo, also concurrent BARMM spokesperson, assured that the office of the region’s Chief Minister will take care of the needs of the victims.

"He [Chief Minister Ahod 'Murad' Ebrahim] has also directed the appropriate offices in the regional autonomous government to conduct an impartial investigation to unearth the truth," Sinarimbo said.

On Monday, Sinarimbo visited the site of the incident in Sitio Amai Zailon, Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan to conduct an inspection and community dialogue with the victims, including the father of the two female minors who died.

He also visited the wounded victims both at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center and Maguindanao Provincial Hospital to provide them with hospital and financial assistance.

The BARMM earlier condemned the act of violence that took the lives of innocent minors and injured many others, including the mother of the victims.

"This violence committed against hapless civilians is inhumane and evil, occurring as it did on what is supposed to be a festive day of Eid’l Fitr," the BARMM said in a statement.

It added that the violence also compounded the present difficulties of the people as they struggle through the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

“Only the heartless criminals can commit such a wicked act,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission said it will also conduct a separate investigation to secure justice for the victims of the tragedy.

Around 4 p.m. Sunday, a kind of 81-mm mortar projectile launched from nowhere hit four houses in Barangay Kitango that killed two kids, aged 10 and seven, and wounded 14 others.

Troopers from the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion (57IB) under the 6ID have been battling harassments launched by the ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the interiors of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and its near environs the past several weeks.

The 6ID maintained it has not launched offensives in any part of Maguindanao on Sunday, in time that the province and the rest of the Muslim faithful in the country silently celebrated Eid’l Fitr that marked the end of the month-long fasting period of Ramadan.

The 6ID added the 57IB has detachments in the villages of Elian and Salbu in the municipality but not in Kitango.

PH defense ties with allies strong amid Covid-19

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2020): PH defense ties with allies strong amid Covid-19 (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)

The Philippines' defense ties with its allies remain strong amid the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

This after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana conducted teleconferences with his counterparts from Japan, China and Australia to discuss various concerns affecting their respective countries, including Covid-19.

In a statement late Monday, Lorenzana said he had a teleconference with Japan Defense Minister Taro Kono on May 12 where they exchanged experiences and best practices in addressing Covid-19 including measures undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF).

The two defense chiefs also discussed the security situation in the region, namely in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, as well as ways on how to further enhance bilateral defense cooperation based on common goals of peace, security, and growth in the region.

On May 21, Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds also informed Lorenzana of her government's plan on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Program (E-DCP), to support the procurement of hospital equipment amounting to 1 million Australian dollars for a 30-bed expansion of the Victoriano Luna Medical Center infectious disease ward.

“We are very thankful for this assistance to the V. Luna Medical Center, Madame Minister, and we hope to see its completion in the near future so that we can use it for the purpose it was being built,” Lorenzana said.

Reynolds also conveyed her gratitude for the Philippine government’s support in evacuating Australians from the Philippines and commended the leadership in implementing the National Action Plan against Covid-19.

Both Lorenzana and Reynolds also discussed security matters that include terrorism and overall regional security.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana, during his May 20 "phone call" meeting with State Councilor and Defense Minister of the People’s Republic of China, General Wei Fenghe, expressed gratitude for Beijing's donation of medical supplies and equipment worth 2 million renminbi that was turned over on May 12.

Both sides committed to sustain dialogues amid the pandemic and strengthen cooperation between the two defense establishments in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of Philippines-China diplomatic relations this year.

Missile-frigate BRP Jose Rizal heralds PH Navy modernization

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 26, 2020): Missile-frigate BRP Jose Rizal heralds PH Navy modernization (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BRP Jose Rizal. (Photo courtesy of Naval Public Affairs Office)

The arrival of the prospective BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) last May 23, the Philippine Navy's (PN) first missile-capable frigate, signals the start of the PN's modernization.

PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo made this remark when asked by the Philippine News Agency on the ship's arrival.

"This is the start of more modern platforms, weapons, and systems for the PN. The PN can now better perform its mandate of protecting our seas and our territory," he said in a message late Monday.

The BRP Jose Rizal, and its sister ship BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) which is slated for delivery late this year, is capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and electronic warfare operations.

Bacordo said the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC), which is under the Defense Acquisition Office of the Department of National Defense, is scheduled to inspect the various ship's systems this week.

"The TIAC is expected to conduct their inspections this coming week," he added.

Meanwhile, PN public affairs office chief, Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas, said all of the weapons systems of the ship, including the missiles and torpedo launchers, are already installed aboard.

She added that the PN is now waiting for the delivery of these munitions which is scheduled sometime in 2021.

BRP Jose Rizal was launched at the HHI shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea on May 23, 2019 while its sister-ship BRP Antonio Luna, was launched on November 8 of the same year.

The contract for the two ships is placed at PHP16 billion with another PHP2 billion for weapon systems and munitions.

A simple arrival and commissioning ceremony is poised to be conducted on June 19 coinciding with the birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, the ship’s namesake.

BRP Jose Rizal has a maximum designed speed of 25 knots and a cruising speed of 15 knots and a range of 4,500 nautical miles.

It was supposed to be delivered in the last week of April but was delayed due to travel restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Notorious NPA group of Reg-10 wiped out: Army

From the Mindanao Times (May 26, 2020): Notorious NPA group of Reg-10 wiped out: Army (BY RHODA GRACE SARON))

The North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) of the New Peoples Army was believed to have been wiped out during the five-day clashes against the troops of the 401st Infantry Brigade in Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur on May 14-19.
Lt. Col. Xerxes Trinidad, the 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office chief, said that 20 of the NPAs top leaders were killed during the series of encounters. He said the military operations were launched on the complaint of the indigenous communities regarding harassment and forced recruitments.

“This plan involves tactical offensive to kill IP leaders unsupportive of their ideologies, as well as the recruitment of adventure-seeking minors to sustain their terroristic schemes of murders, robberies, and extortion,” Trinidad said.

He said the NPA is also taking advantage of the confusion caused by the pandemic by ramping up their propaganda against the government. The documents that soldiers recovered from encounter sites and the overrun camps would support their theory about an existing plot by the Communist Party of the Philippines.

They also recovered two laptops, supposedly owned by Myrna Sularte or Mariang Malaya, the secretary of NEMRC, and Alvin Luque alias Joaquin Jacinto, the spokesperson of National Democratic Fronts Komisyon Mindanao. The laptops also yielded material evidence on the activities of the NPA.

Statements of former rebels also showed that Sularte and Luque were leading a planning session when they were caught by surprise by the military. Those who attended the session were:

1) Myrna Sularte aka Malaya, the secretary of NEMRC;
2) Alvin Loque aka Joaquin Jacinto, the spokesperson of KOMMID;
3) Edilberto R Daval aka Bong Waco, commanding officer (CO) of the Regional Operations Command, NEMRC; 4) Felizardo Valdez aka Adu or Jing, secretary of the Sub-Regional Committee Southland and also acted as the spokesperson of NEMRC;
5) Julieta Tawide Gomez aka Tina, secretary of Regional White Area Committee;
6) Rolando Leyson, secretary of the Sub-Regional Committee (SRC)-16 and head of the Hini-usang Command;
7) Judel Virtudazo aka Janjalani, CO of Regional Sentro-De-Gravidad (RSDG);
8) Imelda Rambuyod aka Sandara Sidlakan/Aloy/Kubing, the 1st deputy secretary and spokesperson of SRC Westland;
9) Adonis Maglasang aka Do, the head organizer of NEMRC;
10) Marcelino Navarro aka Marsing, the head propagandist of NEMRC;
11) Alias Tarzan, the ordnance expert of NEMRC;
12) Pablo Logatiman aka Lucas, the 1st deputy secretary of SRC-16;
13) Alias Del, the CO of Sub-Regional Sentro-De-Gravidad, SRC Westland;
14) Alias Rodel, secretary of Guerilla Front-21;
15) Alias Jared or Wolf, ordnance staff of SDG-16, GF-16;
16) Vergie Valdez aka Dalay, finance officer of GF-19;
17) Leonida Sanchez aka Susay, staff of GF-19;
18) Elizabeth Monter aka Amihan, political officer and spokesperson of GF-19;
19) Alfie Masinatao Bada aka Momoy, the vice CO of Regional Headquarters;
20) Lorna Pamutongan Gomez aka Momay or Danah, the medical staff of RHQ.

Trinidada said these wanted terrorists and a number of their cohorts were believed to have been killed or severely wounded after the series of clashes. The operating troops continue to clear several encounter sites, which proved to be challenging due to the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather.

Meanwhile, one unidentified body recovered found at the hinterland area of Sitio Kiskis, Barangay Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur was turned over to the local government officials of San Miguel for identification.

Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M Gacal, the 4ID chief, said, Considering the losses suffered by these terrorists, the collapse of NEMRC is imminent. They were wrong to consider Andap Valley complex as a safe haven.”

EastMinCom chief says COVID-19 won’t curtail operations vs. Reds

From the Mindanao Times (May 26, 2020): EastMinCom chief says COVID-19 won’t curtail operations vs. Reds (BY RHODA GRACE SARON)

The Commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the COVID-19 pandemic would not distract them from going after the New People’s Army guerrillas.

Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. said they will ride on their momentum following the series of clashes that killed close to 30 communist fighters this month alone.

“We continuously devote some of our personnel and resources to fight COVID-19 and support other frontliners,” Faustino told TIMES on Saturday. “While doing so, we are not slowing down on our task of securing the communities from NPA atrocities.”

He said that the programs of the Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict, which focused on providing government basic services to the far-flung communities, has been reaping gains in terms of “clearing of areas from the communist influence.”

The gains have shown that they are on the right path. “Just continue what we are doing and serve our purpose on how we can serve our people and protect our areas of responsibility,” he said.

What the military does not want is for the NPA to take advantage of the situation and use it to fuel their propaganda machine. He explained, “We help in any way we could give when it comes to COVID-19, especially our assistance to the local government units. At the same time, our internal security operation against these terrorist NPAs will continue.”

According to the military, seventy-seven members of the New People’s Army, including top leaders, were neutralized by the soldiers under the EastMinCom in May.

Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, the EastMinCom spokesperson, as of mid-May, 24 were already killed, 11 captured, and 42 fighters surrendered. Their accomplishment also included the recovery and surrender of 96 firearms and the overrun of NPA camps.

On May 10, he said 10 rebels were killed and five high-powered firearms were recovered at encounter sites when troops from the Joint Task Force Diamond figured in a running gunbattle with the NPA at the boundary of Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Norte.

On May 12, the 1st Special Forces Battalion also captured a machine gun during a series of clashes with the NPA at Sitio Kimutya, San Rafael, Talakag, Bukidnon.

In Davao Oriental, elements of the 28th Infantry Battalion, recovered two Garand rifles, one M16 rifle, one AR15 rifle, and one Ultimax MK3 Machine Gun in Barangay Maragatas, Lupon on the evening of May 16, during a pursuit operation.

In a separate event, elements of the 36th IB recovered one landmine, two-way radio, and personal belongings from a guerilla hideout in Cabangahan, Cantilan, Surigao Del Sur.

On May 18, 2020, one rebel was killed during a 45-minute clash at 11:30 a.m. in Barangay Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

“While most of us are busy fighting COVID-19, we do not want to give the NPAs space and time to take advantage of the situation to carry out their evil plans and atrocities that will add misery to our communities,” Faustino said in his directive.

Two suspected BIFF members killed in Maguindanao encounter

From GMA News (May 25, 2020): Two suspected BIFF members killed in Maguindanao encounter

Two suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members were killed in an encounter with the troops of 33rd Infantry Battalion of Joint Task Force Central in Maguindanao, according to a statement issued by the 6th Infantry Division.

The BIFF members reportedly fired at the troops manning the checkpoint at Barangay Tuka, Mamasapano in Maguindanao
prompting soldiers to return fire.

The encounter ensued for around 20 minutes until troops closed in on the rebels leading to the recovery of two bodies, two M16 rifles, and a sachet of suspected illegal drugs.
The slain BIFF members were identified as Asraf Kalon and Mubin Sugadol.

Authorities are conducting a manhunt operation for one of their companions who escaped.

The bodies of the slain rebels and the other recovered items have been turned over to the Mamasapano Municipal Police for further investigation and proper disposition.

Violence Mars Eid Celebration in Southern Philippines

From BenarNews (May 25, 2020): Violence Mars Eid Celebration in Southern Philippines (Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales)

An imam prays in an empty mosque in Cotabato City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao ahead of Eid al-Fitr, May 22, 2020. AFP

Suspected militants killed two children and in a separate incident gunned down a government official, marring Eid al-Fitr celebrations in the southern Philippines, officials said Monday.

The militants allegedly fired a mortar round on Sunday afternoon into a cluster of houses in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao province
as villages were celebrating the end of the month-long fasting month of Ramadan, according to officials.

Two children, identified as Sadim Tambak, 10, and his sister Aslamia, 7, were pronounced dead after arriving at a hospital. Thirteen other civilians, including the children’s mother, were injured, said Musib Tan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan town administrator.

“The victims were watching television when the explosion occurred,” he said

Local police commander Lt. Melvin Laguting said officers were investigating the deadly incident, noting that the type of 81 mm mortar used in the attack is typically used by guerrillas in the area.

The incident occurred a day after four nearby army detachments came under attack by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter separatist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), according to Tan.

Lt. Col. Edgardo Vilchez Jr., spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said troops were caught off guard because they were not expecting any violence during Eid celebrations.

“We had no troops operating in the area, specifically in the village where the incident happened,” Vilchez said, adding there were no reports of injuries.

Cotabato City official killed

On Monday, Aniceto Rasalan, 58, was gunned down while having breakfast at a restaurant in Cotabato city, the capital of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the south.

Rasalan, a former journalist and current secretary to Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, was alone when he was shot by one of two assailants who quickly escaped, according to Rolen Balquin, a local public safety officer.

“The victim was declared dead on arrival at the hospital,” Balquin said.

In 2015, Rasalan, who was a correspondent for the Manila Times, survived an attempt against his life when motorcycle riding-men shot him while on his way to work.

Abdulraof Macacua, a former commander of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who serves as a BARMM official, said he was saddened the attacks occurred while Muslims celebrated the end of fasting.

“The saddest part of the incident is that we are about to commence the next decommissioning of our combatants and I hope that this will not cause a hindrance to the process,” he said.

The MILF signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 and now controls the BARMM, an expanded autonomous region in the south. As part of the peace deal, former combatants have turned over their weapons to the government in a phased-in decommissioning.

Not participating is a group of fighters who splintered from MILF and formed BIFF in protest over leaders dropping a bid for independence.

BIFF members pledged allegiance to IS and in 2017 carried out diversionary attacks in other parts of Mindanao as militants aligned with IS and led by Isnilon Hapilon laid siege to the city of Marawi.

The five-month battle ended on Oct. 23, 2017, after Hapilon was killed with the help of U.S. and Australian intelligence assistance. Hapilon and key IS leaders were among 1,200 government forces, militants and civilians killed in what turned out to be the longest and deadliest urban warfare in recent years in the south.

Tens of thousands of Marawi residents remain in evacuation camps three years after the fighting that leveled much of the city.

Military task force in Palawan strengthens anti-terrorism campaign

From the Manila Bulletin (May 25, 2020): Military task force in Palawan strengthens anti-terrorism campaign (By Aira Genesa Magdayao)

In line with the campaign against terrorists, the national government and Palawan Provincial Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) offer a P20 million reward for the possible apprehension of five high-ranking New People’s Army (NPA) leaders in Palawan.

Photo Courtesy of 3rd Marine Brigade/MANILA BULLETIN

Brigadier General Nestor Herico, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde), told attendees of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Security Operation (CIPSO) forum in northern Palawan earlier this week, that President Rodrigo Duterte also offered earlier P2 million for anyone who can give “valuable tips” to government forces that would lead to the arrest of NPA high-value targets (HVTs) nationwide.

In Palawan, Herico said that PTF-ELCAC is looking for Charity Dino, alias Ka Rise/ Ka Tit/ Ka Edna, department secretary of the Sub-Regional Military Area-4E (SRMA-4E) with a bounty of P2 million; Ka Selmon/ Ka Selnon, commanding officer of the SRMA-4E Bienvenido Valleber Command (BVC) with P6.1 million; Bonifacio Magramo, alias Ka Boywan/ Ka Nato, SRMA-4E secretary with P5.4 million; Andrea Rosal, alias Ka Naya/ Ka Ram/ Ka Inlay/ Ka Joey of the Kilusang Larangang Girilya (KLG)-Palawan with a P4.5 million reward; and Sonny Rogelio, alias Ka Miggy/ Ka Samuel/ Ka Troy, department secretary of KLG-Palawan with a P2 million reward for his arrest.

“He (Duterte) even offered a reward for anybody who could give information about the NPA leadership. Here in Palawan, there is the Sub-Regional Military Unit (SRMU-4E), a unit of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (STRPC)—this means, their political leaders,” Herico said.

He told representatives of construction companies in northern Palawan that any detail that will help law enforcers in the apprehension of the rebel leaders should immediately be reported to authorities. He assured that all information regarding the informant will be kept confidential.

“If you need any assistance from our law enforcers, just text it. Our office and the police are open to serve 24/7,” Herico said.

Tightening security amid COVID-19

CIPSO is part of the tightening security in Palawan amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic hosted by Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) in Roxas town.

MBLT-3 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Charlie Domingo, said offensive attacks by the enemies can be expected by construction companies, especially while the province is under the general community quarantine (GCQ).
In line with the “Build, Build, Build” program, construction businesses can resume and these could be prone to extortion activities or attacks by the rebels.

“The construction industry, and other construction-related companies such as the suppliers, continue to be the targets of extortion activities of the NPA, including those who are disguising themselves as NPA. With the situation, the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), GCQ, and quarantine protocol stopped the resource generation activities of the NPA and the rogue groups,” Domingo added.

He added that they are expecting arson activities from the rebels if construction companies will not give the quarterly revolutionary taxes that they demand.

CIPSO and the construction businesses
In response, construction company representatives and owners assured that they will cooperate with the government to achieve its goal of ending the local armed conflict.

Engr. Rexel Abadiano, who refused to name his construction company for security reasons, said that with CIPSO, they now have a concrete idea on how to handle the situation whenever there will be attempts that will affect their operations.

“It helps us a lot in our company operations. This gives us knowledge about terrorism and how to counter it. We are now aware of the revolutionary tax that terrorists are collecting,” said Lydia Comahig, another attendee of the CIPSO.

Earlier in December 2019, the business sector in Palawan had declared the NPA persona non grata, a move intended to stop their reported extortion activities.

CIPSO is a mechanism created to bridge and strengthen the relationship between government troops and construction-related companies.

Former NPA rebels get P365,000 in E-CLIP benefits

From the Manila Bulletin (May 25, 2020): Former NPA rebels get P365,000 in E-CLIP benefits (By Bonita Ermac)

Seven former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Bukidnon received a total of P365,000 assistance and benefits from the government through the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

E-CLIP is a complete package of assistance for the NPA rebels who surrender to the government.

The beneficiaries received the incentives during the groundbreaking ceremony of the halfway house in Impasugong, Bukidnon that will cater to the psychosocial and psychological needs of the former rebels (FRs) in preparation for their reintegration into mainstream society.

Officials and representatives of government and non-government agencies witnessed the event.

The total amount received by the FRs were for firearm remuneration, and livelihood assistance.

The Army’s 88th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Edgardo V. Talaroc Jr., lauded the said FRs for yielding and availing of the E-CLIP benefits.

“I encourage the surrenderers to continue convincing other active NPA and supporters to surrender and join the mainstream society for a peaceful life,” he said.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director Engr. Carmelo Enrique Libot said that, to date, about 524 ex-NPA rebels have returned to the fold of law, and the Bukidnon E-CLIP committee was already processing their incentives.

Bukidnon E-CLIP Committee Co-Chair and 403rd Brigade commander Colonel Ferdinand Barandon said that the government has all the best programs to offer for the former rebels to enjoy peaceful and progressive lives.

“The benefits that the FRs received will be a big help for them to start a new life,” Barandon said.

Military says arms cache found in Bulacan NPA hideout

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 25, 2020): Military says arms cache found in Bulacan NPA hideout (By: Tonette Orejas)

The military said soldiers seized two Armalite rifles in a supposed hideout in Bulacan province of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in Southern Luzon.

Soldiers and policemen found four magazines and ammunition for assault rifles
at a house of an alleged communist cadre at the village of Paradise III, San Jose del Monte City last May 22.

The seized items were believed to belong to the Rizal-Bulacan Guerrilla Front of the NPA Southern Tagalog, according to Col. Felix Valdez, 48th Infantry Battalion commander, in a statement.

A concerned citizen tipped off law enforcers that led to the discovery of the cache.

Soldiers and policemen operated under the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support cluster of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Valdez said while police and soldiers are on the frontline of enforcing protocols for COVID-19, “we are also continuing efforts to end insurgency.”

P5-million rehab center to rise for ex-NPA rebels in Bukidnon

From the Manila Bulletin (May 25, 2020): P5-million rehab center to rise for ex-NPA rebels in Bukidnon (By Bonita Ermac)

ILIGAN CITY – The Philippine Army’s Eighth Infantry Battalion (8th IB) and the Impasugong local government unit (LGU) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a P5-million rehabilitation center, or halfway house, for former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last Sunday, May 24.

The Philippine Army and Impasugong LGU break ground to start the construction of a P5 million rehab center or Halfway House for the ex-New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. Located in Magbuliga Development Complex, Poblacion, Impasugong, Bukidnon, the Halfway House will rise in a one-hectare land donated by Impasugong LGU.

The halfway house will rise in a one-hectare land located at the Magbuliga Development Complex, Poblacion, which was donated by the Impasug-ong LGU.

In a statement, Engr. Carmelo Enrique Libot, provincial director of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bukidnon, said the structure will house former rebels (FRs) who returned to the folds of the law.

He clarified that the facility will provide services such as psychological and psychosocial counseling, livelihood training, and capacity building activities to help the FRs cope with their confidence and freedom.

“This activity is a genuine proof that the government is very serious in helping out our former rebels. This is not just an effort of DILG, this is not just an effort of the municipality, the province, the Army, and PNP, but it is the effort of all of us”, said Libot.

“This is our way of supporting the government’s ‘whole-of-nation approach’ to finally end insurgency,” he added.

The Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Edgardo V. Talaroc Jr., further explained that the halfway house, staffed by counselors and aides, would assist the FRs in preparing for their reintegration into mainstream society.

Impasugong town mayor Anthony Uy, who also graced the event, said working together is the key to our success.

“Without proper coordination and link up, this halfway house will not be realized.

This initiative will surely bolster our efforts to encourage the NPA rebels to lay down their arms and avail of the government’s Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) said Mayor Uy.

Meanwhile, Col. Ferdinand Barandon, 403rd brigade commander who is also the Co-chairman of Bukidnon ECLIP Committee, said the Army and the Department of Agriculture would establish an agricultural farm for self-sufficiency while the ex-rebels make their transition back into community life.

Reports showed that, to date, a total of 524 FRs, both regular and “Milisyang Bayan (NPA supporters),” have returned to the folds of the law and their benefits are now being processed by the Bukidnon E-CLIP committee.

“I am so happy. God is so good that amidst the COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic, great things happen”, said Barandon.

“We only dreamed of this many years ago but now we are getting started. After seven months from now, this rehab center will be completed and will cater FRs from around the province”, he stated.

He is positive that the creation of this center will effect change.

“I visualize that in this center, many lives will be transformed and families will be reunited. We will together bring back the dignity of a human being taken by the NPA from our fellow Filipinos,” Barandon added.

NPA leadership in Caraga wiped out – AFP spokesman

From the Manila Bulletin (May 25, 2020): NPA leadership in Caraga wiped out – AFP spokesman (By Mike Crismundo)

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – Top officials of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Northeastern Mindanao were believed to have been neutralized in a five-day clash with military troops in the Diwata range in Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur.

“At least 20 top NPA leaders in Caraga region were either killed or severely wounded in the Surigao del Sur clash,”
claimed Fourth Infantry Division (4th ID) Public Affairs Office Chief Capt. Al Anthony B. Pueblas on Monday.

The series of encounters occurred between May 14 to May 19 in a secluded area of Diwata range that involved the troops of the 401st Infantry Brigade battling
the forces of the NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

The series of clashes began after the 4th ID launched security operations in response to reports from highland villagers of a large consolidation of NEMRC forces threatening their ancestral community.

“As widely documented, history is replete with NPA atrocities in the area against indigenous peoples (IPs), women and minors prompting the 4th ID to conduct focus military operation (FMO) to prevent another terror plan by the CNTs,” Pueblas said.

He said the insurgents’ plan involved killing leaders of indigenous peoples tribes who may not be supportive of their ideologies, and recruitment of adventure-seeking minors to sustain their terroristic schemes of murders, robberies and extortion.

According to Pueblas, among the NPA leaders who were either killed or wounded in the series of encounters, were NEMRC Secretary Myrna Salarte, and National Democratic Front (NDF) Komisyon Mindanao (KOMMID) Spokesperson Alvin Logue.

“These wanted terrorists and a number of their cohorts were believed to have been killed or severely wounded after the series of clashes against our security forces as heavy bloodstains are scattered along the terrorists’ direction of withdrawal,” said Pueblas.

3 MILF communities in Lanao del Norte receive rice assistance

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 25, 2020): 3 MILF communities in Lanao del Norte receive rice assistance (By Apipa P. Bagumbaran)

Featured Image

2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade Commander BGen. Facundo Palafox IV (left) hands over a sack of rice to 125th Base Command OIC Commander Samion Pingno (right). LtCol. Alfonso Matias Jr., commanding officer of 5th Mechanized Battalion witnesses the ceremonial turnover of rice assistance to the MILF community in Tangcal town. (ADD/PIA ICIC)

TANGCAL, Lanao del Norte, May 25 (PIA) – Three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps in Lanao del Norte received hundreds of 25-kilogram sacks of rice from the provincial government.

The turned over of the rice assistance was facilitated by the army's Fourth Mechanized Infantry Battalion and Fifth Mechanized Infantry Battalion, both under the Second Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

The camps which received the rice aid were the camp of Commissioner Abdullah Macapaar in Sitio Kura-Kura, Barangay Tamparan in Munai town; the 127th Base Command under Aleem Ansari Murad, also in Munai; and the 125th Base Command under Officer-in-Charge Division Commander Samion Pingno in Tangcal town.

To help MILF members, the provincial government of Lanao del Norte through the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade distributed rice aid to three MILF communities in Lanao del Norte. (ADD/PIA ICIC)

During the turnover of rice packs in Tangcal on May 22, Pingno expressed appreciation to the provincial government and the Philippine Army for including them in the relief assistance.
He said they would share the rice assistance to civilian constituents in the municipality.

For his part, 2nd Mech brigade commander BGen. Facundo Palafox IV explained that the rice aid came from Provincial Governor Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo and the Go Negosyo.

He also urged the communities to help in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by following health protocol and guidelines issued by the local government.

“Ito pong panahon na ito ay panahon ng pagtutulongan kasi nasa gitna tayo COVID-19 pandemic - isang kalaban na hindi natin nakikita," he said.

[This time is the time for helping one another because we are in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic - an enemy that is invisible.]

According to him, cooperation is the way to beat this unseen enemy. (APB/PIA ICIC)

Army’s 6ID probes Maguindanao blast that killed 2 children

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): Army’s 6ID probes Maguindanao blast that killed 2 children (By Noel Punzalan)

Google map of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao

The military here launched an investigation following Sunday’s alleged mortar blast that killed two children and wounded over a dozen others in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Lt. Col. Edgardo Vilchez Jr., the spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID), said the probe came about to clear issues implicating the 6ID to the incident.

“We have no troops operating in the area, specifically on the village where the incident happened,” Vilchez said over radio DXMY here Monday.

He added that the 6ID has not launched any offensive on any part of Maguindanao on Sunday, especially since the province and the rest of the Islam faithful in the country silently celebrated Eid’l Fitr — the end of the month-long fasting period of Ramadan amid the health crisis.

“An initial report we have received is that it was an improvised explosive device that exploded, but we are still looking into it,” Vilchez said.

On Sunday, two kids, aged 10 and seven, were killed while 14 others were injured as an alleged 81-mm mortar projectile hit several houses in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan around 4 p.m. Sunday.

The fatalities were identified as Aslamiya Tambak, 10, and her sister Asnaida, 7, both of Barangay Kitango and daughters of Sayid Tambak, an employee of the municipal government.

Town Administrator Musib Tan said the younger Asnaida died on the spot while Aslamiya died after a few hours at the hospital.

“The victims were watching television when the explosion occurred,” Tan said in a separate radio interview. He said the children’s mother, identified as Noraisa Tambak, 40, together with 13 others, including several children, were wounded in the blast.

“At least three houses were hit by the blast,” Tan said, quoting a report from the municipal disaster risk reduction and management office.

Vilchez identified their military unit in the area as that of the 57th Infantry Battalion (57IB) that has been battling the Daesh-inspired Karialan faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the interiors of the municipality.

“The 57IB has detachments in Barangays Ilian and Lower Salbu of the municipality but not in the village of Kitango,” Vilchez said.

6ID chief fetes soldiers, militiamen injured in Maguindanao clash (

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): 6ID chief fetes soldiers, militiamen injured in Maguindanao clash (By Edwin Fernandez)

HONORED. Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, hands over financial assistance to one of four soldiers in ceremonies honoring wounded personnel at the Camp Siongco Station Hospital in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, on Sunday (May 24, 2020). The wounded soldiers were also given wounded personnel medals for their bravery in action. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) commander, honored here Sunday four soldiers who got injured while protecting civilians in Maguindanao.

Carreon, concurrent head of Joint Task Force Central (JTFC), visited the soldiers wounded in action in a clash with Daesh-inspired gunmen in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last week.

He executed a snappy salute to Sgt. Joebert B. Apin and Cpl. Ralf Loween C. Castillo, both of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and militiamen Hadafi B. Upam, and Johari A. Esmael of the 6th Civilian Active Auxiliary - Maguindanao Company before awarding them with wounded personnel medals (WPM) and financial assistance during ceremonies inside this camp.

Carreon was assisted by Camp Siongco Station Hospital acting head Maj. Julian Gualberto G. Dellosa.

WPM is given to personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as recognition for having been wounded in action as a direct result of an act of the enemy.

The awardees got injured last Wednesday while pursuing terrorist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

The wounded soldiers are currently recuperating at the camp hospital and are in stable condition.

Troops recover birth control pills in NegOcc NPA hideout

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): Troops recover birth control pills in NegOcc NPA hideout (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

RECOVERED PILLS. The oral contraceptive tablets recovered by troops of the 94th Infantry Battalion inside a New People’s Army lair in a remote village of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, after an encounter on Friday afternoon (May 22, 2020). Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade, said this is an indication of sexual abuse suffered by female NPA members and recruits in the hands of the communist rebels. (Photo courtesy of 303rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army)

Birth control pills were among the personal items recovered by Philippine Army troops inside the lair of New People’s Army (NPA) in a remote village of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental over the weekend.

Photos of three stubs of oral contraceptive tablets were released by the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde) on Saturday afternoon, a day after soldiers of 94th Infantry Battalion engaged communist-terrorists in a firefight in Barangay Buenavista and found their hideout in the area.

Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of 303IBde, said in a statement on Sunday that the recovery of birth control pills is an indication of sexual abuse suffered by female NPA members and recruits.

“It clearly manifests the ongoing and rampant sexual abuses among their ranks especially by NPA commanders against their female members,” he added.

Pasaporte reiterated his call on the female NPA combatants to abandon the armed struggle and go home to their respective families.

“Don’t let the NPA leaders take advantage of you. They are just making you their sex slaves,” he added.

Pasaporte said that once they leave the rebel movement, the government will assist them through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which provides financial and livelihood assistance, and firearms remuneration, among others.

On April 23, troops of 20IB also found boxes of birth control pills inside an NPA hideout in an upland village of Catubig, Northern Samar.

Also on October 22 last year, soldiers of 88IB recovered some contraceptive pills, condoms, and pornographic materials from another NPA hideout in the forested area of Barangay Kibongkog, San Fernando, Bukidnon.

Earlier this month, two pregnant NPA medics surrendered to the 23IB in Buenavista town, Agusan del Norte.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Army brigade conducts 3K quarantine security ops in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): Army brigade conducts 3K quarantine security ops in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION. Government troops belonging to the Army's 402nd Infantry Brigade assist in transporting sacks of rice intended for families affected by the coronavirus disease crisis. The brigade has conducted 2,231 Covid-19 checkpoints, and extended 1,214 security assistance and participated in relief operations in Caraga Region from April 15 to May 15 this year. (Photo courtesy of 402nd IBde)

The Army’s 402nd Brigade (402nd IBde) has conducted over 3,000 checkpoints and security operations so far in its area of responsibility (AOR) in the Caraga Region to help government agencies implement quarantine measures.

Maj. Francisco P. Garello Jr., 402nd IBde civil-military operations officer, said the conduct of checkpoints and security operations is part of the Army's role in support of the regional Inter-Agency Task Force's mandate to enforce community quarantine guidelines and protocols to contain the coronavirus disease.

From the middle of April until May 15 this year, Garello said the 402nd IBde conducted 2,231 Covid-19 checkpoints, extended 1,214 security assistance, transported 15 stranded civilians including foreign nationals, conducted 33 transportation assistance to deliver food packs to communities, and provided 33 manpower assistance in repacking relief goods.

“Aside from checkpoint and security operations, Army units under the 402nd IBde also conducted massive information and awareness drives during the period with 220 loudspeaker operations, distribution of leaflets, posting of 56 tarpaulins and 94 radio guesting and programming,” Garello said.

Brig. Gen. Maurito L. Licudine, 402nd IBde commander, underscored Monday the importance of the military's security assistance in the government's relief efforts and in the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) — especially in areas with known security risks.

Along with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Licudine assured the Army in Caraga Region will continue to perform its task of "securing the communities and the people from the threats and harassments of the communist New People’s Army (NPA)."

He noted that the series of armed encounters that took place at the height of the quarantine implementation were mostly related to the NPA rebels who tried to disrupt the relief efforts and SAP distribution.

“Your Army will not waiver on its mandate to serve the people and ensure the safety of the communities in Caraga Region,” Licudine said.

Meanwhile, Licudine said a three-day relief operation conducted by 402nd IBde units benefited 2,609 households in the town of Malimono, Surigao del Norte from May 20 to 22.

He said the operation was conducted upon the request of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of Malimono.

Manhunt on vs. gunmen who shot dead 3 men in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): Manhunt on vs. gunmen who shot dead 3 men in Maguindanao (By Edwin Fernandez)

Google map of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao province.

A manhunt has been launched against gunmen on a motorbike who shot dead three men in the Maguindanao town of Datu Salibo over the weekend, a police official said Monday.

Colonel Arnold Santiago, Maguindanao police chief, said he has ordered the Mamasapano police office to work with the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion in pursuing the perpetrators.

Santiago identified the victims--who succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds--as Rassid Guiaman, 35; Ustadz Abdulgani, 37; and the unidentified man who was driving the motorbike that the two had hired. They are residents of Barangay Tuka, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The shooting occurred along a secluded section of the highway in Sitio Kurungan, Barangay Sambulawan, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

“They had just attended a celebration of Eid’l Fitr (end of fasting month for Muslims) in nearby Datu Piang, Maguindanao, and were heading for home when ambushed,” Santiago said.

Responding police found empty shells of .45-caliber pistol at the crime scene. Authorities are initially looking at “rido” (family feud) as a possible motive of the attack.

Meanwhile, police also announced the arrest of a wanted person in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, also on Sunday.

Major Rommel dela Vega, chief of Datu Odin Sinsuat police office, identified the arrested suspect as Gerald Karlo Ignacio Cataluna, 32, of Palar Village, Barangay Awang.

Cataluna has a standing warrant of arrest for violation of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) issued by the 12th Judicial Region, Branch 13, Cotabato City.

Westmincom takes over command of Task Force GenSan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): Westmincom takes over command of Task Force GenSan (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

The Task Force GenSan has been placed under the command of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, effectively making the unit under the control of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

“An adjustment has been made as to the area of responsibility between Westmincom and Eastmincom,” Maj. Arvin John Encinas, Westmincom spokesperson, said Monday.

Previously, the task force is under the 10th Infantry Division, which is under the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Westmincom commander, welcomed the troops of Task Force GenSan to the Team Westmincom during his visit Sunday at the unit's headquarters in Barangay Bula, General Santos City.

Col. Eduardo Gubat, Task Force GenSan commander, presented Monday the unit's mission, updates and accomplishments to Sobejana, as well as its history, operational approaches, and best practices in addressing the threats being confronted by the unit.

“At present, (there is) no act of terrorism that exists in GenSan,” Gubat said, adding the briefing was followed by a “talk to men” where Sobejana gave his guidance to the troops.

The Task Force GenSan is the military’s maneuvering unit in General Santos City.

PAF airdrops Covid-19 leaflets to Bicolanos in remote areas

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): PAF airdrops Covid-19 leaflets to Bicolanos in remote areas (By Connie Calipay)

COVID-19 INFO. The Tactical Operation Group-Bicol (TOG-5) drops leaflets to inform residents in remote areas in the region about the coronavirus disease 2019. At least 20,000 leaflets were airdropped on Saturday (May 23, 2020). (Screengrab from a video courtesy of TOG-5)

The Tactical Operation Group for Bicol (TOG-5) of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) dropped leaflets over the weekend to inform residents in far-flung areas of the region about the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Staff Sergeant Sonny Abad, TOG-5 personnel, in an interview on Monday, said at least 20,000 leaflets containing basic information and safety tips on Covid-19 were airdropped.

“The information in the leaflets includes the symptoms, how it spreads and how it can be prevented. We already conducted aerial dropping in Sorsogon, Albay and other far-flung areas in the region,” he said.

Abad said the airdropping operations aim to reach people in remote areas in disseminating information about the prevailing health crisis.

Asked when will the next aerial dropping be conducted, Abad said there is no schedule yet "but every time we have a chance to fly and we can drop leaflets, we do it”.

Aside from leaflets on Covid-19, he said TOG-5 also dropped information materials on the deception and harassment activities of communist terrorist groups in Bicol region.

AFP, Smart-PLDT deploy rolling store at Camp Aguinaldo

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): AFP, Smart-PLDT deploy rolling store at Camp Aguinaldo (By Priam Nepomuceno)

ROLLING STORE. AFP officials and PLDT president and CEO Manny Pangilinan (3rd from right) lead the opening of the Smart-PLDT rolling store in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Saturday (May 23, 2020). The meassure seeks to provide basic necessities for soldiers and their dependents assigned at the military facility. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in partnership with communications firm Smart-PLDT, on Saturday deployed a rolling store at its headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City as part of their efforts to provide the basic necessities of soldiers assigned at the military facility and their dependents.

Navy Captain Jonathan Zata, AFP public affairs office chief, said the rolling store was set up near the Lapu-Lapu Grandstand and military personnel, their dependents, AFP civilian employees participated in the whole-day bazaar.

"The activity sought to lessen unnecessary travel by residents who intend to buy essential goods outside camp thus helping limit the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)," he said in a statement Sunday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and PLDT president and chief executive Manny V. Pangilinan led the opening of the bazaar along with AFP deputy chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria and AFP GHQ and Headquarters Service commander Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Lavadia, Jr.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is grateful for the assistance of Smart-PLDT and other stakeholders to alleviate the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to our soldiers, dependents, and civilian workforce. This shall inspire our members to better perform their duties in winning over the deadly virus,” AFP chief-of-staff General Felimon Santos Jr. said.

Aside from telecommunications gadgets, the AFP invited business firms and other merchants that offer essential goods and services to participate in the event.

Also available were grocery items, vegetables, clothing, hygiene items, and personal protective equipment such as face masks.

119 Reds voluntarily surrender from May 17-23: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): 119 Reds voluntarily surrender from May 17-23: AFP (By Priam Nepomuceno)

A total of 119 communist terrorists have voluntarily surrendered as a result of "intense military operations" from May 17 to 23, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Monday.

Aside from this, two rebels were killed and another three were arrested in the same period, AFP public affairs office chief, Navy Captain Jonathan Zata, said in a statement.

Of this number, 36 surrendered in the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) area, one was killed, and three were apprehended; 82 surrendered in the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), and one surrendered and another was killed in the operational area of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

"(This is a) combination of focused military operations, CMO (civil-military operations), and extensive support from the local populace. The program under the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) that benefitted other returnees further encouraged other rebels to return to the fold of the law," Zata said.

These surrenders from May 17-23 were as follows:
In Eastmincom, a rebel with alias "Bakal" yielded to 36th Infantry Battalion (IB) troops in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur on May 17.

Meanwhile, 29 communist rebels surrendered to the 88th Infantry Battalion in San Fernando, Bukidnon on May 18. On the same day, two rebels with aliases "Jimboy‟ and "Meme‟ surrendered to government forces in Magpet, North Cotabato, while a rebel with alias "Camal" gave up to the 56th IB in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Also on May 18, a rebel was killed in an encounter in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

On May 19, two communist terrorists with aliases "Kaypee" and "Wena" surrendered to the Army's 23rd IB in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte while another rebel with alias "Loko" yielded to authorities in South Cotabato on May 22.

Meanwhile, two communist terrorists were arrested in separate operations in Asuncion, Davao del Norte, and Lianga, Surigao del Sur on May 19 while another one was captured in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte on May 20.

In Nolcom, a rebel with alias "Red‟ surrendered in Bulacan on May 18 while 81 other communist terrorists surrendered in Nueva Ecija from May 21 to 23.

In Solcom, an alias "Jigs‟ surrendered to authorities in Macalelon, Quezon while government troops killed another rebel in a firefight in Iriga City, Camarines Sur on May 22.

The military also seized 18 high-powered firearms, five improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and 413 assorted ammunition during the same period.

“The increasing support of communities and local government units through the NTF ELCAC contribute to the continued success of the AFP’s operation against the Communist Terrorist Groups,” AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said.

He added that the AFP will not stop until it has completely destroyed the armed capabilities of the communist terrorists who continue to threaten the safety and security of Filipinos aside from hampering peace and development initiatives in the country.

AFP ships, planes could be used to bring home 24K OFWs

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25, 2020): AFP ships, planes could be used to bring home 24K OFWs (By Azer Parrocha)

C-130 PLANE. MalacaƱang says on Monday (May 25, 2020) military planes and ships could be used to transport 24,000 overseas Filipino workers stuck in quarantine centers to their respective provinces. President Rodrigo Duterte gave concerned government agencies one week to send home coronavirus-free OFWs. (File photo)

The national government could utilize ships and planes of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to send the 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stuck in quarantine centers back to their respective provinces, MalacaƱang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this announcement after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Health (DOH) to utilize all government resources to transport OFWs back to their homes after being cleared for coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“Ang sabi po ng Presidente, kung hindi po sapat ang pribadong bus, eroplano at barko, puwede rin gamitin ang mga barko at eroplano ng hukbong sandatahan (The President said that if private buses, planes and ships are not enough, ships and planes of the Armed Forces can also be utilized),” he said in a virtual presser.

To date, Roque said the OWWA has started sending OFWs back to their respective provinces with the help from private airline companies.

Around 3,459 plane seats have been reserved for OFWs as of May 25, 2020, he said.

Roque said OFWs living in parts of Luzon will be sent to their respective provinces via bus while those from Visayas and Mindanao will be transported via plane or ship.

He assured OFWs that they will each be issued with quarantine certificates to present to authorities on their journey back home.

“Yung wala pong kopya ng quarantine certificate nila na kakailanganin para makauwi, wag po kayo mag-alala nagkaroon ng sistema ang OWWA na bibigyan po kayo ng kopya ng inyong certificate bago kayo sumakay ng bus, eroplano o barko (Those without quarantine certificates, which are needed to return home, don’t worry, the OWWA has put in place a system to provide you with certificates before you get on the bus, plane or ship)," he said.

Under government guidelines, all returning OFWs are required to undergo facility-based quarantine and Covid-19 tests to be shouldered by the OWWA.

Roque reminded concerned agencies to ensure that only OFWs with negative test results will be allowed to return home.

Last week, Presidential Peace Adviser and National Task Force on Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed concern that the arrival of some 42,000 returning migrant workers this May and June could overwhelm the country’s patient care centers.

Around 500,000 OFWs are expected to return within the year, he said.

Recent data showed that about 30,000 OFWs have undergone PCR testing and around 600 were found positive, he added.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, in line with Duterte's directive, vowed to send home coronavirus-free OFWs under the OFW Return Program.