Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Philippine Generals Push Back Against Pentagon Report on Counter-Extremist Ops

Posted to BenarNews (Aug 18, 2020): Philippine Generals Push Back Against Pentagon Report on Counter-Extremist Ops

U.S. Army Col. Ernest Lee (left) speaks with Philippine Marine Corps Commandant Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat in Taguig city, near Manila, during a handover of military weapons and equipment granted by the United States to help the Philippines in counter-terrorist operations against Muslim militants in the southern Philippines, June 5, 2017. AP

Philippine government forces have made significant gains in weakening the Islamic State militant threat in the south, the country’s military chief and other generals said Tuesday as they pushed back against a recent Pentagon report that painted a different picture.

Counter-extremist operations carried out by the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) have diminished the capabilities of Abu Sayyaf and other southern extremist groups aligned with IS, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the head of the armed forces, told BenarNews.

“WestMinCom has accomplished so much as far as degrading. Maybe we have not yet defeated (them yet) but we have degraded their capabilities, especially the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

Government forces have succeeded to degrade the Abu Sayyaf militant ranks by up to 70 percent since last year, Gapay said. He did not give estimates of the group’s current strength, but military sources had earlier placed its troop levels as ranging from 300 to 500 fighters.

“We have neutralized many terrorists,” Gapay said. “And surprisingly many have surrendered. Just think, these brutal and violent people were surrendering to us in the government. Meaning, they do not believe anymore [in] the cause of the movement and why they were doing it, and now they are returning to the folds of the law.”

Gapay was commenting on a report released on Aug. 7 by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Counter-extremist efforts, it said, appeared to have had little impact on the “the capabilities, size, financing and operations” of the Philippine branch of Islamic State and locally affiliated groups after the United States launched a multi-million-dollar aid package to support Manila in those efforts.

The U.S. government started the program, known as Operation Pacific Eagle – Philippines (OPE-P), in September 2017, when Philippine government forces were battling pro-IS fighters who had taken over the southern city of Marawi.

The United States deployed military advisers and drones to help the Philippines retake the lakeside city, kill the top leaders of the militant siege and flush out their forces a month later. But IS-linked fighters and groups have lingered and carried out attacks in the Philippine south. These include a suicide bombing that killed 23 people at a church in southern Sulu province in January 2019.

“In general, efforts to reduce extremism in the Philippines do not appear to have made a substantial difference since the launch of OPE-P. ISIS-EA and the other violent extremist groups in the Philippines that either coordinate with or share members with ISIS, have remained about the same size and strength for the last few years,” Sean W. O’Donnell, the DoD’s acting inspector general, said in the quarterly report to Congress about the aid program. He used a different acronym for IS in referring to the terror group’s East Asia branch.

“These groups continue to operate in the southern Philippines where separatist groups and extremist groups have existed for decades. Since the outset of Lead IG reporting on OPE-P in 2018, we have seen little progress in improving the economic, social, and political conditions in that part of the country,” he added.

And although IS continues to carry out “sporadic, mostly small-scale attacks,” the Philippine military, with the backing of the United States, “continues to conduct counterterrorism operations that keep ISIS-EA from spreading, and continues to rely on U.S.-provided intelligence, air assets, and other support to conduct counterterrorism operations,” O’Donnell said as part of the 56-page document.

The report, covering the second quarter of 2020, was the 11th quarterly report since the Pentagon first began reporting to Congress about the aid program in February 2018. The latest report, however, did not go into detail to explain why counter-extremist efforts had not made a substantial difference against IS and associated groups in the southern Philippines.

‘We have gained a lot’

Gapay, the Philippine military chief, disputed the comments by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

“[I] would say his remarks are not true. In fact, it’s to the contrary. We have gained a lot as far as our anti-terrorism campaign is concern,” Gapay said.

Gapay made the comments days after a senior Abu Sayyaf militant commander, Abduljihad “Indang” Susukan – who was wanted in connection with 23 cases of murder in the kidnappings of foreign hostages by the militant group –was taken into custody by Philippine authorities after he voluntarily surrendered on Aug. 13.

Galpay spoke to BenarNews on the sidelines of a ceremony at Camp Basilio Navarro in Zamboanga, where Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana was leaving his duties as the WestMinCom commander to take a new post as head of the Philippine Army.

“Substantial gains” had been made against IS since the military pushed the group’s fighters out of Marawi in October 2017, Sobejana told BenarNews.

Intelligence work had led to the slaying of key Abu Sayyaf and IS fighters, so much so that “the communication between the foreign and the local terrorist groups was cut off,” he said.

The report from the Pentagon also touched on this point, saying that “operational ties between the core ISIS group in Iraq and Syria … and ISIS in the Philippines have been significantly weakened.

When asked to respond Tuesday to the criticism from the Philippine military, Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, replied: “We stand behind our report.”

Analyst: comprehensive approach needed

Meanwhile Rommel Banlaoi, a counter-terrorism expert at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, agreed with the U.S. assessment. Militants in the south, led by the Abu Sayyaf Group, were capable of carrying out terror plots, he said.

“The ASG has the intention and strong capability to mount violent attacks, especially suicide terrorism,” Banlaoi said.

“Dealing with IS needs a more comprehensive approach that empowers the most affected communities against terrorism,” he said, adding that the Philippines needed ongoing American support to defeat threat from Islamic militancy in the south.

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales contributed to this report from Cotabato City, Philippines.


Assessing President Duterte’s Controversial New Anti-Terror Law

Opinion piece posted to the Geopolitical Monitor (Aug 18, 2020): Assessing President Duterte’s Controversial New Anti-Terror Law (By Koushlender Singh Bundela & Prashant Kandpal)

On 3 July 2020, amid mounting challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill into law. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which replaced the Human Security Act of 2007, has already been widely criticized by right-wing parties as well as international organizations such as Amnesty International. Opponents have concerns regarding the implementation of the bill, unconstitutional provisions in the law, and the potential risk of abuse by the authorities. The threat of extremist elements in the region of the Sulu Archipelago, a stronghold of the ISIS-aligned terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, has always pushed the Philippines’ government to take strong actions against rising extremism. Such a need became more obvious after the Marawi siege in May 2017. With the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2020, President Duterte will be taking an important step toward curbing extremism. But a diminished trust level among the public for key institutions and the government could act to obstruct progress.

So far, around eight groups filed petitions in the Philippine’s Supreme Court objecting to the constitutionality of the law. Many critics are also questioning the timing, because during the ongoing pandemic, when people are expecting a fair and comprehensive relief package from the government, getting an updated law with potentially unconstitutional provisions may cause an uproar among the electorate.

Ranked ninth in the Global Terrorism Index of 2019, domestic terrorism and insurgency is not a new phenomenon for the Philippines. The world’s 13th most populous country has suffered from terrorism since 1968, when the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) adopted the stagism strategy of socialist revolution via protracted people’s war, forming their guerilla military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), a year later. Since then, the Philippines has experienced numerous attacks at the hands of communist and Islamic separatists: the Hijacking of Philippine Airlines BAC-111 in 1976 by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Bojinka plot of 1994, and the siege of Marawi in 2017 by Maute rebels, to name a few. For decades, the Philippines’ government handled terrorism cases without any anti-terror law, blurring the distinction between prosecuting terrorists, government critics, and secessionists. This led to a huge public outcry and demands for a comprehensive approach to fighting terrorism. Thus, the Philippines government in 2007 passed Republic Act 9372 or Human Security Act of 2007, signed by the then President Gloria Arroyo with the aim of tackling militants, especially in the southern Philippines. HSA 2007 was seen more as an act to appease the United States and as a response to the US declaration of a “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This law came under fire because of its overly broad definition of terrorism, which defined terrorism as “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.” Critics feared a vague definition could give the government an upper hand over the opposition and also raise concerns over potential human rights abuses. This law also contained some provisions that created implementation concerns, such as defining high penalties or ten to twelve years of imprisonment, leading to mistaken arrests and violations of a detainee’s rights. In the years that followed, HSA 2007 remained a bone of contention between critics and the authorities.

Following two decades as Davao City Mayor, Rodrigo Duterte started his presidential campaign in 2016. Though the approach during his mayoral term helped make Davao one of the safest in the Philippines, it also raised questions of human rights abuses. As per Human Rights Watch, the Coalition Against Summary Execution documented 814 death squad killings in Davao City from mid-1998 to early 2009. From the beginning of his presidential campaign, shoring up the government’s capacity to tackle both communist and Islamist extremism remained paramount for President Rodrigo and his leftist party, The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). His campaign was constructed around promises to wipe out corruption, drugs, and militancy from the country within three to six months. The 2016 presidential election results saw him victorious with a remarkable majority of votes.

Duterte combined his long experience with his ‘Davao Model’ and a hardline approach to law and order while in office. The strategy became clear with his declaration of a “war on drugs” and the launching of “Oplan Tokhang” (Operation Knock and Plead), which gave a free hand to the Philippines National Police (PNP) for conducting its operations and killing suspects in case they resisted. Research by Human Right Watch shows evidence of unlawful killings of mostly urban poor, and of power abuses by the legal authorities and unidentified vigilantes and/or non-state actors, who were likely backed by political elites, during the operations carried out under the anti-drug crackdown. In the period between July 2016 and November 2017, around 20,000 drug related killings were recorded by the government. President Duterte’s “Oplan Tokhang” received worldwide criticism from humanitarian agencies for arbitrary and extrajudicial killings.

Duterte’s approach toward fighting drugs and extremism faced not just international criticism but also harmed trust among the public for government policies. Governance limitations due to fragmented geography, decades of fights with New People’s Army’s guerillas and mounting Islamic extremism were the rationale behind the constitutional reform strategy of Duterte’s government. President Duterte’s campaign promise to eradicate terrorism took shape in the new Anti-Terrorism Bill 2020, which replaced HSA 2007. The new law defines terrorism as an act intending to cause death or injury, damage to the government or the private property or use weapons to “spread a message of fear” or intimidate the government. The law creates an ambiguity in understanding the concept of terrorism; most critics view it as a power grab under the pretext of national security and the weaponization of the judicial system for politically motivated arrests.

Citing a rise in terror activities, the need for a strict approach to curb extremism is sine qua non for the Philippine’s government. The siege of Marawi in 2017 by Maute rebels took a heavy toll on government forces; it took five months for the authorities to take back the city, with 165 deaths and over 1000 injured on their side. On top of that, 360,000 people were also displaced during the conflict. The resettlement of displaced people is still a lingering problem for the Philippine government. After the Marawi siege, from the period between July 2018 to November 2019, the Philippines experienced six suicide bombings, mainly perpetrated by Abu Sayyaf, an IS-link terror faction. The revival of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB; a failed peace deal of 2014 between the Aquino’s government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)) after its renaming as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and it’s ratification after two rounds of plebiscite in January and February 2019, shows the willingness of Duterte’s government to stabilize the situation in a peaceful manner. In the same year with the peaceful implementation of BOL, the Bangsamoro region has attracted big investors like Lamitan Agri-Business Corporation (LABCO) to engage in Cavendish banana plantations worth PHP1.8 billion in Lamitan City, Basilan province; JMI Sand and Gravel Truck Services Corporation, which invested PHP1.4 billion in sand and gravel project located in Gang, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao; Maguindanao Corn Development (MCD) DSA-1 Corporation which is pursuing a modern yellow corn production project costing PHP 515 million located in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao; Hong Kong Feng Sheng Heritage Philippines Inc. (HK FSH) based in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur investing PHP100 million to establish an abaca fiber processing plant; Wao Development Corporation (WDC) investing PHP 306 million for a new pineapple packing plant in Wao Municipality, Lanao del Sur, to name a few. This investment trend within just the first year year shows the region’s potential to emerge as an agro giant, which could be a boon for an otherwise suffering economy.

But a sense of peace denial from the extremist side, especially after the IS resurgence in the region, has forced Duterte to throw his weight behind a reformed terrorism bill. The protesters of the new anti-terror bill fear that the provisions in the bill give the government unsupervised power over the citizens of the country. The bill will create an anti-terror council composed of executives appointed by the president himself. This council is authorized to arrest individuals without warrant, detain without charge for up to 24 days before presenting them in front of judicial authority, and authorize 90 days of surveillance and wiretaps. The scope of definition of terrorism is so vast that it fails to distinguish and separate among government’s critics, criminals and real terrorists. Right-wing groups and human rights activists fear that the anti-terror council working under the direct supervision of the president will wrongfully take advantage of the grey area and conduct arbitrary arrests of anyone found to be opposing the government or sympathizing with the communist agenda. Individuals convicted on the basis of the new definitions of “terrorism” will face up to life in prison without parole. The law also labels the act of inciting others to commit terrorism “by the means of speeches, proclamations, writings, graffiti, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end” a criminal offense, without defining incitement. Critics feared this to be directly affecting the freedom of expression of individuals and also of the media. Speech will be subject to prosecution, as the anti-terrorism council will be the sole judge to determine the level of threat and the convicted will face up to 12 years in prison. The active media houses can face the same fate as ABS-CBN News & Rappler if the council labels broadcast news as “serious risk” to the government. The tried and tested method of infesting power in one council rather than improving the current system can pose a risk to democratic character of the country.

It seems that the President’s policies are inviting repression. His “war on drugs” had already claimed the lives of more than 20,000 of his fellow countrymen. This law can create a situation whereby authorities backed by the president may not feel liable for their actions and can abuse their significant powers.

The current anti-terror law was already implemented on 18th July despite protests from international organizations and local human rights groups. The fears and concerns of these groups could see the Philippines government facing growing dissent amid a distressing nationwide lockdown due to the current pandemic situation. Terror outfits like the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf, or other active terrorist organizations in the country can try to take advantage of public protests to manipulate and recruit more locals into their organization. With the country’s economy expected to lose some 3% to 4% of GDP growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people protesting out in the streets and terrorist groups getting stronger would be the last thing the Duterte cabinet needs right now. Moreover, with the Philippines’ fragmented geography, obstructions in governance and implementation of the new anti-terror law will be inevitable. Should implementation of the new law remain unchecked and policing not brought under public control, the result could be horrific for an already shrinking democratic space within the Philippines.

However, only time will tell if President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-terror gambit will pay off.

[Koushlender Singh Bundela is a security professional having experience in Geopolitical risk assessment and Counter-terrorism. Currently he is working as Manager; Governance and Integration in one of the leading hydrocarbon industries. He is also a Counter terrorism Intelligence Analyst intern at The Counterterrorism group USA. Prashant Kandpal is Security professional having experience in Hydrocarbon industry and International financial firms in the field of Security/Geopolitical Intelligence, Counter-terrorism and Crisis Management. Currently working as an Associate (Threat Analyst) - Asia Pacific in an international bank. He is also a Counterterrorism Analyst in The Counterterrorism Group USA and Contributing writer- India for Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism a UK based counter-terrorism think tank.]

Water Wars: Lines in the Great Wall of Sand

Posted to Lawfare (Aug 17, 2020): Water Wars: Lines in the Great Wall of Sand (By Sean Quirk)

The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups sail together as part of a joint Carrier Strike Force in the South China Sea on July 6, 2020. (Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Christoph, U.S. Navy)

On July 13, the United States hardened its position against the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the South China Sea. A statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that “Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea” and “its campaign of bullying” are “completely unlawful.”

Since the July 12, 2016, arbitral tribunal ruling in Philippines v. China (South China Sea Arbitration), the United States has insisted that the decision is “final and legally binding” on both parties. The tribunal rejected China’s claims to “historic rights” and its “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea. In calling for all sides to abide by the tribunal decision, Washington—along with dozens of other countries—had thus aligned itself in support of international law and against China’s claims that fell outside the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

But Pompeo’s announcement stresses U.S. support not only for the tribunal’s jurisdiction over the disputes but also for the merits of the tribunal’s findings. His statement asserts that China “has no legal grounds” to continue claiming maritime dominion throughout the nine-dash line. The statement’s strong rhetoric lambasts Chinese behavior since the 2016 ruling, saying: “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire.” Moreover, the statement paints the United States as the defender of Southeast Asian countries facing a China that is attempting to “bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with ‘might makes right.’”

In a U.S. position paper for diplomats briefing their Southeast Asian counterparts on the policy shift, Washington stated that “China’s maritime claims pose the single greatest threat to the freedom of the seas in modern history.” The paper declared that the world “cannot afford to re-enter an era where states like China attempt to assert sovereignty over the seas,” in an apparent nod to the 17th-century “Battle of the Books” between scholars Hugo Grotius and John Selden. Grotius’s view on the “freedom of the seas”—free to all and belonging to none—generally prevailed over Selden’s argument for “closed seas.” These views constituted a foundational philosophy for UNCLOS.

Unsurprising, China condemned the U.S. policy shift. The PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said that China “earnestly upholds international law including the UNCLOS.” He added, “We must tell Pompeo that the South China Sea is not Hawaii; the regional countries and all peace-loving people won't stand by if several U.S. politicians attempt to muddy the waters.”

The new U.S. position also articulates specific implications for key land features in the South China Sea. The statement says that China cannot assert a maritime claim within areas that the tribunal found to be within the Philippines’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or its continental shelf. Such Chinese claims would include any derived from Scarborough Reef (Mandarin: Huangyan Dao; Tagalog: Panatag Shoal) or the Spratly Islands. Citing the tribunal decision, the statement says China has “no lawful territorial or maritime claim” to either Mischief Reef (Mandarin: Meiji Jiao; Tagalog: Panganiban Reef) or Second Thomas Shoal (Mandarin: Ren’ai Jiao; Tagalog: Ayungin Shoal) in the Spratlys. Both features are within the EEZ off the Philippines off Palawan Island. The Philippines has occupied Second Thomas Shoal ever since the Philippine Navy intentionally grounded its transport ship BRP Sierra Madre on the reef in 1999.

However, China has occupied Mischief Reef since 1994, when China took advantage of a lull in Philippine maritime patrols and quickly erected a stilted structure. The Philippines protested the seizure, but Chinese forces remained. China began major land reclamation at the reef in 2014—about a year after the Philippines first filed the South China Sea arbitration at the Hague. Then-Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Harry Harris called China’s artificial island creation in the Spratlys a “great wall of sand.” China has turned the low-tide elevation of Mischief Reef into one of its most significant military bases in the Spratlys, “complete with radar domes, shelters for surface-to-air missiles and a runway long enough for fighter jets.”

Asserting that China has no territorial claim to Mischief Reef is a significant escalation of U.S. rhetoric. The new U.S. position also goes beyond the explicit conclusion of the 2016 tribunal decision, which only stated that that there was “no possible entitlement by China to any maritime zone in the area of either Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal” (emphasis added) because both features are low-tide elevations located within the Philippine’s EEZ and continental shelf. The tribunal did not seek to resolve the sovereignty disputes over the features themselves.

The implications of this policy shift for Mischief Reef’s future are ambiguous. China’s recent militarization of the reef makes it exceedingly unlikely Beijing will relinquish the base to the Philippines. And the United States has conducted at least six operations near the features since 2017. Because the tribunal ruled Mischief Reef was a low-tide elevation that does not garner a territorial sea in itself, the frequent U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) near the feature exercise “high seas freedoms” within 12 nautical miles of the base. Low-tide elevations can never garner territorial seas—whether under the jurisdiction of China, the Philippines, or any other state—so these “highs seas freedoms” FONOPs have already been serving as a challenge to Chinese assertions of sovereignty. Pompeo’s statement thus makes explicit what was already implied from the tribunal’s 2016 decision and subsequent U.S. naval operations.

Pompeo’s statement also rejects “any PRC maritime claim” that extends beyond the 12-nautical mile territorial seas of its claimed Spratly features. The statement identifies the waters surrounding Vietnam-administered Vanguard Bank (Vietnamese: Bãi Tư Chính; Mandarin: Wan'an Tan), Malaysia-administered Luconia Shoals (Malay: Raja Jarum/Patinggi Ali; Mandarin: Kang Ansha), Brunei’s EEZ and Indonesia-administered Natuna Besar. Pompeo says any “PRC action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters” is unlawful. Chinese harassment has been particularly aggressive towards Malaysian and Vietnamese undersea oil and gas exploration in recent months. The statement also rejects China’s claim to James Shoal (Malay: Beting Serupai; Mandarin: Zengmu Ansha), a fully submerged feature 50 nautical miles from Malaysia that is a site for Malaysian hydrocarbon exploration. Beijing also claims the shoal is the “southernmost territory of China.” But UNCLOS considers a submerged feature to be part of the seabed and belonging to whoever owns the continental shelf underneath it—in this case, Malaysia.

Since the U.S. policy announcement, regional countries have largely been in tune with Pompeo. In a note verbale to the United Nations on July 29, Malaysia rejected any lawful basis for “China's claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the 'nine-dash line.’” Vietnam said it welcomed views on the South China Sea that followed international law, while Australia said it continued to support freedom of navigation in the area “very strongly.”

A Philippine presidential spokesperson took a softer line, saying the country would work with China and that “the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling has no way of being enforced by the body which rendered it, so we must look to other means to resolve the dispute.” Later, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said there was little the Philippines could do because Beijing was already "in possession" of the disputed South China Sea. Duterte has allegedly blocked Philippine naval forces from conducting exercises with the U.S. military in the South China Sea. But the Philippine Navy will still participate in the upcoming 2020 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise off Hawaii from August 17 to 31.

Naval Operations in the South China Sea

While diplomats in Washington and Beijing drew lines in the sand, both countries engaged in significant naval activities in the South China Sea. A day after Pompeo’s July 13 policy announcement, USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) conducted a FONOP within 12 nautical miles of Cuarteron Reef (Malay: Terumbu Calderon; Mandarin: Huayang Jiao; Tagalog: Calderon Reef; Vietnamese: Bãi Châu Viên) and Fiery Cross Reef (Mandarin: Yongshu Jiao; Tagalog: Kagitingan Reef; Vietnamese: Đá Chữ Thập). China occupies both of these artificial islands in the Spratlys.

Earlier in July, the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups conducted dual carrier operations along with U.S. Air Force B-52s in the South China Sea. It was the first time two U.S. carriers operated together in the disputed waters since 2014. A Seventh Fleet press release said, “Together, the strike force was able to extend the reach of air superiority, and provide greater security throughout the region.”

In response, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman asserted that the United States had “ulterior motives” and was “creating division among nations in the region and militarising the South China Sea.” Citing unnamed analysts, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times stated that the “South China Sea is fully within the grasp of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), and any US aircraft carrier movement in the region is solely at the pleasure of the PLA, which has a wide selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons like the DF-21D and DF-26 ‘aircraft carrier killer’ missiles.” The U.S. Navy Chief of Information responded on Twitter: “And yet, there they are.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper added that U.S. aircraft carriers are “not going to be stopped by anybody.”

During the same first week of July, China held large naval exercises near the Paracel Islands (Mandarin: Xisha Qundao; Vietnamese: Quần đảo Hoàng Sa) that simulated seizing contested islands. The PRC has occupied the Paracels since a naval battle in 1974 in which it expelled South Vietnam from the island group; Vietnam continues to claim sovereignty over the islands. Vietnam’s foreign ministry called China’s naval exercises “a violation of sovereignty that could harm Beijing’s relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations” (ASEAN). Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also characterized the exercises as “highly provocative.” A U.S. Defense Department statement similarly called the exercises part of China’s long-standing strategy to “assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbours.”

In Other News...

After departing the South China Sea, the Reagan and Nimitz Carrier Strike Groups went their separate ways to conduct maritime exercises with nations of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“the Quad”)—the informal strategic consultations between the United States, Australia, India and Japan. The Reagan Strike Group sailed east to the Philippine Sea and conducted a trilateral exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and Australian Defense Force on July 19. Soon after, the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group participated in interoperability exercises with four Indian Navy ships in the Indian Ocean on July 20. An editorial in the influential Indian paper Hindustan Times has called on India to make the Quad more permanent and to “be a part of any club that seeks to contain Chinese power.” Normally keen to stay neutral, Indian anti-PRC rhetoric is on the rise ever since the China-India border melee in the Galwan Valley killed 20 Indian soldiers in June. The Quad navies may all come together in the annual Malabar naval exercise, typically a training event only for U.S., Indian and Japanese forces. India has been reluctant to invite Australia for fear of Chinese backlash.

In the East China Sea, Beijing announced it would be conducting two live-fire exercises 340 miles north of Taiwan. The China Maritime Safety Administration’s notice coincided with the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s visit to Taiwan—the highest-level U.S. delegation in decades. Azar met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and discussed Taiwan’s tremendous success in keeping COVID-19 cases to under 500 people on the island nation.

Taiwan is also negotiating with the United States to acquire four SeaGuardian surveillance drones. The aircraft would dramatically increase the range of Taiwan’s drone fleet from 160 nautical miles to 6,000 nautical miles. The U.S. Congress has to approve any final sale, which could include weapons to arm the drones. China announced earlier in July that it would sanction Lockheed Martin for the company’s $620 million upgrade of Taiwan’s Patriot surface-to-air missile systems.


The New York Times editorial board published an opinion piece that said Pompeo’s statement “rightly declared” China’s claims to resources in the South China Sea to be “completely unlawful.” The piece said that the new policy statement “aligned the United States with international law in one of the world’s most critical waterways and showed support for the smaller coastal states threatened by Chinese bullying.” The editorial board emphasized, however, that Washington needs to back up its new stance with a “robust and coordinated policy” that supports China’s bullied neighbors—a form of multilateral leadership that the Trump administration has eschewed.

At Bloomberg, Historian Niall Ferguson argues that the United States and China are already engaged in Cold War II. He writes that the COVID-19 pandemic has both accelerated and revealed existing tensions in trade (see intellectual property disputes and Huawei), ideology (see Hong Kong protests and Xinjiang’s cultural genocide) and the military (see Taiwan and the South China Sea). Ferguson claims, “The Chinese Communist Party caused this disaster — first by covering up how dangerous the new virus SARS-CoV-2 was, then by delaying the measures that might have prevented its worldwide spread.” He quotes Henry Kissinger, who said in 2019 about the U.S.-China relationship, “We are in the foothills of a Cold War.” Ferguson goes on to write that academics who argue for a “rivalry-partnership” between the two nations are overlooking the possibility that Beijing is “not interested in being frenemies.”

[Sean Quirk is a JD/MPP joint-degree student at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. He holds a BA in Political Science from Columbia University and served as a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy for five years. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or any other agency of the United States Government.]

Opinion: Russian Influence in Southeast Asia Will Struggle to Be More Than Marginal

Opinion piece posted to InDepth News Analysis (Aug 17, 2020): Russian Influence in Southeast Asia Will Struggle to Be More Than Marginal (Viewpoint by Joshua Bernard B Espeña, UP Diliman)

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong prepare for a group photo with ASEAN leaders at the ASEAN-Russia Summit in Singapore, 14 November 2018. Source: ASEAN

DILIMAN, Quezon City, Philippines (IDN) – The Russian people have voted in favour of constitutional reforms that give President Vladimir Putin the potential to stay in power until 2036 through a landslide victory in a national referendum on 2 July 2020. While critics complain about voting irregularities, the changes mean that Putin could become Russia’s longest-serving ruler since Peter the Great.

The referendum sends a clear message to the world — Russian bravado and the desire to revive the former glory of the Soviet Union are here to stay. Putin has made headlines since 2000, receiving applause and criticism from leaders and observers around the world for his foreign policy. His policies include the 2008 invasion of Georgia, the 2014 annexation of Crimea, ‘grey zone’ operations in Ukraine, military intervention in Syria, interference in the 2016 US presidential election, regime support in Venezuela and increased strategic partnership with China against US influence. Forbes even dubbed Putin the most powerful man in the world in 2015.

But there are questions about Putin’s influence in Southeast Asia — Russia’s great power status is less empirical and more rhetorical in this area of the world, with limited military projection, trade or investment. With Putin seemingly secure in power, the Russian government will continue its long-standing agenda to developing relations in the region.

Russia became part of the ASEAN Regional Forum in 1995, became a full-pledged ASEAN dialogue partner in 1996 and acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN in 2004. Yet ASEAN–Russia relations have only produced three high-profile summits in more than 20 years.

The first was in 2005, resulting in the adoption of the Comprehensive Programme of Action (CPA) 2005–2015. The second summit was in 2010, leading to Russia’s membership in the East Asia Summit in 2011. The third was in 2016 when Putin met top ASEAN leaders for the first time by hosting a summit in Sochi to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ASEAN–Russia relations. The parties adopted the Sochi Declaration and signed the CPA 2016–2020. ASEAN–Russia cooperation is expected to continue through a CPA 2021–2025.

Russia has worked modestly in developing its relationship with ASEAN. Trade increased from US$500 million in 2005 to US$4.3 billion in 2017 while foreign direct investment reached US$45 million in 2017. Russia has also tried to engage in cultural diplomacy. Russia’s desire to integrate into Asia’s growing economies is evident. Russia’s 2016 Foreign Policy Concept states that establishing a long-term dialogue partnership with ASEAN is a priority objective. This desire came at a time when ASEAN had just launched the ASEAN Economic Community.

For ASEAN, deepening ties with Russia is strategically wise to keep options open, especially as the Sino-US geopolitical competition evolves into the unknown. But perceptions of Russia vary among ASEAN states — Moscow has been far more successful at the bilateral level than the multilateral level. Laos and Vietnam are longstanding Russian partners while others have recently recalibrated their approach to Moscow. Thanks to Vietnam’s emerging ASEAN leadership, Russia has a bigger launch pad into Southeast Asia.

The change of the Russian constitution promises several implications for ASEAN.

First, Russia is likely to continue to project a multilateral attitude towards ASEAN. Russian Ambassador to ASEAN Alexander Ivanov stated that COVID-19 may push the ASEAN-Russia strategic partnership into action through ASEAN-institutions. Ivanov was reiterating Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s support for ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led mechanisms. But, in a multipolar world, Russia still lags behind the United States and China in its ability to leverage political and economic influence in Southeast Asia.

Second, Russia will seek to build the legitimacy of its sharp power among ASEAN states. Russia has the potential to succeed in influencing illiberal ASEAN states in the information space. Malaysia and the Philippines have recently signed agreements with Russian state mouthpiece news outlets like Sputnik and TASS for training and information exchange with their government news personnel.

We have seen these state outlets announce ready Russian-made COVID-19 vaccines. Russian virologists question the lack of information and data about the vaccine’s development. Yet, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he is willing to personally volunteer for the vaccine. With Putin staying in power, Russian disinformation is likely to intensify in Southeast Asia.

Third, Russia will continue refusing entanglement in regional disputes. The South China Sea issue is thorny for Russia, especially in its dealings with Vietnam. The 2019 ASEAN Regional Forum Security Outlook testifies that Russia upholds non-intervention and conflict-avoidance, and calls for parties in the South China Sea to abide by regional instruments.

Yet, they leave those parties confused about Russia’s ambitions in the area. The Chairman’s statement at the 36th ASEAN Summit in June 2020 disputes Chinese historic rights in the South China Sea, putting Russia in a more awkward position because its neutrality is tantamount to ambiguity.

These implications show that Russian influence in Southeast Asia will struggle to be more than marginal. Putin’s administration will likely continue to play on elements of multilateralism, disinformation and ambiguity to maintain a modest amount of relevance in ASEAN.

[Joshua Bernard B Espeña is a defence analyst in the Office for Strategic Studies and Strategy Management of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He is also a graduate student in International Studies at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. All views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of any institution or organisation. It was first published in EastAsiaForum on 14 August. IDN-InDepthNews – 17 August 2020]

[IDN is Flagship Agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate].

NDF/Sison: Concerning the series of killings and persecution and consequences to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

Propaganda interview of Jose Maria Sison posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Aug 18, 2020): Concerning the series of killings and persecution and consequences to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

Questions from Kent Ivan Florino, Philippine Collegian
Answers by Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant

1. What is your position on the Philippine liberals’ insistence that Ka Randy Echanis’s death was due to the “mistake” committed by national democratic left in their supposed alliance with President Rodrigo Duterte last 2016 elections?

JMS: It is publicly known that Bayan Muna and the Makabayan Bloc, which encompass the electoral parties that are assertive of national independence and democracy, supported Grace Poe and not Rodrigo Duterte. The ruling system bans the revolutionary organizations like the Communist Party of the Philippines from participation in the elections to choose the GRP president.

As a matter of principle and policy, the revolutionary organizations did not support or ally itself with either Poe or Duterte for electoral purposes within the ruling system. The revolutionary forces of the people are building the People’s Democratic Government and are waging a people’s war against the reactionary social system and government of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats.

The “liberals” you cite, who talk contrary to the aforesaid facts, could just be a handful of Trotskyites and crypto-Trotskyites and other anti-communists who specialize in slandering the CPP and misrepresenting it as responsible for and enabling the monstrous Duterte regime. They do not represent or constitute all the liberals. In attacking the CPP, they support Duterte in a back-handed way and obscure real supporters of Duterte, like the agents of US and Chinese imperialism and plunderers like the Marcoses and Arroyos.

2. Would this seemingly opportunistic attitude of the liberals towards Ka Randy’s death change ND’s dynamics with the continuing unification of broad alliance against the reactionary government?

JMS: Those anti-communists who present themselves as liberals and concentrate their attacks on the CPP are practically supporters of the Duterte regime. They should not be regarded as real and honest liberals. The progressive liberals and even most of the conservative liberals are among the middle forces within the broad national democratic movement that relies on the basic alliance of workers and peasants, wins over the middle forces and takes advantage of the splits among the reactionary forces.

Please do not presume that such anti-CPP slanderers as Walden Bello, Nathan Quimpo, Patricio Abinales, Leloy Claudio and the like represent the liberals or are the entirety of liberals. These anti-communist slanderers specialize in dishing out lies and misinterpretations. They go down to the level of blaming the victims, Ka Randy and all those who are aggrieved by his murder, for the crimes of Duterte.

They are dancing on the grave of Ka Randy. By attacking the revolutionary movement, they are minimizing the culpability of Duterte and are in fact exculpating him. In this sense, they work as special agents of Duterte by concentrating their attack on the revolutionary forces that are at the forefront of fighting the traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, plundering and mendacious Duterte regime.

3. How do you draw the line on who the National Democratic movement will open its doors to, for a broad united front against the government?

JMS: The national democratic movement embraces the basic alliance of the workers and peasants and the middle forces that assert and fight for national independence and democracy. The honest liberals, be they progressive or conservative, who oppose the Duterte regime truly belong to the middle forces of the broad national united front along the national democratic line. They are doing their best in opposing the Duterte regime independently and in concert with the organized forces of the toiling masses.

You must understand that the handful of Trotskyites and crypto-Trotskyites who attack the CPP and spare Duterte use the liberal language to dress up their anti-communism and at the same time use pseudo-Left language to dress up the worst of pro-imperialist bourgeois liberalism. The are sneaky and slippery toads who can never mislead a big number of people.

4. If in case the ND changes its position on its alliance with the liberals, how extensive will the damages be in the legal, parliamentary struggle waged by the NDF?

JMS: I have already explained to you that the progressive as well as conservative liberals have an important place and role in the broad spectrum of the national united front against the Duterte regime. The honest liberals who abound among the urban petty bourgeois, especially among the intelligentsia and studentry, oppose the Duterte regime. There is only a handful of pretenders to liberalism who serve Duterte as his special agents and are Duterte’s influencers by attacking the CPP, the revolutionary forces and the entire national democratic movement, including the real and honest liberals.

5. Why did the NDFP agree to negotiate peace with the Duterte regime? Is it not capitulationism or even revisionism to negotiate with someone who had a notorious record of human rights violations as Davao City Mayor? Those whom you call pseudo-liberals and pseudo-Left consider the CPP and NDFP wrong in negotiating with the Duterte regime and regard peace negotiations as alliance or support for Duterte or even as capitulation, surrender or enabling Duterte.

JMS: Peace negotiations occur because in the first place there is an armed conflict and there are at least two warring parties and are enemies to each other. When your enemy offers to negotiate peace with you for whatever reason or reasons, including the intent to present himself as the one hankering for peace and your side is incorrigibly bellicose, what would you do? Reject the offer of peace negotiations outrightly as false and pure shit? Then the anti-CPP pseudo-leftists would jump up and say that the CPP and NDFP were dogmatists and lovers of war.

The correct thing to do is to test and let the enemy reveal himself, his nature and objectives to the public; and promote the rights and interests of the people in the process. The Guomindang massacred 300,000 suspected communists and sympathizers in Shanghai in the 1920s but when the Japanese imperialist invasion came in the 1930s the Chinese Communist Party took the initiative of negotiating truce and alliance against a common enemy. Mao Zedong went to Chungking to engage in peace negotiations and proved the intransigence and bellicosity of the Guomindang.

To engage in peace negotiations per se is not capitulationism or revisionism on the part of the NDFP. When there is an obvious need for peace negotiations, endorsed by many people and promoted by honest peace advocates, the NDFP would appear unreasonable and bellicose. What it can do is to obtain fair terms of negotiations like those in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and avail of the peace negotiations as a way to win the support of the people and to test and know what the enemy is up to.

The NDFP has always availed of the peace negotiations to reach the Filipino people in their millions and inform them of the program of the people’s democratic revolution and demand comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict. Take note that the people’s war continued even as Duterte in the first place continued the all-out war of the previous regime against the revolutionary movement and refused to fulfill his promise of general amnesty and release of all political prisoners.

6. Do you believe that there’s still hope that the peace negotiations with the Duterte administration resume in the future?

JMS: Duterte himself has terminated the peace negotiations de facto since the time he started his all-out war against the revolutionary movement and reneged on his promise to amnesty and release of all political prisoners. He has also formally terminated the peace negotiations since the time he issued his proclamations to terminate the peace negotiations on November 23, 2017 and to designate the CPP and NPA as “terrorists” on December 5, 2017.

There is absolutely no more possibility to have peace negotiations while Duterte is in in power because he has committed colossal crimes against the people and premises his drive for absolute power and absolute corruption with anti-communism, state terrorism and the goal of imposing a full fascist dictatorship on the people through charter change under the pretext of federalism and parliamentarism.

7. How will Ka Randy’s death, and the arrest of several other consultants like Adel Silva and Vic Ladlad, affect the peace talks?

JMS: As I have said, Duterte has made peace negotiations impossible while he is in in power. I think that the revolutionary movement would rather intensify the people’s war and achieve big strides in the people’s democratic revolution at this time when the crisis of the ruling system has become so grave and Duterte is the target of the people’s wrath for so many unforgivable crimes of treason, tyranny, mass murder and plunder and for the bankruptcy of the economy and his government.

The people are desirous of revolutionary change. The revolutionary forces and people led by the CPP are rapidly growing in strength nationwide in more than 110 guerrilla fronts and in 74 of the 81 Philippine provinces. The conditions for the armed revolution are far more favorable than when Marcos imposed fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people from 1972 to 1986.

8. Will the NDFP pursue any sort of legal action on the death of its consultants, such as regarding possible violations of the rules of engagement according to the Geneva Convention?

JMS: Of course, the NDFP will do everything necessary and possible to condemn the illegal arrest and murders of NDFP consultants and other people as violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and encourage all the surviving victims, aggrieved families and organizations to seek justice in every possible legal venue and political forum in the Philippines and abroad.

But a great number of the Filipino people are of the view that the quickest possible way to seek justice is to oust the Duterte regime through gigantic mass actions that can encourage withdrawal of support from Duterte within his own government and effect constitutional succession by his vice president. At the same time, the people are determined to advance the people’s democratic revolution towards total victory so that the big criminals like Duterte can be tried and punished.

Even now, the revolutionary movement is being challenged by the people to subject Duterte and his criminal accomplices to prosecution and trial before the people’s court and deploy teams of the people’s army to arrest such criminals and give battle to them if they are armed or surrounded by armed guards. So many people have been asking me since 2017 why the revolutionary movement has not carried out actions to achieve justice for so many people already murdered by the Duterte terrorist regime.###


CPP/CIO: Duterte must answer to people for his secret trip

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Aug 18, 2020): Duterte must answer to people for his secret trip

AUGUST 18, 2020

Last night, Duterte attempted in vain to quash widespread talk about his secret trip to Singapore using his favorite luxurious private jet. He explained things in his usual drunken and callous self, speaking in broken sentences and slurs which clarified nothing and only confounded and confused those who listened. He succeeded only in stoking greater indignation and more speculations as to where he went and why.

While he dismissed speculations of him going to Singapore for a medical checkup, he did not actually deny going on a trip. He insisted he has the right to do so, to fly in and out, travel anywhere and anytime he wants. “Wala kayong pakialam kung gusto kong pumunta. If I want to go to Singapore, I will go to Singapore,” he prated.

Duterte’s assertion of his right to travel anywhere and anytime contemptuously ignored the travel restrictions which he and his quarantine generals have harshly imposed in the name of pandemic control. His insistence on his right is so callous and contemptuous of the untold hardships of the people under his regime’s travel restrictions.

In the middle of his babbling, Duterte also asserted that he is under no obligation to tell the people of his private affairs as he claims is not using government funds. This is outrightly incorrect and a brazen attempt to fool the people.

As Philippine president, he is obliged to answer to the Filipino people, whether he uses government funds or not. Besides, who can say that he is using private money when he has lined his pockets with billions in discretionary funds. As highest state official, he is under obligation to reveal his activities and spending, whether he spent public money, his own money or whether he received personal favors from his so-called friends.

The people must not permit Duterte to hide behind the cloak of privacy to conceal his secret affairs which is usually the realm of corruption, crime and treachery.


CPP/IB: Denounce fascist terrorist regime for assassination of Negros health worker amid pandemic

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Aug 18, 2020): Denounce fascist terrorist regime for assassination of Negros health worker amid pandemic

AUGUST 18, 2020

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the Duterte regime and its fascist terrorist agents for carrying out the assassination last night of Zara Alvarez, 39, a community health worker and human rights advocate in Negros.

Alvarez was gunned down last night in Barangay Mandalagan, Bacolod City at around 8 p.m. last night. According to Karapatan Human Rights Alliance, she was a paralegal officer of its Negros branch. She was also research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program (NIHIP). Alvarez was the second activist killed by state forces in a week following the assassination of Anakpawis chairperson Randall Echanis last August 10.

“Duterte regime is exposing its skewed fascist priorities by killing a dedicated community health worker amid the pandemic,” said CPP Information Officer Marco L. Valbuena.

“The killing of Alvarez amid the pandemic is a brazen assault of the Duterte regime against the democratic rights of the Filipino people in its attempt to suppress the people’s seething indignation over the bungled pandemic response, corruption, treachery, brutality and mendacity of the Duterte regime,” pointed out Valbuena.

“The assassination of Alvarez form part of the bloody campaign of murder by Duterte’s fascist terrorist agents targeting patriotic and democratic forces in order to cow the people to submission to his tyrannical rule,” said Valbuena. Earlier, military and police forces also assassinated CPP leader Julius Giron and urban poor leader Carlito Badion.

For several years, Alvarez was subjected to threats and harassment by the Duterte regime which tagged her as a terrorist in the proscription case filed by the Department of Justice against the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) in 2018. State forces circulated fliers and posters bearing her name and photographs accusing her of being an NPA leader in Negros.

Her colleagues, however, disputed the military’s claims asserting she has been helping the NIHIP in providing basic medical services and training to marginalized communities in Negros Island. She was chair of Anakbayan-Negros, deputy general secretary of Bayan-Negros, and education director of Karapatan Negros. She was a political detainee in 2012-2014 under the Aquino. All trumped-up charges filed against her have been recently dismissed.


Kalinaw News: 4 NPA members with high powered firearm surrender

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): 4 NPA members with high powered firearm surrender
H701Bde, Mati City, Davao Oriental- More and more rebels are now responding to the call of the government for them to abandon the armed movement and its useless cause.

Today August 18, 2020, four (4) members of New People’s Army (NPA) under the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) voluntarily surrendered to the 701st Infantry “Kagitingan” Brigade, 104MICO, 28IB, 66IB and Provincial Intelligence Unit, (PIU) of Davao Oriental Police Provincial Office (DOPPO).A certain @JUNJUN, @JACK and another personality from Brgy Tubaon, Tarragona, Davao Oriental together with @MACMAC, a resident of Brgy Nueva Gracia, Loreto, Agusan Del Sur surrendered with (1) Cal .60 LMG bearing SN: 7269239, with one hundred fifty (150) rounds of 7.62mm (linked) ammunition.

These personalities are now added to the snowballing number of former rebels who were encouraged to return to the folds of the law and to live peacefully with their families instead of hiding in the mountains.

With the PTF-ELCAC of Davao Oriental, under the Executive Order No. 70 of President Duterte, different programs from local government agencies are set to provide services for these former rebels which greatly hopes to ending the five-decade insurgency.

[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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]


Kalinaw News: Civilian tip-off leads to the discovery of NPA arms cache and Belongings

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): Civilian tip-off leads to the discovery of NPA arms cache and Belongings

JONES, ISABELA— Arms cache and belongings owned by members of Communist New People’s Army Terrorist Group belonging to KLG-Quirino-Nueva Vizcaya was discovered by troops of 86th Infantry (Highlander) Battalion in a tip-off from a civilian in Brgy Nagabgaban, Aglipay, Quirino on 18 August 2020.

The arms cache containing two M16 rifles, two magazines, 69 pieces 5.56 live ammunitions, one (1) Bushnell scope, enemy personal belongings and subversive documents was abandoned by NPA members to the masses.

Said discovery is attributed to the on-going Community Support Program of 86IB in municipality of Aglipay. Further, it has gained the active participation and trust of the people in the community who are supportive to the program.

LTC ALI A ALEJO, Commanding Officer of 86IB thanked the local populace for their support to the troops and said, “The recovery of the arms cache is an indication that the people no longer want NPA to return to their communities, that is why they are giving tips on the whereabouts of those left-behind war materiel of the said group.

This also shows that Executive Order no. 70 which institutionalizes Whole-of-nation approach of government in ending local communist armed conflict in the area is effective”.The said war materiel is now in the custody of 86IB for documentation and proper disposition.

[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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]


Kalinaw News: 73IB nagsagawa ng training para sa mga Bagani

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): 73IB nagsagawa ng training para sa mga Bagani
Malapatan, Sarangani Province – Pormal na sinimulan ng 73rd Infantry Battalion ang training para sa mga 60 na Bagani ng Brgy Datal Anggas at Brgy Spring, Alabel, Sarangani Province ngayong araw ng August 18, 2020.

Magkakaroon sila ng isang linggong pagsasanay sa marksmanship, military discipline, tamang paggamit ng baril at immediate action drills. Kasama din sa kanilang program of instruction ang mga talakayan ang Prevention and Control of COVID-19, First Aid, Backyard Gardening.

Sa ngalan ni Lt. Col. Ronaldo G Valdez, pinuno ng 73IB, pinasinayaan 1st Lt. Orestes Fausto ang naturang programa na kung saan kanyang nasabi na ang mga Bagani ang magsisilbing 24/7 na sundalo ng komunidad. “saludo ako sa kanila dahil wala silang hinihinging kapalit sa pagprotektang kanilang gagawin. ” saad niya.

Ang mga Bagani ay mga katutubong komunidad na nagboluntaryo upang protektahan ang lugar na kanilang nasasakupan laban sa mga teroristang NPA na nais silang linlangin at maghasik ng kaguluhan.

[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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]


Kalinaw News: After 13 Years, CNT Combatant Yields, Wishes to Renew Life with Family

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): After 13 Years, CNT Combatant Yields, Wishes to Renew Life with Family
BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte – After 13 long years of fighting the government, a Communist New People’s Army Terrorist (CNT) abandoned the ideology he lived with and decided to return to the folds of the law and to his family.

Alias REY, 29 years of age surrendered to the 23rd Infantry “Masigasig” Battalion on Sunday evening, August 16, 2020 at the battalion’s headquarters in Jamboree Site, Barangay Alubihid, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. Another CNT member, alias GRACE, 28, also joined alias REY during the surrender. The two are regular members of Squad Dos, Sub-Regional Sentro de Grabidad (SRSDG) SAGAY, Sub-Regional Committee 3 of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) of the CNTs. They also handed over to the 23IB one (1) M4 rifle (Colt) and one (1) M16A1 rifle (ELISCO) which are all serviceable.

In his testimony, alias REY said he was recruited by the CNTs when he was at the young age of 16 in 2006. He said he was convinced when the CNT recruiters promised him and his family of good life as long as he would join the movement to topple the government. Unfortunately, no good things came but hardships, including on his family he left behind.

“Ang akong basehan nganong nibalik ko sa sabakan sa balaod mao ang grabeng kalisod nga akong natagamtaman dugangan pa sa tumang ka gutom ug kamingaw sa akong pamilya. Mag sige ra me ug lakaw-lakaw ug tago-tago sa kabukiran ug wala koy nakita nga kadaugan sa maong grupo. Wala usab milambo ang among kinabuhi ug gani mas samot pa nga naglisod ang among pamilya,” alias REY said.

While inside the movement, tight restrictions were imposed by their leaders to them, he said. Even the communication with their families were limited such that constant contacts outside would lead to suspicions by their leaders.

“Nakita usab nako nga wala me kagawasan sulod sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan. Limitado kayo ang among mga lihok bisan ang pag contact sa among mga pamilya. Kung magsigi ka og tawag sa gawas pagadudahan ka sa mga lider. Tungod niini gibati kami og kakuyaw ug walay kasegurohan,” alias REY said.

He also emphasized that they already heard about the program of the government being offered to rebels who want to surrender. But their leaders discouraged them saying that once they go out and present themselves to the Army, they would be tortured and killed. He added that CNT leaders would also threaten them if they would try to escape and surrender to authorities. As the campaigns for government support continue to reach them through radio and other means of communications, he said they eventually managed to leave the group and voluntarily surrendered to the Army.

“Base sa akong mga nakahinabi nga pipila ka mga tawo ug pinaagi sa komonikasyon sa radyo nga perme nakong madungog nga adunay gihatag nga kaayuhan ang gobyerno para niadtong mga naglihok gikan sa bukid sa panahon nga mo balik na sa sabakan sa balaod. Kanunay nakong madungog nga adunay ihatag nga malahutayong panginabuhian ug mga ayuda sama sa tabang pinansyal ilawom sa E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) ug mutabang ang panggagamhanan sa probinsya sa Agusan del Norte labi na si Congresswoman Matba (Rep. Maria Angelica Amante-Matba) busa nga kadugayan nakombensi gyod ko nga mobiya na sa kalihukan,” Alias REY said.

Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, Acting Commander, 23IB warmly welcomed alias REY and alias GRACE on Sunday as he recognized their sincerity of returning to the folds of the law and assures them to be enrolled in the E-CLIP.

“Similar with the testaments of other surrenderees, these CNT members decided to go back to the folds of the law due to too much hunger and unbearable hardship they experienced inside the armed movement. This only means that their leaders, since from the start, lied to them with their false promises of providing them better lives including their families once they will join the revolutionary movement,” Paulo said.

He also expressed gladness over the realizations that the two former rebels (FRs) reached that led them to decide to lay down their arms.

“In return, we will also do our part as we promised to give them a new hope and brighter future. We will assist them to be enrolled in the E-CLIP so that they can avail all the benefits and assistance offered by our government. We will also tap the other line agencies of the government to open sustainable livelihood programs for the FRs to help them live peacefully and normally with their families,” Paulo said.

He also encouraged the remaining members of the CNTs in Agusan del Norte to follow the decision of the FRs who are now living peacefully with their families.

“For the remaining members of the CNTs, I urge you to open your eyes from the deception of CNT leaders, leave armed struggle and go back to the folds of the law and to your families. Let us help one another in ending insurgency so that everyone can have the chance to live peacefully and progressively,” Paulo 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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]


Kalinaw News: Another 3-armed NPAs surrendered in Southern Bukidnon

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): Another 3-armed NPAs surrendered in Southern Bukidnon
MARAMAG, Bukidnon- 3 NPA members with firearms surrendered to the 88th Infantry “Maringal” Battalion at Headquarters 88IB, PA, Purok 10, South Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon at around 09:00 p.m. on 15 August 2020.The said surrenders were identified members of Malayag 1, Guerilla Front Malayag, SRC2, NCMRC under @RICKY. They later surrendered after they heard that 12 members of their group with 11 firearms already surrendered to the government forces last 14 August 2020.

They were identified as @Kuyaw and @Dongkoy, both regular members, and @Micheal, a Milisya ng Bayan member. They brought along with them one (1) carbine M1 Rifle, two (2) homemade shotguns, and one (1) homemade pistol revolver.

@Kuyaw said in his local dialect, “Grabe nga ka hadluk para sa among kinabuhe ang among nasinati samtang kami naa sa lasang, nahadluk me nga mangamatay sa way hinungdan nga pama-agi. Na kuyawan nasad ko kay dagan na nanurender. Mas tsada manurender nalng sad mi. (We are so scared for our lives while we are in the hinterland and forested area, we are afraid to die trivially. I was also worried that many of my comrades already surrendered. We thought that this is the best option we have now).

Previously the government troops figured in series of encounters with the members of GF Malayag in the Municipalities of San Fernando and Cabanglasan from May to the last day of July 2020 that resulted to the death and wounding of NPAs, seizure of their temporary hideouts, and the capture of numerous firearms, war materiel, and subversive documents of the said communist terrorist group.

Lt Col. Franklin Fabic, Commanding Officer of 88IB warmly welcomed the surrender of the members of GF Malayag. “I am very happy to know that more and more members of GF Malayag chose to return to the folds of the law. We encourage other members to surrender and benefit from different government programs through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP)”

The E-CLIP is a government program for former rebels and their family members. Various interventions like Immediate Cash Assistance and Livelihood, free education and housing will be received by these members. An additional financial benefit will also be given to those who surrender their firearms. Other government agencies will also provide different interventions to the former rebels in preparation for their reintegration in the mainstream society.

“For the remaining members of the NPA terrorist group of GF Malayag led by @MIGS, surrender now and take advantage of the programs of the government for you and for your families while you still have chance. There will always be a time for reckoning. For we will not hesitate to hunt and destroy you with all our might if you choose to remain as threat to the peace-loving communities of Southern Bukidnon” Fabic added.

[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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]


Kalinaw News: 6 lie low NPA Bandit’s, 76 members of BATARIS pledge allegiance to government in Aurora

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): 6 lie low NPA Bandit’s, 76 members of BATARIS pledge allegiance to government in Aurora
BALER, Aurora-Six lie low in the New People’s Army (NPA) and 76 members of Bahay Talakayan para sa Rekonstraksyon at Ikakauunlad ng Sambayanan (BATARIS) withdrawn their support and membership from the said organization. Likewise, they promised to support the various programs and activities of the government. They also denounced the atrocities committed by the NPA bandits in different parts of the country.

LTC REANDREW P RUBIO INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of 91st Infantry (Sinagtala) Battalion (91IB), 7ID, PA said that the surrenderers took their oath of allegiance to the government before 1st Lieutenant Bobby A. Ferrer commander of Bravo Company of 91IB in Barangay Cozo, Casiguran, Aurora on Saturday (August 15, 2020).

The surrenderees admitted that they were victims of deception of the terrorist group and vowed to support the programs and initiatives of the government for peace and development under President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 70 or the “whole-of-nation approach” in ending local communist armed conflict.

RUBIO said that the 91st IB, 2nd provincial mobile force company (2PMFC), Aurora Police Provincial Office, Casiguran Municipal police station and other friendly forces of the government facilitated the voluntary Surrender of six (6) lie low NPAs under Northern Front and withdrawal of support and membership of seventy six (76) members of BATARIS at the said Barangay.

“We are encouraging those active NPA bandits to return to the folds of the law. This is the right time to surface and to avail the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and other services of the government,” RUBIO said.

He added that under Executive Order 70, or the “Whole-of-Nation Approach” to end local communist armed conflict, government agencies are working closely with local government units and members of the community to directly address the roots of the armed struggle.

Rolando dela Cruz, one of the six former rebels urged parents to keep their eye to their children to prevent the Reds from exploiting children and other vulnerable sectors.

“Ingatan ang ating mga anak dahil sila ang madaling mahikayat ng mga NPA,” dela Cruz said.

He also appeals to help the government save the youth from joining the terrorist groups.

REMEDIOS DELA CRUZ said that they were convince by the terrorist group due to lack of education and seek help to 91IB to protect and to assist them in solving land issues.

“Kami po ay nahikayat dahil sa kakulangan sa edukasyon at humihingi kami ng tulong sa kasundaluhan para mabantayan kami at matulungan sa aming mga hinaing sa lupa,” he said.

John DL. Roxas of the Mayor’s office said don’t let us sent into a rage rather let us think that we have a home to take care of and guide our lives (Huwag tayong padadala sa bugso ng galit bagkus isipin natin na may tahanan tayong kakalinga at gagabay sa tinatahak nating pamumuhay).

After the pledge of support to the government the activity was followed by giving of food packs, forty (40) coconut trees, and a Peace Rally.

[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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]


Kalinaw News: Supporting EO 70 strengthens task force to end insurgency says Army top official in Aurora

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 18, 2020): Supporting EO 70 strengthens task force to end insurgency says Army top official in Aurora
BALER, Aurora-Supporting the Executive Order 70 will continue to strengthen the Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (TF-ELCAC) in carrying out its mission according to top military official in this province.

LTC REANDREW P RUBIO INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of 91st Infantry (Sinagtala) Battalion, 7ID, PA hold an assembly with the tribal leaders, police and the army in coordination with National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA RO3) on Thursday (August 13, 2020) and discussed the whole-of-nation approach of the government to resolve and to end local armed conflict in this province.

During the consultation, the tribal communities shared their sad experiences and detailed various issues and concerns on land problems being exploited by the CPP-NPA-NDF.

LTC RUBIO in his response said that the concerned agencies are here to address land problems including peace and order issues.

“Our government is the right agency to solve your land problems. All agencies concerned are doing their share to the fullest level in ending communist insurgency across the country… everyone cares,” he said, adding the value of information and communication to create healthy and peaceful communities.

He furthered that the Sinagtala Battalion is always open to help them in their grievances and concerns on land issues.

“No need to worry, it is our mandate to help you to the fullest level to solve your problems so that you will not be deceived by the Communist Organizations. You are in the right direction to air your land problem issues as the government is willing to help you to address the matter,” he said.

He added that they are also doing Community Support Program (CSP) as part of the government’s continuing effort to be more responsive to the needs of the communities.

The army official also appealed not to entertain the NPA, in so doing, the government’s enemy will not come back in their ancestral land.

LTC RUBIO also said that the Executive Order number 70 is everyone’s concern to achieve the mission.

“Let us all end insurgency, we dismantled the Komiteng Larangan Gerilya (KLG) Caraballo and Larangang Gerilya sa Patag 1 in our pursuit to end the local communist armed conflict here in Central Luzon. Now, they are dwindling in numbers. We are one in our mission to end armed conflicts in our AOR,” LTC RUBIO 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: kalinawnews@cmoregiment.com]