Friday, October 30, 2020

COMMENTARY: Only a duck walks and talks like a duck

Posted to The Manila Times (Oct 30, 2020): COMMENTARY//Only a duck walks and talks like a duck (By Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.)

LET me ask you, Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite: Who started that red- baiting and red-tagging?

It was the communists — as a defense mechanism for people and organizations identified with reds, worked with the reds, pursued objectives of the reds, talked like the reds, and yet did not want to be labeled as red.

The late US Sen. Joseph McCarthy said that if you walk like a duck, talk like a duck, you must be a duck. McCarthyism was eventually defined as the act of accusing people or organizations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. Hence, the red-tagging. It has even been always the defense of these radicals every time we call them out for their involvement with Jose Ma. Sison and his Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The issue is evidence

Indeed, for the longest time it was difficult for us to understand the nature of the underground movement because it was underground. The ducks were quacking, but we see them in different forms and in different statuses.

The revolutionary dual tactics of the CPP entail that they operate aboveground, as legal front organizations, and underground as well.

So, what happens is we hear Representative Gaite quacking but we don’t see him as a duck? We hear him talk of legitimate issues but we don’t see him participate in subversive activities.

So, really evidence is important here and they have managed to evade the law with this duplicitous nature of the CPP.

Time to unmask them

It’s now time to unmask them. It’s time to present evidence to, once and for all, settle this issue of red-tagging. They won’t accept our challenge for debate in the open, for obvious reasons, so now let’s see if they are going to face us in the Senate inquiry.

But, oh, no, not again! These people are once more making excuses to evade participation in the Senate inquiry called by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Representative Gaite reminds us that Senator Lacson is the main proponent of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Is he implying that the Senate inquiry will be biased? I think we know where this is going. Iwas-pusoy na naman ang mga ito.

Choose Your Court

Tell us what you want, Representative Gaite. We can have that same inquiry in your own court if you want. In the House of Representatives or in the Quezon City Sports Complex, if you want. Remember the forum you had on criminalizing dissent and weaponizing the law where you evicted me? Your duplicitous nature even convinced the federal government of Germany to support your platform to attack the government.

My intention in appearing in that forum was to answer any allegations you wanted to throw to the government with regard to its handling of human rights. I was alone, and yet you did not have the balls to face me.

There were a hundred of you there and were all quacking. You could in your hundreds have easily ganged up on me and done me in. But you didn’t and instead just chose to shoo me away. Why? Because you knew no matter how loudly you quacked, you would all crack at my own ferocious whack? Truth was all I had at the time.

Anyway, you wanted evidence, right? Let’s see you try finding out if indeed we have. So, will you see us at the Senate? Congress? Or even at the QC Sports Complex? I can come alone, again, if you want, with a truck driver to carry all our evidence.

Oh, well, maybe not all. The rest will be presented in court.

[The author is commander of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command and head of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).]

Malaysian general visits Sulu to monitor PH's peace effort with MILF

From ABS-CBN (Oct 29, 2020): Malaysian general visits Sulu to monitor PH's peace effort with MILF (Dennis Gasgonia)

Malaysian Major General Dato' Muhammad Anwar Bin Abdullah. Photo courtesy of the Joint Task Force Sulu

A Malaysian general who heads the international team of monitors of the Philippine government's peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) visited officials in Sulu on Thursday as part of efforts to keep track of the peace agreement.

Major General Dato' Muhammad Anwar Bin Abdullah, who heads the International Monitoring Team (IMT) - Mindanao Batch 15, met with the Joint Task Force-Sulu commander and the Sulu governor "to discuss the ongoing peace efforts in the region and the positive developments in the GPH-MILF peace process," the military said in a statement.

Anwar paid JTF-Sulu Commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales and Governor Abdusakur Tan a courtesy call seven months since his installation in the IMT. His movement was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their meeting, which was
also attended by MILF Deputy Chairman Basaron Kamlon, Gonzales commended the MILF for upholding peace in the area.

"The MILF is also helping a lot in peace and order. They are collaborating in some of our efforts. In fact, they also signed the Peace Covenant," said Gonzales.

The MILF forged a peace agreement with the government in 2014, leading to the signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law four years later that reorganized the government and the territorial coverage of the Muslim region in Mindanao.

It is believed to address the root causes of violence in Mindanao caused by the Muslim insurgency over the past decades.

Anwar's visit was timed during the season of the birthday of Prophet Mohammad.

"Mohammad is a model leader. I pray that we will continuously be blessed with the same leadership, wisdom and sincerity. Inshallah (in God’s will) we will be steadfast in our endeavor," Anwar said.

The IMT members are also set to visit Tawi-Tawi.

"It is really important the the IMT came here so that they can see for themselves the situation here," said Gonzales.

Meanwhile, in Maguindanao, 10 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters surrendered Wednesday, the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

Courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines - Western Mindanao Command

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., WesMinCom chief, said in a statement the men also turned over three rifles (M14, M16A1, and M79), two rocket-propelled grenades, and several other weapons and explosives.

The BIFF are renegade members of the MILF who were not in favor of the peace agreement with the government.

Maute Group remnant in Lanao del Sur falls

 From ABS-CBN (Oct 30, 2020): Maute Group remnant in Lanao del Sur falls

A member of the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute Group surrendered on Thursday to government troops in Lanao del Sur, the Western Mindanao Command said.

In a Facebook post on Friday, WESMINCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said
Samad Macaampon, alias Abu Samad, 40, and a resident of Barangay Gacap in Piagapo surrendered to the 82nd Infantry Battalion at 10 a.m. Thursday.

“Accordingly, Samad decided to come out after being on lie-low status since he left the group sometime in 2017 because he wants to be with his family, live a peaceful life, and be a productive citizen of this country,” Vinluan said.

Macaampon, the military said, is a known DI-MG member under Abu Sierra, a sub-leader of the Omar Maute Group.

He also handed over his M79 grenade launcher.

Macaampon was brought to the 82IB headquarters in Barangay Pawak in Saguiaran for custodial debriefing and proper disposition.

Opinion: USS Maine tactics all over again

Opinion/Letter to the Editor posted to The Manila Times (Oct 29, 2020): USS Maine tactics all over again

The recent incident of US Air Force Spy Plane RC-135S disguised as Philippine Aircraft over the Yellow Sea, a critical disputed area to gather intelligence will make one wonder why did the USAF used a spy plane despite the fact that the United States of America has an advanced technology when it comes to Signal Intelligence (SIGINT). It has invested billions of dollars in spy satellite and drones.

The era of spy planes is long over. When the U2 Spy plane was shot down in May 1, 1960 while performing aerial reconnaissance deep inside Soviet territory, it was replaced by more efficient super fast spy plane the SR-71 “Blackbird.” It can reach a cruising speed of March 3 that no missile can catch up with it. The advent of satellites rendered these spy planes obsolete. The SR-71 was retired several times until its final retirement in 1999.

In the 70s when the first generation of spy satellites “Corona” and “Zenith” were launched into space, it opened a new ball game in SGINT. As of now thousands of satellites commercial and military hover above the earth. Even commercial satellites are used for spying. The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) “Misty” Project has been launching stealth satellite with “unknown” payloads since the 1990s. The most recent National Reconnaissance Office Launch (NROL) was the Nemesis in 2004. It has stealth capability that eludes detection from earth stations.

One may argue that the intel gathering of satellites may be limited by its orbit. But the US Air Force has 45 Global Hawk (RQ-3Bs) stealth drones each to have an estimated cost of US $ 60.9 million. It has broad overview systematic surveillance using high resolution synthetic aperture radar and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It has a surveying capacity of 100,000 square kilometers a day. The US Navy has the latest Northrop Grumman MQC-Triton a long endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that can also track under water activities.

Given these arsenal of spy satellite and drones, why did the US flew an obsolete spy plane over the Yellow Sea with a miscoded hex code? One essential element of espionage is being incognito. Despite the stealth technologies of the NRO’s satellites and drones, they used an antiquated spy plane knowing fully that it can easily be detected flying in a critical disputed territory. There was really something very sinister and malicious in the act.

This coincided months after Washington formally rejected Beijing’s expansive maritime claim over the region. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier said that any attacks of Philippine vessels or aircraft whether military or civilian will prompt the US to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty to defend the Philippines.

The use of miscoded military hex codes is actually a common practice among spy planes. But the timing and the area of operation are very suspicious and as many authors argue may endanger Philippine civilian airlines, as shown in the past when civilian airlines were shot down for mistaken identity. This was indeed an act of provocation.

Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said that the US maybe testing the capacity of Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) and its official reaction. But this is too high a cost at the expense of endangering civilian airlines.

Given the circumstances of the highly advanced SIGINT of the US, flying an obsolete spy plane with a miscoded hex code in a tense area in the South China Sea exposes the sinister tactics of the warmongerer United States of America. Unfortunately just like in the Cold War Era they will use pawns for their own menacing interests.

Celso Lencioco Cainglet

Philippines taking aim at China’s sea militias Manila poised to form new paramilitary marine units to counter China’s ‘gray zone’ tactics in South China Sea

 Posted to the Asia Times (Oct 29, 2020): Philippines taking aim at China’s sea militias
Manila poised to form new paramilitary marine units to counter China’s ‘gray zone’ tactics in South China Sea

A Philippine soldier conducts a security patrol along Ulugan Bay, facing the South China Sea in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island, south of Manila on April 25, 2012. Credit: AFP/Ted Aljibe

A “gray zone” arms race is emerging in the South China Sea, where China’s rising use of para-military forces to assert its contested claims could soon be met by rival maritime militias from Southeast Asia.

Long outgunned and outspent by China, the Philippines is now moving to create its own militia sea forces, to be known as the Cafgu Active Auxiliary Service (CAAS), to protect its interests in adjacent waters including within its vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The military move, if approved, would come in response to China’s growing use of para-military forces, including the use of small vessels to systematically swarm contested islands and strategic features, to intrude ever deeper into Philippine-claimed waters.

In particular, China has recently used para-military forces to block supplies and construction material shipments from arriving at Thitu Island, where the Philippines maintains a token military presence and rudimentary airstrip it is seeking to upgrade.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a recent address to the Senate that “the other side” – meaning China – “is using what we call ‘civilian militias’ but actually are part of their Navy… they’re also fishing, they’re also acting as fishermen and fishing with big boats.”

The Philippines would not be the first to push back at China’s use of maritime paramilitary forces in the sea. Vietnam, which likewise has various South China Sea disputes with China, including in the Paracel and Spratly island chains, created its own maritime militia forces back in 2009.

Both communist regimes view this so-called “gray zone” strategy as part of their “whole of nation” or “people’s war at sea” approach to the increasingly high-stakes maritime spats, which strategic analysts say threaten to spiral into a China-US confrontation for control of the strategic sea.

Chinese paramilitary vessels take to sea. Image: Reddit

The paramilitary strategy, however, also carries big risks of escalation and conflict given long-time concerns over the lack of professionalism and command control of China’s militia forces, particularly in the current climate of rising jingoism and zero-sum competition for the sea’s vast oil, gas and fishery resources.

The Philippines is bidding to firm up its defenses after years of Chinese intimidation tactics in the disputed sea, including China’s 2012 occupation of the Scarborough Shoal in Manila’s EEZ.

The shoal would be crucial for China to establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the sea, a move that would potentially provoke a military response from the US, a Philippine mutual defense treaty ally.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte underscored the strategic need for more China-countering forces at a speech last month at the United Nations’ General Assembly, where he “firmly reject[ed] attempts to undermine” the Philippines’ maritime claims – a thinly veiled complaint against China’s rising use of sea militias.

Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, the Philippines’ naval chief, has emerged as the leading top brass voice for taking a tougher stance against China through the formation of what he characterized as “force multiplier” marine militias.

“It’s a stop-gap measure to fill where we are not, where the Navy and where the Coast Guard are not,” said the Philippine navy chief about the formation of the CAAS.

The navy chief said the new force would be a collaborative effort, whereby members of the militia force will be recruited from among the Philippine Army, the dominant branch of the military, but trained by the modernizing Philippine Navy, specifically the navy’s Northern Luzon and Naval Forces West units.

Both naval units are at the forefront of the South China Sea disputes. The Philippine Navy also clarified that the militia forces would have a geographically-specified area of operation to ensure “maximum efficiency” and prevent possible rogue operations.

Philippine Marines pictured at BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. Photo: Agencies

“We keep on moving. We patrol the area, then we leave,” he added to reassure already emerging critics that the plan aims only to enhance the Philippines’ domain awareness and surveillance in the disputed waters and will not be deployed for political purposes.

“Definitely, they will not be given firearms,” Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe, a fleet commander, said in a recent public hearing while emphasizing that the CAAS will only be issued tracking devices and communications equipment in a mainly surveillance and patrol capacity across Philippine-claimed waters.

“The relevance of maritime CAAS is if you’re from Pangasinan, your concern is Pangasinan waters. If you’re from La Union, your concern is La Union waters. You won’t be moving from one place to another,” the Philippine navy chief clarified in a recent public hearing.

The ultimate aim, Bacordo said, is to allow Philippine forces to have “the capability to be everywhere”, with the new militia units acting as “force multipliers” for the professional naval and coast guard forces.

To be sure, Philippine naval forces need all the help they can get.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana noted during a Senate hearing that chronic budget shortfalls meant the armed forces have struggled to fully modernize, having attained only 25% of projects aimed at developing “minimum credible defense” capabilities against external security threats.

As of August 2019, the Philippines’ armed forces had reportedly completed only 21 out of the 152 projects under the first phase of a three-phased “horizons” modernization program, which started in the early 2010s and will continue into the mid-2020s.

The Department of National Defense proposed a 283.2 billion peso ($6 billion) budget for 2021, a pittance compared to the amounts China and other regional rivals with claims in the South China Sea earmark for their armed forces.

But there is now growing congressional support to allocate more resources to push back militarily against China.

Senator Imee Marcos, a staunch Duterte ally and daughter of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos, recently suggested that the Philippine Navy Seals’ Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) could also ramp up its recruitment and involvement in maritime defense operations.

“Let us at least defend our fishermen. Have we given up defending them? We can’t just cower in fear and remain defenseless and vulnerable,” Marcos said in filing a bill to boost funds for the so-called Self-Reliance Defense Posture Program (SRDP), which among other things seeks to enhance domestic arms development capacity.

Others, however, are concerned about the risk of an unaccountable paramilitary unit de facto tasked with going head-to-head with China’s militias. Senator Risa Hontiveros warned that “Those who should be armed in the country should only be the AFP [military] and PNP [police],” and that it’s necessary instead to “beef up the capacity of the Navy and Coast Guard.”

The opposition senator expressed fears that a new militia force would inevitably draw in non-professional Filipino fishermen, providing a greater pretext for China to ramp up its harassment and even violence in the area.

Last year, a suspected Chinese militia vessel sunk and almost killed 22 Filipino fishermen roaming the fisheries and energy-rich contested Reed Bank area.

“They might be targeted more by China,” the senator added in Tagalog. “Not only one fisherman could get killed,” she added.

Jay Batongbacal, a Philippine maritime law expert, has similarly warned that without proper training and clear rules of engagement there is a risk militia forces “might end up with vigilante-like groups or adventurists, which are not the kind of people you want in a tense disputed region.”

Chinese state-affiliated scholars are ringing similar alarms. Chen Xiangmiao, associate researcher with the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, has said that “conflicts between militias or other non-military forces… would probably increase” as claimants ramp up their gray zone operations.

A Philippine soldier patrols a beach in Thitu Island at the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP/Pool/Ritchie B Tongo

The final decision on the militia forces will likely come down to Duterte, who has blown hot and cold on how to handle Beijing’s rising assertiveness in Philippine waters under his perceived as China-friendly tenure. 

“The president [Duterte] said that we are not yet ready to do it. He said we should postpone it since we have no budget to sustain it,” Lorenzana told reporters following recent consultations with the national leader, who legally serves as commander in chief.

“First, there’s no money. Second, we don’t know… the money is supposed to procure bigger ships with steel hulls. You cannot use a wooden boat in your militia. They will be destroyed easily,” the defense chief said.

Violent Conflict, Tech Companies, and Social Media in Southeast Asia

From the Asia Foundation (Oct 28, 2020): Violent Conflict, Tech Companies, and Social Media in Southeast Asia


Online spaces are the new frontier of conflict and violence in Southeast Asia. With the rapid spread of mobile broadband, inexpensive smartphones, online social networks, and messaging applications, the internet has become an important space for civic dialogue as well as more harmful behavior. Violent groups and movements use digital tools to recruit new members, spread propaganda, and keep their organizations running. Conflict actors are increasingly adept at using the new capabilities and emergent properties of online spaces to communicate with target audiences, build coalitions, and counter opposing narratives with greater sophistication, precision, and guile. Such emerging applications of new technologies—spanning extremist insurgencies, majoritarian movements, and social protest and repression—have not yet been well documented or addressed in mainstream peacebuilding efforts across Southeast Asia.

Drawing on evidence from conflicts in the Philippines and Myanmar, and supported by other examples, this report provides a broad analysis of how violent conflicts in Southeast Asia are shaped or affected by online platforms and social media. Research was conducted in late 2019 using interviews, Asia Foundation case materials, online sources, existing analysis, and other available data. The report is one important step in ongoing efforts to stimulate further research, programming, and other action across the region, both within The Asia Foundation and among partners. It also offers a basis from which to address similar issues elsewhere in Asia.

In Southeast Asia, Violent Conflicts Move Online

From the Asia Foundation (Oct 28, 2020): In Southeast Asia, Violent Conflicts Move Online (By Benjamin Lokshin and Adam Burke)

When violent conflicts broke out recently in the Philippines, Myanmar, and other parts of Southeast Asia, the action occurred not just in the streets of Marawi or Mandalay, but also on social media. Social media platforms have been used to incite local activists to attack unarmed targets, and to promote intolerance and violence against ethnic or religious minorities. As Facebook, Twitter, and a slew of other global online platforms and messaging services have followed cellphone penetration into the most remote villages of Southeast Asia, violent groups and their supporters are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to turn social media into a new front in Southeast Asia’s festering subnational conflicts.

This wide-ranging phenomenon is the subject of a new report by The Asia Foundation’s Conflict & Fragility and Technology teams, Violent Conflict, Tech Companies, and Social Media in Southeast Asia. The report presents the mounting evidence that both violent nonstate groups and governments in the region are using social media to promote inflammatory public narratives, whip up discrimination, raise funds, recruit fighters, and organize acts of violence.

Devastation in Marawi, the Philippines, 2017 (Photo: Adam Burke / The Asia Foundation)

In one of the most memorable and shocking episodes, violent extremists in the Philippines used online tools and platforms as they planned, executed, and publicized the occupation of Marawi City in 2017. The siege of Marawi lasted five months, causing over a thousand deaths, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and widespread destruction across the city from government airstrikes and artillery and the razing of churches and public buildings by militants.

Throughout the siege, militants produced sophisticated, in-house video coverage in real time for an engrossed online audience, including drone footage of the ruined city and pleas from prominent hostages. The messaging app Telegram kept Marawi militants in constant contact with large and committed audiences across the globe. Field reports were rapidly translated and shared in multiple languages. Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted their own social media operations to discredit these claims and promote their humanitarian efforts in the city, battling the militants both online and off.

The siege of Marawi was fought both in the streets and online. (Photo: Sam Chittick / The Asia Foundation)

Amid this growing digital arms race, the governments of several countries have also launched sophisticated operations employing disinformation techniques to spread messages via fake Facebook accounts and false news stories—in some cases intentionally inflaming communal violence against religious minorities, and in other cases undermining democratic processes. In Myanmar, hundreds of propaganda pages operated by the military were taken down by Facebook in the second half of 2018, following a UN fact-finding report that the platform was being used to incite hatred and encourage violence. The report found that Facebook’s wide reach, audience engagement, and ability to be gamed by fake accounts allowed the promotion of negative and hostile attitudes towards Rohingya people in particular. At the same time, social media also enabled the emergence of new violent groups in the country, including the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a poorly armed militia of foot soldiers that used messaging apps to organize and prepare for assaults on police forces, and the Arakan Army, a much better equipped and trained ethnic Rakhine armed organization. Growing in strength over time, the Arakan Army has used online media to gain support both within Rakhine State and elsewhere. The online propaganda war between Arakan Army insurgents and the Myanmar military continues in Rakhine State alongside intense fighting on the ground.

These online tactics take advantage of widely recognized characteristics of social media, which tend to reward emotionally resonant content and strip away important context and nuance. Some of these techniques were introduced to Southeast Asian groups by foreign actors, including the Islamic State. But local conditions are also crucial to how social media is used in the region’s conflicts. In any given conflict zone, the characteristics of the online space reflect local levels of literacy, the presence or absence of common languages, the penetration and speed of internet connectivity, the prevalence of smartphones, local preferences for particular apps, and the nature of the conflict itself. All of these local factors are layered on top of the constantly evolving social media technology, making this a highly complex issue.

Scars of battle in Marawi (Photo: Sam Chittick / The Asia Foundation)

For the tech companies that operate these platforms, addressing the use of their products for violence and conflict is a constant struggle, and Southeast Asia has many characteristics that make the task more difficult. The landscape of conflict is fragmented, with many small, armed groups, some of which also act as community benefit organizations, ethnic or religious networks, or political parties. Their tactics vary widely and change rapidly depending on local demographics and operational needs, precluding a one-size-fits-all response. In addition, Southeast Asian state actors may themselves be protagonists in these violent conflicts and may use their legal sway over platform companies to silence the voices of peaceful dissidents and to prevent scrutiny of their own efforts to manipulate or misinform.

Peacebuilding, mitigation, and research efforts by civil society have not kept up with this emerging theater of regional conflict. Most of the peacebuilding programs to date have been in Myanmar, where the links between violence and online spaces have been subject to intense international scrutiny. But gauging the effectiveness of these programs is complicated, and reliable evidence is scarce.

Meanwhile, government-led conflict mitigation often devolves into the policing or militarization of online spaces, with no accountability for state actors and no formal recourse for their opponents—a fraught scenario when the military or the police may also be perpetrators of violence. In Southeast Asia, where conflicts frequently stem from grievances against the state, policing the internet can violate civil liberties and exacerbate violence. At a time of instability and increasing tensions in many countries, online spaces have become a contested and often violent terrain.

Moving forward

Addressing the online drivers of conflict and violence in Southeast Asia will be a long-term challenge, and no one group bears responsibility, but there are things that tech companies, civil society groups, and governments can do to counteract the use of social media for violence.

First, there is a dire need for independent monitoring and evidence-based research. Indicators managed by independent groups like the Uppsala Conflict Data Program and ACLED (the Armed Conflict Location and Events Data Project) provide important data on incidents in the physical world. These international groups rely in turn on locally managed programs like Thailand’s Deep South Watch and Myanmar’s Township-based Conflict Monitoring System. But data is scarce for the online dimensions of conflict, for which the parameters themselves are not yet well defined. A number of studies have examined social media’s impact on specific violent conflicts in Southeast Asia, but many more conflicts have been superficially studied or ignored. Documentation of mitigation efforts is also patchy. As online platforms grow more integral to conflict dynamics, these research gaps will be a serious obstacle to understanding and responding to violent conflicts across the region.

Second, new policy frameworks are needed to promote shared norms and transparent regulation in cyberspace. Governments can do more to hold tech companies to their promises of transparent reporting and enforcement of community standards against violence and conflict. International norms and standards are also lagging behind, and Southeast Asian governments and institutions will need to be active participants in this global conversation. Regional forums can help, by keeping governments and civil society connected with events in neighboring countries and with wider global trends and good practices.

Third, tech companies should support local participation in conflict mitigation. With better technology, more experience, and greater vigilance, large social media companies have improved their effectiveness against abuse, but even the best measures are often unequal to the complexities of Southeast Asia, which call for an approach that is sensitive to local conditions and adaptable through audits and local dialogue.

Finally, peacebuilding and conflict prevention need innovation, collaboration, and learning. Research shows positive messaging does spread widely on social media, even in deeply conflict-affected areas, and local peacebuilding groups have had some success promoting such messages online, especially in concert with real-world activities. Smart responses led by civil society can also foster more effective governance under fragile conditions, especially when local technical specialists are able to work directly alongside government and social media companies.

The Asia Foundation’s local partners and peacebuilding programs, as well as many of our counterparts across the region, increasingly use social media platforms to combat misinformation and counter hate. But this is not enough. Civil society, tech firms, and governments need to recognize that social media is now in the mainstream of political life and social change. As Southeast Asia’s many long-standing conflicts adapt to this new landscape, concerted action will be needed across the board to ensure that online manipulation does not continue to undermine real-world peace and justice.

[Read the new report Violent Conflict, Tech Companies, and Social Media in Southeast Asia.]

[Benjamin Lokshin is assistant director for technology programs and Adam Burke is regional director for conflict and fragility for The Asia Foundation. They can be reached at and, respectively. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors, not those of The Asia Foundation.]

AFP, US Indo-Pacific Command vow stronger alliance amid COVID-19 pandemic

From GMA News Online (Oct 29, 2020): AFP, US Indo-Pacific Command vow stronger alliance amid COVID-19 pandemic (By ANNA FELICIA BAJO)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Indo-Pacific Command n Thursday vowed to have a stronger mutual defense alliance amid the challenges being faced by the two forces.

The AFP and the US INDOPACOM conducted a virtual mutual defense board-security engagement board meeting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to AFP chief General Gilbert Gapay, both camps view the alliance as a strong and resilient partnership that needs to be responsive in the changing security environment.

For US INDOPACOM commander Admiral Philip Davidson, the Philippines and the US "remain steadfast allies in our pursuit of regional peace and stability."

"Our close cooperation ensures our forces are interoperable and a formidable force for stability throughout the region while further strengthening the ties that make us such close friends, allies, and partners," Davidson said.

During the meeting, the military leaders discussed the impact of the health crisis on the activities and engagements scheduled next year, including the Balikatan exercises.

They discussed the measures in preventing the transmission of infection, including the use of training bubbles and scaling down of exercises.

Gapay also said the Philippine military "envisions our alliance to continue with mutually beneficial activities that will result in greater interoperability between our armed forces."

The MDB-SEB Meeting is convened annually between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Indo-Pacific Command to discuss security cooperation activities and strategic vision for the alliance, anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Moreover, Gapay emphasized the importance of utilizing Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement locations and other resources to ensure effective response to different mission areas.

"Our alliance should continue to provide the mechanism to further enhance our already robust defense cooperation by pursuing capability building initiatives for our interoperability," Gapay said.

"I recommend that both our armed forces should commit to continue planning activities to further improve our joint and combined capabilities and interoperability," he added.—LDF, GMA News

PH military asked to conduct inventory of rewards withheld by US to informants

Manila Bulletin (Oct 29, 2020): PH military asked to conduct inventory of rewards withheld by US to informants (By Mario Casayuran)

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson has asked the military to conduct an inventory of rewards not given by the US government to military informants.


Lacson, chairman of the Senate defense and security committee, also suggested that the Senate should communicate with the Philippine Embassy in the United States to ask the US government why it has not given its reward money.

The US government has promised to give $1 million as reward for the arrest of a terrorist bomb expert in a Muslim-dominated province in Mindanao.

This issue surfaced during a public hearing by the national defense committee of the Commission on Appointments (CA) Wednesday.

The CA later confirmed the appointments of two major generals and 48 colonels and captains in the various armed services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

During questions fielded by Lacson and Sen. Imee R. Marcos, Major Gen. Juvymax R. Uy testified that the US government has not yet given the $1 million it had promised for the head of Abdul Basit Usman, an alleged terrorist bomb maker.

Usman was held responsible for a series of bombings in Mindanao. In the 2015 Mamasapano, Maguindano firefight, 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) operatives died while Usman and five others were killed during that clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Marcos noted that the US government has a history of not making good of its promise to pay reward money.

Philippine National Security Adviser: Communist Rebels Remerge as Top Threat

From BenarNews (Oct 28, 2020): Philippine National Security Adviser: Communist Rebels Remerge as Top Threat (Jojo Rinoza and Basilio Sepe)

Philippine New People’s Army rebels display their firearms near the southern city of Butuan.  Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

Communist insurgents have reemerged as a grave internal security threat to the Philippines, but the government has earmarked billions of pesos to rehabilitate hundreds of villages freed by state security forces from the guerrillas’ influence, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Wednesday.

The government plans to distribute 16.44 billion pesos (U.S. $338.3 million) among more than 800 villages liberated from the
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), he said in an interview broadcast on national television and radio.

Esperon alleged that the insurgents were taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 7,114 and infected 375,180 nationwide, according to the Philippine Department of Health. Globally, more than 44 million people have been infected and more than 1.16 million have died, according to disease experts at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

“What I am saying is the pandemic is a clear and present danger, but we need to look at this threat to our national security,” Esperon said. “And the president has already said this, the CPP-NPA-NDF is the number one political security threat that we should not ignore.”

The NDF, or National Democratic Front, is the political wing of the communist party.

“That is why our counter-insurgency programs must continue and he created the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict,” Esperon said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Meanwhile across the southern Mindanao region, the communists have propagated guerrilla bases that are supported by far-flung communities, the national security adviser said.

“Their guerrilla bases are the villages that they really control where they exert their influence,” he said. “The village chiefs there are really under their control and they have managed to set up a shadow government.”

“We really need to end these guerrilla bases because as long as they have influence in these areas, their front organizations would also grow strong,” he said.

CPP-NPA representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., the de facto leader of the task force, recently criticized popular actress Liza Soberano and former Miss Universe Catriona Gray for allegedly having ties with leftist organizations which could be fronts for communist rebels, the New York Times reported.

His statement was rebuked by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

“To Liza and Catriona: It is difficult and painful to be at the front lines fighting beside persons oppressed by a norm that advocates rape, murder and exploitation,” Hontiveros said by telephone, the Times reported. “We will be monitoring him from now on,” she said of Parlade. “He should not use his power as a general and threaten these women.”

822 villages

Esperon said the funds sought from Congress would finance clearing operations, including increased patrols. The funds also would go toward building roads, schools, health centers and irrigation systems. Livelihood programs would be introduced to ween community members from rebel recruiters, he said.

“If we do this, and we get the 16.44 billion pesos that is now pending in Congress, we can accommodate 822 villages,” Esperon said. “These are the ones that we have already cleared of New People’s Army-Communist Party of the Philippines influence from 2016 to 2019.”

Duterte’s security adviser said he expected both houses to pass the budget next month.

The NPA has been waging an insurgency since 1969, the longest running armed uprising in Asia. It has about 5,000 fighters divided among 80 fronts nationwide – down from its height in the 1980s when the guerrillas numbered about 20,000.

Duterte, a self-proclaimed former leftist, was a student of communist party founder Jose Maria Sison, who is in exile in the Netherlands.

One of Duterte’s first acts as president four years ago was to launch peace talks with Sison. He later scrapped the negotiations and accused Sison of insincerity and the rebels of continuing to carry out attacks.

Earlier this month, Sison ordered the NPA to target Chinese firms involved in infrastructure projects here, including state-backed firms blacklisted by the United States for their role in South China Sea construction projects.

“Use all possible types of weapons – from rifles and command-detonated explosives, to spears and punji sticks – against the enemy,” the CPP said at the time.

In addition to the communist insurgents, the Philippines must deal with Islamic State-linked militants who carried out suicide bombings and took over the southern city of Marawi for five months in 2017.

ASG bandit killed in Basilan clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): ASG bandit killed in Basilan clash (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

KILLED. An Abu Sayyaf Group bandit identified as Botak Bero was killed in a clash Thursday (Oct. 29, 2020) with government forces in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan province. Aside from Bero's remains, the troops have also recovered an M-60 machinegun and a motorcycle (not in photo). (Photo courtesy of Western Mindanao Command Public Information Office)

An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit was killed in a clash in the hinterlands of Basilan province, a top military official announced Friday.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom),
identified the slain bandit as Botak Bero, a follower of Furuji Indama, the Basilan-based ASG leader.

Vinluan said Bero was killed in a five-minute clash that broke out around 4 p.m. Thursday in Barangay Felang, Ungkaya Pukan.

“The neutralized (ASG) personality was on board a motorcycle along with two of his comrades when they were intercepted by the operating troops of the 101st Infantry Brigade and the 18th Infantry Battalion, and the firefight ensued,” Vinluan said.

Col. Domingo Gobway, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, said the troops recovered the body of Bero, an M-60 machine gun, and a motorcycle at the clash site.

Gobway said “our operating troops continue to scour the area to arrest the companions of Bero."

9 BIFF members surrender in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): 9 BIFF members surrender in Maguindanao (By Noel Punzalan)

SURRENDER. Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy (right), commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, presents to Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana (3rd left) and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. (2nd right), the nine Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members who yielded to the military on Thursday (Oct. 29, 2020). The surrender of the nine BIFF combatants came a week after another batch of nine BIFF radicals also surrendered to the military in the province. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – A new batch of nine combatants of the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) surrendered to military authorities here, the commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) said on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, 6ID commander, said the nine surrenderers were presented to him, together with Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., during the culmination program of the 6ID’s 33 anniversary on Thursday afternoon.

The surrenderers brought with them their surrendered firearms comprised of an M4A1 Carbine rifle, a Bushmaster rifle, an HK 416 rifle, an M16 rifle, an M14 rifle, two Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers with ammunition.

“We welcomed them back to the mainstream society with the promise that we would help them regain their normal lives,” Uy said in an interview with reporters.

A certain Kamarudin, one of the surrenderers, said an earlier batch of comrades who yielded to the military have convinced them to try the government’s program for surrendering rebels.

“We are tired and just wanted to return to our lives before as productive citizens,” he said in the vernacular.

Uy said the latest batch of surrenderers belonged to the BIFF Bungos faction operating in 220,000 - hectare marshland in the province.

Last week, nine other BIFF combatants also yielded to the 6ID after realizing that they were fighting for a futile cause.

“Let us not forget that the local government units (LGUs) were instrumental for the series of BIFF surrenderers in the province since 2017,” Uy said as he lauded the LGUs for conducting backdoor dialogues with the BIFF for surrender.

Uy has vowed to continue welcoming back BIFF surrenderers with the help of the LGUs in the province.

BRP Gabriela Silang in Bacolod City for port visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): BRP Gabriela Silang in Bacolod City for port visit (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

PORT VISIT. BRP Gabriela Silang, the Philippine Coast Guard’s largest offshore patrol vessel, docked at the Bredco port in Bacolod City on Friday (Oct. 30, 2020). The vessel arrived for a port visit after sailing from Mindanao for logistical run and to transport locally-stranded individuals. (Photo courtesy of PCG-Negros Occidental)

BRP Gabriela Silang, the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) largest offshore patrol vessel (OPV), is currently on a port visit in this city.

Coming from Surigao port, the vessel helmed by Commander Alberto Ferre, docked at the Bredco port on Friday morning, after several days of logistical run and transport of locally-stranded individuals in Mindanao.

“We are here for a port visit. We also want to ensure that there is a vessel on stand-by in preparation for the typhoon,” Ferre said in a telephone interview.

On Oct. 19, the 60-crew vessel sailed from Manila going to Mindanao, docking in ports of Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, General Santos, Davao, and Surigao.

This is the second time BRP Gabriela Silang docked in Bacolod after its logistics run last May 29 to deliver supplies of personal protective equipment here.

One of the world’s largest and most advanced aluminum hull OPV so far, it can ferry around 500 people in a single voyage. It also has a helipad, a recompression chamber, and firefighting capability.

With a range of 8,000 nautical miles at 15 knots, it has an endurance of up to five-week non-stop operations.

The 83-meter BRP Gabriela Silang, which was built by French shipbuilder OCEA, is the first OPV acquired by the Philippines and the most modern vessel of the PCG.

The vessel left Saint-Nazaire, France for its maiden voyage on Dec. 30, 2019, and sailed to the Middle East for overseas Filipino workers ferry missions before finally reaching the Philippines in April this year.

IS-inspired militant yields in Lanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): IS-inspired militant yields in Lanao

NEW LIFE. Member of the IS-inspired Dawlah Islamiya terrorist group, Samad Macaampon (2nd from right), surrenders to government troops in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur on Thursday (Oct. 29, 2020), saying he desires to live a peaceful life with his family. He is shown with his family at the headquarters of the 82nd Infantry Battalion. (Photo courtesy of the 82nd Infantry Battalion)

A member of the Islamic State-inspired Dawlah Islamiya terrorist group has surrendered to government troops in Lanao del Sur, officials said Friday.

Samad Macaampon, alias Abu Samad, 40, surrendered
at the Tactical Command Post of the 82nd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Barangay Gacap, Piagapo town at about 10 a.m. on Thursday to live a peaceful life with his family, 82IB commander, Lt. Col. Rafman Altre, said.

Macaampon, who turned over a grenade launcher, joined Dawlah Islamiya, which laid siege to Marawi City in 2017.

Altre said he managed to escape from the main battle area, left the group that year, and has lain low since.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, assured Macaampon of government assistance "as he reintegrates into mainstream society."

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo II, commander of the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade, reiterated his message to Dawlah Islamiya members that the doors of the government remain open for those "who choose to lay down their arms and go back to the fold of the law."

6 ex-rebels marry ‘sweethearts’

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): 6 ex-rebels marry ‘sweethearts’ (By Edwin Fernandez)  October 30, 2020, 7:54 pm

LOVE CONQUERS ALL. At least 32 couples tie the knot during a mass wedding administered by Antipas, North Cotabato, officials on Thursday (Oct. 29, 2020). Six of the grooms are former New People’s Army rebels who were convinced by their partners to surrender to the government. (Photo courtesy of Antipas LGU)

Love can move mountains, so as the saying goes.

The old maxim rang true when the women who helped convince their would-be husbands to abandon the communist rebel movement tied the knot in a mass wedding in Antipas, North Cotabato on Thursday.

The pairs were among the 32 couples who were wed during the provincial government’s “Serbisyo Caravan,” described by officials as a one-stop-shop initiative for far-flung communities to access basic services and other assistance.

Antipas Mayor Igidio Cadungon and Vice Mayor Cris Cadungon jointly administered the mass wedding in the presence of North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco.

Barangay Camutan chairperson Romy Amoloy lauded Catamco for bringing the “Serbisyo Caravan” to his village, saying it will help members of the communist New Peoples’ Army (NPA) change their views about the government.

Edmar, one of the former NPA rebels who exchanged “I do’s” with his bride, said marrying his fiancĂ©e was a long-time dream.

“We cannot marry each other because I was running from the law, but now we can freely do it, and we are happy,” said Edmar, 35, who had been with the NPA in the mountains of North Cotabato and Bukidnon for 10 years.

“Surrender now so we can marry and have a family,” Edmar quoted his wife as telling him last month.

Early this month, Edmar surrendered with five others.

Edmar said he and his colleagues did not regret their decision.

AFP to transport equipment for PhilSys registration

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): AFP to transport equipment for PhilSys registration (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Photo courtesy of DND Public Affairs Service

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Friday said it would help in the establishment of the country's National Identification System (PhilSys) by transporting registration kits to the targeted 32 provincial offices of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in the coming weeks.

This came as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana approved the request from Acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua for assistance from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to transport more than 4,000 registration kits to 655 cities and municipalities in the target provinces.

NEDA and PSA aim to accelerate the implementation of PhilSys nationwide with the registration of at least five million household heads from low-income families by the end of 2020.

"The National ID System shall enable a more efficient system to implement social assistance programs as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in times of emergencies," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

As restrictions on travel by land, air, and sea remain in effect due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the AFP shall assist in transporting the registration kits to the provinces subject to biosafety protocols.

The delivery is scheduled before the training for the PhilSys registration operations.

The registration kits, each composed of various equipment and a photo booth kit, will be used during PhilSys registration Step 2, specifically in capturing the biometric information of applicants at the registration center.

The establishment of the National ID System is pursuant to the implementation of Republic Act 11055, otherwise known as the Philippine Identification System Act, with the PSA as the lead implementing agency.

AFP units alerted for disaster response efforts ahead of 'Rolly'

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): AFP units alerted for disaster response efforts ahead of 'Rolly' (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo. (File photo)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday activated all of its units to assist disaster response efforts ahead of the onslaught of Typhoon "Rolly".

"AFP chief, Gen. Gilbert Gapay has directed AFP units to monitor and for AFP frontline commanders to prepare for, in coordination with the OCD (Office of Civil Defense) and NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), ‘Rolly’ that is forecast to possibly become a 'super typhoon'," AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a press statement.

He added that the AFP has existing protocols that direct all field units to prepare their disaster response units in any disaster.

"These disaster response units are specifically trained and equipped to conduct search, rescue, and retrieval operations. Other assets are also available for the transport of relief goods, road clearing, and damage assessment operations," Arevalo said.

Other assets are also available for the transport of relief goods, road clearing, and damage assessment operations, he added.

"We take time to once again call on our kababayans to take heed and follow the directions of their own Barangay Risk Reduction Officers especially in identified areas where the typhoon will be passing through," Arevalo said.

Gov't urged to decide on suspension of VFA termination

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): Gov't urged to decide on suspension of VFA termination (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon. (File photo)

A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Friday urged the government to make a decision whether or not to extend the suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement’s (VFA) termination, or even rescind the termination notice itself.

In a media forum, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the suspension of the VFA termination would expire this December and would be “extendible by the Philippines for another six months.”

“We have three choices. Our first choice is to withdraw the termination; the second choice is to extend the suspension of the termination, and the third choice is to pursue with the termination and end the VFA. Parating na tayo sa panahon na ‘yon (We are nearing that period),”
Biazon said.

Biazon noted that the decision would have an impact on the Philippines’ foreign policy, as well as its policy on protecting the West Philippine Sea.

“Dahil kung tayo ay magte-terminate na talaga by December, magpu-pullout na ang whatever troops or forces stationed temporarily here in the Philippines (Because if we are really terminating [the agreement] by December, whatever troops or forces stationed temporarily here in the Philippines will be pulled out),” he said.

Biazon said the VFA termination could also affect the country’s anti-terrorism campaign.

“Remember, nagkaroon ulit ng bombing sa Jolo. Ibig sabihin, terrorists are still operating in the southern part of the Philippines at nandoon ngayon, doon nago-operate, ‘yong mga ibang tropa ng America, under the VFA (Remember, there was a bombing again in Jolo. That means, terrorists are still operating in the southern part of the Philippines, and that is where some American troops are operating under the VFA),” he said.

Asked whether the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would be crippled should the VFA be terminated, Biazon said there were capabilities being supported by the United States, such as surveillance and training.

Aside from this, Biazon also noted that the VFA also provides humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities, considering that the country is prone to typhoons.

“Remember Haiyan (Yolanda), ‘yong mga nasira noon sa Leyte. We survived it at tinulungan din tayo ng US Armed Forces dahil sa response nila being in-country right away. These are things that should be considered diyan sa bagay na ‘yan (Remember [Typhoon] Haiyan (Yolanda), those that were destroyed in Leyte. We survived it and we were assisted by the US Armed Forces due to their response of being in-country right away),” he said.

Biazon said in order to wean from dependence on foreign military, resources should be poured into upgrading the AFP.

“Pero sa ngayon, kung ang problema really ay (But now, if the problem really is the availability of funds to develop the capability of the Armed Forces fully, we have to rely on allies. And ‘yung (the) reliance on allies, ‘yong (the) maintenance of alliances, ang tingin ko, long-term talaga ‘yan (in my view, is for the long-term),” he said.

AFP welcomes Senate hearing on red-tagging

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): AFP welcomes Senate hearing on red-tagging (By Priam Nepomuceno)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday welcomed the Senate hearing to be chaired by defense committee chairman, Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, regarding the red-tagging allegations being raised against military officials.

"The AFP welcomes Senator Lacson’s call for a Senate hearing on the issue of 'red-tagging' that the AFP, as one of the agencies that comprise the NTF ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict), is being accused of,"
AFP spokesperson Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) when sought for comment.

The AFP, he said, wishes to thank Lacson for providing a venue to further discuss and raise public awareness of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army’s (CPP-NPA) duplicity and deceptive manner of recruitment.

Arevalo said such recruitment capitalizes on the idealism of the students, youth leaders, and influencers to "eventually join the ranks of CTG (communist terrorist group) cadres."

Lacson has filed Senate Resolution 559 to direct the Senate Oversight Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation to exercise its oversight authority over the defense sector on the issue of red-tagging/red-baiting of certain celebrities, personalities, institutions, and organizations, to craft guidelines that would prevent misunderstanding between the public and the military.

He said this is also to ensure the protection of the people’s constitutional rights, strengthening the people’s confidence and trust in the professionalism of the military.

On Thursday, Lacson said in a tweet that after seeking Senate President Vicente Sotto III's opinion on the matter, he decided to schedule the initial hearing on November 3.

While the Senate resolution would not be read until the session resumes on November 9, he noted that Sotto had said the hearing is in the exercise of the Senate's oversight function.

'We are also entitled to freedom of speech': anti-left group

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 30, 2020): 'We are also entitled to freedom of speech': anti-left group (By Christine Cudis)

ANTI-COMMUNISM VIGIL. Candles are lit on the steps of the Boys Scout Circle Monument on Timog Avenue, Quezon City during a candle-lighting vigil on Thursday (Oct. 29, 2020). Anti-communist group, League of Parents of the Philippines, decried the recruitment activities of leftist groups and atrocities of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

A group of parents fighting to claim their children from leftist organizations said they have the same amount of freedom including entitlement to freedom of speech.

The League of Parents of the Philippines (LPP), a group composed of parents whose children fled home upon becoming full-time activists, emphasized on Friday that everything they say is true.

“We only talk facts. Totoo naman po na yung mga batang nasa tarpaulins namin na namatay sa encounter with the military ay unang kumilos sa mga organisasyong hayag or open [openly left] organizations gaya ng Anakbayan (Those children in tarpaulins who died during armed encounters with the military started out as activists for these open organizations like Anakbayan),”
Remy Rosadio, the group’s spokesperson, said.

Rosadio said that
leftist groups such as the League of Filipino Students (LFS) recruit their children to become activists who “all of a sudden are impossible to reach”.

She said parents would just hear from others that their children were seen in the countryside and are “already a part of the armed struggle”.

“How do you still brand that as red-tagging when our children already declare that they are proud members of the communist party? Nakaka-bahala sa panig naming mga magulang na biglang makikita namin na nagkakaroon ng turn around sa pananaw ang aming anak pati na ang pag-yakap nila sa mga extreme solutions like armed struggle (It worries us as parents seeing our children have a total turnaround with their views and opinions. Especially them embracing extreme solutions like the armed struggle),” Rosadio added.

Meanwhile, University of Philippines Diliman (UPD) Student Council chairperson Froilan Cariaga, in a statement, opposed the LPP's plan to stage an informative rally inside the campus.

“They would never be allowed inside the university’s premises, as they only mean to endanger the progressive youth and community members,” Cariaga said.