Tuesday, November 24, 2020

NTF-ELCAC budget to spur countryside dev't: N. Samar guv

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): NTF-ELCAC budget to spur countryside dev't: N. Samar guv (By Gerico Sabalza)

DEVELOPING THE COUNTRYSIDE. Northern Samar Governor Edwin Marino Ongchuan on Monday (Nov. 23, 2020) said passage of the 2021 budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) would spur development in the countryside where access to government services is limited. He added ELCAC offers a holistic approach that would resolve conflicts deeply rooted in poverty. (Photo courtesy of Governor Edwin Marino Ongchuan)

The passage of the 2021 budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) would spur development in the countryside where access to government services is limited.

In a statement on Monday, this was raised by Northern Samar Governor Edwin Marino Ongchuan who expressed support for the proposed PHP16.4 billion allocation for NTF-ELCAC next year.

The proposed budget will finance social development packages, livelihood, and infrastructure projects enumerated under
the Barangay Development Programs (BDPs) of villages that have been considered "cleared" of the communist terrorist group's influence.

"Building peace in the countryside is likewise an essential investment for resiliency and sustainability. The peace-building initiative of the NTF-ELCAC is necessary to spur development in the countryside where many impoverished villages are oftentimes deprived of the experience of government care," Ongchuan said.

The official emphasized that ELCAC offers a holistic approach that would resolve conflicts deeply rooted in poverty and boosts the delivery of social services in remote areas.

"While local government units try their best to deliver social services in remote areas, we are however confronted with limited resources, and this inevitably impacts on the quality of life of our fellows in the peripheries. Our vulnerability to hazards and disasters even more magnifies the challenge and makes the task much more daunting," he added.

The formation of the task force operationalizes Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018. The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace.

At the village level, the task force is composed of members of the barangay peace and order council and community-based organizations.

"With the continued implementation of the program, we can be assured of a steady step towards long-lasting peace and inclusive development," Ongchuan said.

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


Recruited at 13, mom shares woes within NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Recruited at 13, mom shares woes within NPA (By Sarwell Meniano)

EX-NPA REBEL. Aiza (not her real name) joined the New People's Army (NPA) in Samar as a minor in 2003. After quitting the NPA in 2007, her family is now settled in a rice farming community in this town, regularly receiving farm inputs and other livelihood assistance from the national government. (PNA photo by Sarwell Meniano)

BASEY, Samar – Shattered dreams, early marriage, with a special child are among the reasons why Aiza (not her real name) truly regretted joining the communist terrorist group as a teen over a decade ago.

She considers the four grueling years she spent with the New People’s Army (NPA) as the darkest chapter of her life when she experienced hunger and sleepless nights while clinging to the promises of rebel leaders of a better life, according to Aiza in an interview on Tuesday.

Growing up poor, fatherless, and a victim of rape attempt, she was easily lured by the NPA in Sta. Rita, Samar to go to the mountains and join the fight against the government.

“Since I was a young recruit, I spent most of my time reading their own version of Philippine history book, help collect food supplies, and carry our provisions,” Aiza recalled.

At 16, she got pregnant by Lito (not his real name), a rebel fighter 17 years her senior. The ordeal of living in the mountains and heavy with a child gave her and her common-law husband the courage to ask permission from their leaders to leave the organization in 2007.

The family is now settled in a rice farming community in this town, regularly receiving farm inputs and other livelihood assistance from the national government.

Now at 33, the mother’s dark past still persists as she takes care of her 13-year-old daughter suffering from slow physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development.

“My child would not grow abnormal had I not gave in to the persuasions of NPAs. When I was pregnant, I’ve gone through a lot of tiring and stressful days as we walked for hours, suffer hunger, carry heavy supplies, no pre-natal checkups, and lack of sleep,” Aiza told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Joining the NPA also deprived her of the opportunity to continue her studies to fulfill her dream to become a public school teacher. “My plea to the youth is to never entertain the idea of joining the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA. Instead of wasting your time and efforts with them, you have to study hard and help your family,” she added.

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

Since 2016, the central government and local government units have intensified the fight against NPA by forming task forces to end local communist armed conflict.

The formation of the task force operationalizes Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018.

The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace.


Rebel killed in Sorsogon encounter with gov't troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Rebel killed in Sorsogon encounter with gov't troops (By Connie Calipay)

A member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in a clash between elements of the Philippine Army's 22nd Infantry Battalion (22IB) and at least 10 members of the communist terrorist group (CTG) in Barangay Gulang-Gulang, Irosin, Sorsogon on Monday night.

Captain John Paul Belleza, 9th Infantry Division (9ID) spokesperson, in a statement on Tuesday said the 22IB conducted a security operation to verify the report from residents of the said barangay about the extortion and recruitment activities of the rebels.

Following operational procedures, the troops spotted and engaged the enemies, resulting in a fierce firefight that forced the rebels to scamper and withdraw in different directions, leaving their dead comrade behind. No one was harmed on the government side.

An M16 rifle, six anti-personnel mines, commercial radios, 50-meter electrical wire, and backpack were recovered by the soldiers at the clash site.

Lt. Col. Mico, 22IB commander, lauded the persistence of his troops but gave back the credit to the villagers, especially the parents of some minors that the CTG was trying to recruit, for their prompt report.

"We thank the residents of Irosin for their cooperation manifested through their refusal to condone the atrocities of this terrorist group particularly their urge to deceive the youth sector," Mico added.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Henry Robinson Jr., 9ID and Joint Task Bicolandia chief, commended the troops for their commitment and dedication to the government's goal of finally exterminating the communist insurgency in the region.

"Our string of successes spoke of our sincerity to offer the Bicolanos a just and lasting peace they've been longing for. We have warned the CTGs about our non-stop extensive military operations, but once again, we call on them to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law," he said.

Four days ago, a series of operations in the province also resulted in the killing of two CTG members and the recovery of four high-powered firearms and another rifle.


Army tags Leyte farmer’s group as source of NPA recruits (

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Army tags Leyte farmer’s group as source of NPA recruits (By Sarwell Meniano)

LINKED TO NPA. The documents recovered by the Philippine Army from the house of a suspected member of the New People's Army (NPA) on Nov. 13. Some of these documents identified a farmer's group as a source of NPA recruits in Carigara, Leyte. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

The Philippine Army confirmed that a farmer’s group in Carigara, Leyte has been the source of new recruits of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade said members of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM) Balangay in Carigara has been recruited as cannon fodders, treated by armed rebels as expendable in the face of enemy fire.

“It was the prospect of financial assistance that enticed many local farmers including some barangay (village) officials to join Municipal Upland Farmers Association of Carigara (MUFAC), which now appeared as front for the underground PKM,” the army said in a statement.

MUFAC was renamed to appease a German church-based humanitarian agency, which have been providing funds in Leyte communities after super typhoon Yolanda’s devastations, according to the military.

“Indeed, the underground PKM Balangay including the basic organization of the party that spearheads it is the real organ of political power in every NPA-influenced village in Carigara and elsewhere,” the military reported.

Troops of the Army’s 93rd Infantry Battalion found more evidence linking the farmer’s group to NPA when they discovered documents at the house of a suspected NPA member on Nov. 13 in upland Canlampay village in Carigara.

“It’s welcome to us if non-government organizations will train villagers on farming, but they should not incorporate the ideologies of communist insurgency in their gatherings,” Capt. Karahudin Adil, spokesperson of the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade, said in an interview.

The Philippine Army is deploying more soldiers in remote communities of Carigara to block the campaign of the NPA to recover former strongholds.

To achieve their goal, the military asked village officials to make their local task forces on ending local communist armed conflict (ELCAC) functional and provide information on the whereabouts of rebels.

Recently, suspected NPA members have been sighted in the villages of Canlampay, Hiluctogan, Libo, Upper Hiraan, and Caghalo.

These villages are among the 16 communities in Carigara covered by the Army’s retooled community support program (RCSP) last year.

The CSP deployments aim to facilitate the government’s development programs by hearing the issues and concerns of vulnerable villagers and bring them to the attention of concerned government offices.

The military has reiterated their drive to increase their presence in Carigara after a clash on Sept. 30 in Caghalo village that led to the recovery of several firearms. The incident was the first encounter with the terrorist group this year.

In Canlampay village, soldiers recovered the documents on Nov. 13 from the house of suspected NPA members Edencio and wife, Nora Dionaldo.

Government troops also rescued the couple’s seven children, including five minors, and recovered war materiel from the house.

The pursuit against suspected NPA fighters who recently abandoned a nearby lair led government troops to the house of the Dionaldo couple. Edencio remains at-large while Nora and the couple’s eldest son, Ernie, were detained at the town’s police station.

On Tuesday, government troops had a brief gun battle with eight rebels in Hiluctogan village. No one was hurt from the military while bloodstains indicate casualties among the rebels.

Carigara is about 48 kilometers northwest of Tacloban, the regional capital. It is a 2nd class town with a population of over 51,000.

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


US official accused of 'sowing discord' between PH, China

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): US official accused of 'sowing discord' between PH, China (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (Photo courtesy of DFA)

The Chinese Embassy in Manila has accused US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien of "sowing discord" between China and the Philippines over its Beijing-related remarks during his official visit to Manila on Monday.

In a statement dated November 23, the embassy described O’Brien's remarks on the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan issues as "unreasonable".

"He blatantly accused China on no ground, grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, deliberately exaggerated regional tensions, and attempted to sow discord between China and the Philippines," it said.

The embassy also scored Washington for what it described as stirring up a confrontation among countries in the region, claiming the latter has "interfered" in China and some Southeast Asian states' efforts to manage disputes in the South China Sea.

It said the US has no right to meddle in the maritime issue since it is not a party to the South China Sea dispute nor the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"The US itself refused to join the UNCLOS, but it talked much about UNCLOS and abused its provisions everywhere, infringing upon the maritime rights and interests of other countries," the embassy said.

"The US is not a party to the SCS dispute, but it frequently sends warships and planes to the SCS on numerous occasions for military provocations, goes as far as using the electronic codes of civil aviation planes of the Philippines and other regional countries to carry out espionage flights in the SCS."

It called on the US to "respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights" in the region and "stop interfering and inciting confrontation in the South China Sea."

Beijing's nine-dash line claim, covering at least 80 percent of the strategic waterway, was invalidated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which based its "final" and "binding" decision on UNCLOS.

To date, China, a signatory to the maritime treaty, continues to reject the arbitral award.

Earlier this year, Washington formally aligned its position on the South China Sea with the Arbitral Tribunal’s 2016 Ruling.

During his Manila trip, O'Brien reaffirmed Washington's commitment to back Manila in protecting its sovereign rights and offshore resources under international law.

"I just want to say that those resources belong to the children and grandchildren of the people here. They belong to the Philippine people," he said.

"They don’t belong to some other country that just because they may be bigger than the Philippines, they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people. That’s just wrong. That’s what Secretary (Mike) Pompeo said in February."


Gaite, cohorts not real reps of Filipinos: Parlade

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Gaite, cohorts not real reps of Filipinos: Parlade (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., Southern Luzon Command chief (PNA File photo)

Claims that militants are representing the majority of Filipinos in their noisy rallies and protest actions against the government are not true, a military official said.

"The gall of (Bayan Muna party-list Representative) Ferdinand Gaite. He speaks of the 'voice of the people' – these protesters, the noisy and belligerent minority – as if they represent the Filipino people,"
said Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., in a statement to the Philippine News Agency Tuesday.

He scored the militant lawmaker for mistaking the more or less 100 protesters, the majority of which are students, who cannot even represent the millions of students in Philippine society.

"Wake up Rep. Gaite and listen to what the majority of the people are saying. Yong sandaan mo ay hindi kailanman puedeng maging representante ng nakakarami nating mga estudyante (Your 100 protesters, composed mostly of students, cannot represent the majority of our students),"
he said.

Parlade, who is also spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), chided Gaite and other militants for always using the "dictator" term in their bid to topple the country's democratic form of government and replace it with a communist one.

"Now you talk of the well-functioning democratic government citing the 1987 Constitution? Well functioning pala bakit gusto ninyong sirain? (it is functioning so why would you want to destroy it) Ilantad ninyo kung ano ang nasa inyong CPP Constitution Plans and Programs (Just reveal what's inside your CPP Constitution Plans and Programs)," he added.

He also challenged Gaite to tell the public what is the real meaning of "Prinsipyo ng Proletaryong Diktadurya sa anyo ng Demokratikong Diktaduryang Bayan" being espoused by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in Article 3 Section 7 page 24 of their "Bible".

"Ipaliwanag mo yan sa taong bayan bago mo husgahan ang gobyerno na isang diktadura (Explain that first to the public before you accuse this government of being a dictatorship)," he said.

Parlade also scored Gaite for having the temerity to accuse the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the NTF ELCAC of being peddlers of lies and disinformation but not having the guts to attend a Senate inquiry task to look into their allegations.

"We took our oath to tell the truth to the Senate Committee. But where were you Mr. Gaite? We didn't see a whisper of your shadow. Why are you so afraid of us? Indeed our 1987 Constitution provides you that democratic space which your CPP Constitution and proletarian dictatorship will never allow," he said.

He slammed Gaite for setting up conditions that they will only attend the hearing if only he will not be present.

"But again, where were you? Why set conditions that you will only attend if Lt. Gen. Parlade will not attend?" the NTF ELCAC official asked.

Parlade also asked why Gaite and his cohorts are afraid to take an oath that they will not lie and will make him admit his direct participation in the armed conflict being waged by the CPP NPA as members of the CPP yourselves?

"People are asking why you didn't attend. Even Angel Locsin asked me that question which of course I cannot answer. Maybe next hearing you will attend to provide us answers," he added.

The government, he said, welcomes activism and will protect legitimate activists but clarified that the newly-enacted Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has drawn the battle lines, adding that members of the CPP-NPA underground movement, hiding under the legal mantle of these CPP "fronts" belonging to the Makabayan bloc, will be exposed by their own comrades.

"They can no longer be called legitimate dissenters as their agenda is clear: it is not dissent, it is sedition. It is to topple a democratically elected President, with the help of an opposition who has no explanation and legal solution to contest a highly trusted, wildly popular President," Parlade said.

The worn-out narratives of "a tyrant of a president" being raised by militant groups are now no longer being believed by the public except Gaite and his hundred followers, he added.

"Shall we, the NTF ELCAC accede? Shall we bend back in acquiescence? No, we have drawn the line. You decide where to sit," he said.

He added that the Day of Judgement for Gaite and his kind is nearing and that the Filipino people, who have suffered enough from the malignant hands of the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) of which you are part, will be among their judges.

"And soon, very soon, blood debts will be settled,"
he said.


BrahMos program in progress, funds yet to be available: DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): BrahMos program in progress, funds yet to be available: DND (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the program to acquire medium-range ramjet supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles is moving forward but getting enough funds for this remains a challenge.

He made this comment when asked by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on updates regarding the plans to acquire the cruise missile which was jointly developed by Russia and India.

"The Brahmos (program) is moving forward but the challenge now is (the) funding,"
Lorenzana said in a message to PNA late Monday.

When asked for an estimate on how fast the Philippines can get the missile into service, the DND chief said this is dependent on how fast the funds would be made available.

Earlier, Lorenzana said they are planning to acquire at least "two batteries" of the BrahMos cruise missiles with each battery having three mobile autonomous launchers with two or three missile tubes each.

The procurement would be via "government-to-government mode".

If acquired, the missiles will be utilized to fulfill the Philippine Army's (PA) coastal defense missions. Aside from the PA, the DND chief said the weapons can also be used by the Philippine Air Force.

Once the missiles are delivered, Lorenzana said the BrahMos will be the first Philippine weaponry with deterrent capability.

Acquisition of a land-based missile system is under Horizon Two of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program which is slated for 2018 to 2022 and geared for the acquisition of equipment geared for external defense and has a budget of PHP300 billion.


PH raises concern over terrorists’ use of landmines

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): PH raises concern over terrorists’ use of landmines

Jonelle John S. Domingo, Philippine delegate at the 18th Meeting of States Parties held virtually from Geneva, Switzerland on Nov. 19 (Contributed photo)

GENEVA, Switzerland – The Philippines called for the strengthening of a normative framework under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) to address the continued use of mines by armed non-state actors.

Signed in 1997, the APMBC, otherwise known as the Mine Ban Treaty, prohibits the use of landmines due to their destructive and indiscriminate effects on civilians and communities. Its State parties meet every year to discuss the treaty’s promotion and implementation. The Philippines ratified the treaty in 2000, two years after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) completed the destruction of its landmines stockpile.

At the 18th Meeting of States Parties (MSP) held virtually from Geneva on Nov. 19, Philippine delegate Jonelle John S. Domingo said the country remains fully committed to the APMBC and its vision of a mine-free world by 2025, “even as we address threats from armed non-state actors that continue to indiscriminately use weapons in violation of [the treaty’s] principles.”

“It is known to the international community that the New People’s Army has continued to use weapons that cause superfluous injuries in its terroristic activities. Its use of improvised explosive devices with anti-personnel characteristics is well-documented,” Domingo said.

He said these include those with anti-handling devices that trigger explosions upon an attempt by explosive ordnance disposal teams to defuse them.

"These devices are intended against first responders and are therefore victim-activated – a clear violation of the principles of this Convention," he added.

Earlier this year, the AFP recovered several anti-personnel landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during several of its operations against the terrorist New People’s Army (NPA), according to reports by the Philippine News Agency. Some of these weapons were placed in areas near civilian communities.

In 2013, the Communist Party of the Philippine founding chairman Jose Maria Sison characterized landmines as “the poor man’s weapon.”

The civil society has decried this along with other violations by the NPA of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). They point out that aside from being deadly, mines and IEDs deprive communities of their livelihood because they make rural areas unsafe for farming, settlement, and transit.

In addressing the threats of mines and IEDs, Philippine authorities have adopted an “inclusive whole-of-society approach” that brings together government agencies, civil society groups such as the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, and community leaders, according to the Philippine delegate.

“In several instances, cooperation among communities and authorities have led to successful operations against these destructive weapons,” he said.

Domingo expressed support for “global initiatives to address the social and development challenges posed by mines, including through robust international cooperation and assistance” under the APMBC.

He also cited Philippine participation in the activities of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center (ARMAC) and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus’ Expert Working Group (EWG) on Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA).

In its engagement on the treaty’s activities, the Philippines has consistently stressed the importance of strong national ownership of mine action, including reducing the affected states’ reliance on foreign technical expertise, and the centrality of mine victims in the treaty’s work on clearance and risk education.

The Philippines also champions the balanced participation of women and men in these activities.


Navy troops rescue 4 during height of Typhoon Ulysses in CamSur

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Navy troops rescue 4 during height of Typhoon Ulysses in CamSur 

RESCUE. Troops from the Naval Special Operations Unit-3 (NAVSOU-3) rescue residents who were suffocated by generator fumes inside their house in Barangay Sta. Barbara, Nabua, Camarines Sur during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses in the early morning on November 12, 2020. The rescue mission was conducted successfully with the help of barangay officials. (Photo courtesy of NAVSOU-3)

Four residents who were suffocated by generator fumes inside their house were saved by the disaster response team of Naval Special Operations Unit-3 (NAVSOU-3) during a rescue mission in flood-hit Barangay Sta. Barbara in Nabua, Camarines Sur during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses in the early morning on November 12.

In a news release, the NAVSOU-3 said two of the victims, identified as Christine Bitonio, 21, and Mary Joy Pana, 20, were then critical and had difficulty in breathing while the others were identified as Christine Rachel Jane Buendia, 15, and Edison Coros, 20, were both still conscious but ambulatory.

When Typhoon Ulysses crossed the Bicol region, the NAVSOU-3 received and responded to a distress call at around 4:30 a.m. by boarding a truck and loaded their rubber boat and outboard motor (OBM). Together with a barangay official and a volunteer, they immediately proceeded to the nearest barangay where they could launch the boat and activate the OBM.

While the truck was traversing the flood and crossing through waters with a strong current, the troops pulled the boat through the rushing flood and started to launch it. The rescue team crossed the flooded rice field until they reached the riverside which is the only access to the barangay.

They crossed the running river and finally located the house where the victims were trapped.

The four victims were immediately transferred to the boat. Two of whom were ambulatory, one is coherent and the other is disoriented and sometimes unresponsive.

While on the boat, team leader Lt. Jaymar Jason, was keeping Bitonio awake.

"While transferring the victims to the truck, I noticed Miss Bitonio has stiffened and went heavy and passed out. I was alarmed so I immediately check her vital signs. She was lightly breathing and her pulse was low. I tapped and wake her up, tried every means to bring her back to her senses. Her eyes were dilated and her hands are cold (she passed out twice)," Jason said.

"I gave her a pump on her chest and she went back to her senses but still disoriented. I put her to recovery position kept her awake until such time that we arrived at where the ambulance was prepositioned," he added.


Pretending as only good group among Reds' greatest tricks

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Pretending as only good group among Reds' greatest tricks (By Benjamin Pulta and Priam Nepomuceno)

National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (Screengrab from Senate live video)

The pretense of being the only good organization is among the greatest tricks of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in deceiving the people, a top security official said Tuesday.

"They want to convince that they are a good organization and that they could only be the only good organization,"
National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said during the Senate Committee on National Defense & Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation hearing on red-tagging.

He, however, said the group's acts prove otherwise.

"They want to deny that they kill innocent people, indigenous peoples, burn construction equipment, exact illegal taxation, and radicalize then recruit many of our youth to take up arms against the republic. They want to overthrow democracy in favor of democratic centralism which is a euphemism for a dictatorship," he added.

Esperon added that another great trick of the CPP-NPA-NDF is to "convince us it does not exist".

"It has succeeded in no small measure in concealing its conspiracy and have its cadres or personalities supporting it masquerading as patriots, freedom fighters, human rights advocates, and so on," he added.

Meanwhile, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Monteagudo presented a 1987 documentary video of CPP-NPA-NDF founding chair Joma Sison identifying the role of front organizations and its integral part to the communist terrorist group.

In the video, Sison speaks of the building of the Communist Party, the NPA, and the NDF.

Ex-members speak up

Former rebels and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF were also presented by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to testify on the CPP-NPA-NDF’s misleading process of recruitment and mobilization.

In a press briefing after the proceedings, former NPA cadre Jeffrey "Ka Eric Almendras" Celiz said Sison made the inadvertent admission to convince sympathetic leftist groups to support the terrorist group.

Celiz admitted said one key skill of party cadres is to consistently tell falsehoods.

"Kapag nasa loob ka po sa CPP-NPA-NDF bawal ka sa sigarilyo, pambababae, droga, pero master ka dapat sa isang bisyo, sa pagsisinungaling (If you are inside the CPP-NPA-NDF, you are not allowed to smoke, womanize and do drugs but you should be a master in one vice -- telling lies)," Celis said.

Celiz said the party operates by infiltrating government organizations like a criminal syndicate group.

The former rebels said their decision to renounce the terror groups as"redemption" from their part ways.

Loyalty to the revolution

Meanwhile, Noel Legaspi, former deputy CPP Regional Party Committee member in Far South Mindanao Region, identified the party pledge for party members of the terror group where incoming officials vow to protect the security of the party with their lives.

This, he said, justifies the killing by the parties of past members.

"Their loyalty is to the party and the revolution, not the republic and not the people who voted them to power," Legaspi said.

He also cited the members' mandate under the CPP constitution to organize secretly into "party groups" whenever they find themselves in "conservative and reactionary institutions in a broad scope".

These party groups, he said, are then directed to implement CPP policies and decisions while they are members of these institutions, gather information useful to the party, expose wrongdoings and weaknesses and recruit new members.

Another former rebel, Joy James Saguino alias 'Ka Amihan' said he was recruited at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo initially as a member of League of Filipino Students (LFS).

Saguino also served as secretary of Guerilla Front 20 under Sub-regional Committee 1 of Southern Mindanao Region.

“There is no red-tagging. Mr. Jeffrey Celiz (Ka Eric) was right about the connection of the so-called legal democratic organization and the CPP,” he said in his testimony.

Saguino’s statement was backed by another former student, Rey Christian Sabado. He was a student leader at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines before joining the CPP-NPA-NDF in 2015 following several orientations and recruitment attempts.

Sabado said the CPP-NPA-NDF, through Kabataan Partylist and other fronts, tried to work on his release after he was arrested by government forces in Las Navas, Northern Samar in 2019 while carrying illegal firearms.

“Huwag na po nating hayaan na yung susunod na maging biktima nitong mga nagkukunwaring progresibong organisasyon ay sila pa po mismo yung sisira sa pangarap ng ating mga anak (Let us not let these groups claiming as progressive ones destroy the dreams of our children),” Sabado said in warning the youth against the CPP-NPA-NDF’s modus of targeting the sector.

Ivy Lin Corpin, alias 'Red/Elis' claimed that she joined the organization in 2016 and worked to campaign for Vilma Valencia who was a Gabriela organizer before joining the CPP-NPA-NDF.

She name-dropped other members of legal organizations who are also part of the communist terrorist group.

Deception must stop

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said is hopeful that the CPP-NPA-NDF can no longer deceive the public and cover up their malicious intent following the outcome of Tuesday's hearing.

“It is now clear how the CPP-NPA-NDF conspire to continue their unlawful acts and terrorist ways as exposed by the resource persons today. The organization’s exploitation of issues and idealism affecting the vulnerable sectors has to stop now,” said AFP chief of staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, who virtually attended the hearing.

Gapay said the public hearing was a great avenue for the military as most of the AFP’s efforts focus on the preventive side.

“We are satisfied with how things turned out for us during these hearings. These sessions have allowed the truth to unfold. And for the AFP, one of the best ways to counter terrorism is to stop lies from propagating,” Gapay said.

The military, during focused military operations, has encountered individuals that are affiliated with front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Gapay also reiterated the military’s duty to protect the people from the deceitful and violent ways of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“CPP-NPA-NDF’s orchestrated attempts at public deception have been unmasked. As we continue to battle against these terrorists during armed conflicts, it is just as vital for us to prevent individuals, especially vulnerable sectors from being misled by the CPP-NPA-NDF’s trickery,” he said.

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


Groups call on Reds to stop youth recruitment

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Groups call on Reds to stop youth recruitment (By Lade Jean Kabagani)

STOP YOUTH RECRUITMENT. Anti-communist groups and other civil society organizations alongside parents of student activists who were reportedly recruited by various progressive groups gather outside the Senate halls on Tuesday (Nov. 24, 2020) to denounce the atrocities and deceptive recruitment schemes committed by the CPP-NPA-NDF to minors. The groups also protested against the 52 years of insurgency, maltreatment, and inhumane abuses of the NPA cadres against their members. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

Anti-communist groups and other civil society organizations on Tuesday called on party-list groups allegedly identified as having links with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), to put an end to the recruitment of the youth and stop urging student-activists to join their deceptive cause.

Members of the League of Parents in the Philippines (LPP), Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIPI), Yakap ng Magulang, and Hands Off Our Children, alongside parents of student activists who were reportedly recruited by various progressive groups, have gathered outside the Senate as they denounced the atrocities and deceptive recruitment schemes committed by the communist rebel groups and its allied legal front organizations.

While welcoming the Senate hearing regarding the issue of "red-tagging" allegations against the members of the Makabayan bloc, the anti-communist groups have thrown support to the representatives of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) who attended the probe, saying "they are the truth taggers".

Remy Rosadio, the LPP chairperson, said if not for NTF-ELCAC, their calls to halt the recruitment of the communists among youth would never be heard.

"They represent us, the voices of the grieving parents who lost their children because of the communist movements," said Rosadio.

Rosadio reiterated the communist-linked organizations are allegedly maneuvering fraudulent tactics to recruit more minors to be part of the armed movement.

Relentless to their call to end communist terrorism, the anti-communist groups railed against the "continuous indoctrination of wrong ideologies" to minors and exploiting them to join the NPA.

During the protest, Julius Ursua, LPP and LIPI member, said their groups would never stop calling out the communist rebels for their violence, abuses, and deceitful youth recruitment.

"Ang mga magulang po ay hindi magsasawa at hindi titigil. Handa po kaming ibuwis ang aming mga buhay sa kapakanan ng pamilyang Pilipino (These parents will never be tired and we will never stop. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the sake of the Filipino families)," Ursua said.

He then urged Joma Sison to stop using the youth in the communist armed movement and end all their inhumane activities.

"Maawa ka sa taumbayan, maawa ka sa mga kabataan na ginagamit mo bilang child warrior para mapabagsak ang gobyerno (Have mercy on the people, have mercy on youth for exploiting them as child warriors to overthrow the government)," he added.

The anti-communist groups also protested against the 52 years of insurgencies, maltreatment, and inhumane abuses of the NPA cadres against their members, particularly the newly recruited youth women.

Meanwhile, LIPI member, Dario Sandoval urged the government to stop all the people "behind the progressive movement" who bring minors into the mountains and engage with armed insurgencies.

Deceptive recruitment

Elvie Caalaman, along with other Hands Off Our Children members, meanwhile, shared how their children were recruited into progressive groups of the Makabayan bloc and eventually gone missing for years.

Caalaman also exposed various deceptive recruitment processes going on within the structure of the progressive organizations including Kabataan party-list, League of Filipino Students (LFS), and Anakbayan.

"Kung tunay kayong makabayan, ibalik niyo ang mga anak namin. Iilan lamang 'to sa mga kabataang nawawala na pagkatapos maging aktibista ay umakyat sa kabundukan para humawak ng armas (If you are truly patriotic, bring our children back. These are just a few of many activists who have gone missing after you brought them to the mountains to hold firearms)," Caalaman said.

A mom's grief

Relissa Lucena, mother of Alicia Jasper (AJ), a student activist who was reportedly recruited by the youth group Anakbayan, slammed the Makabayan bloc for exploiting her daughter and depriving AJ to live a normal life.

"Hindi niyo ako makikita sa kalye kung wala kayong kinuha sa akin, hindi niyo ako makikita sa kalye kung hindi ko pinaglalaban 'yung anak ko (You will not see me roaming down the streets if you have not taken anything from me, you will not see in the streets if I'm not fighting for my daughter)," Lucena said, reiterating she can't afford to stay at home and do nothing about AJ's situation.

Lucena and her husband have earlier filed petitions before the Supreme Court to compel Anakbayan and Kabataan Party-list to return recruited youths to the custody of their parents. However, the petitions got denied for lack of evidence, according to the Supreme Court.

Lucena said there is a need to pursue a "people's initiative" to close down schools infiltrated by the CPP-NPA to halt the recruitment of more minors.

Meanwhile, LPP spokesperson Arlene Escalante the illegal recruitment of youth will only destroy the children's better future, "which their parents hoped for them."

Escalante appealed to the children's welfare council of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) to focus on the harm brought by the communist rebels in its recruitment of young people.

"Just imagine children being trained to kill—to become killing machines. These youth were totally wrecked psychologically, physically, and mentally," Escalante said, noting that these child warriors must be saved from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

The anti-communist groups cited the recent testimonies given by former NPA rebels pointing at the Makabayan bloc as the recruitment arm of the communist movement.

The groups vowed to continue campaigning against the recruitment activities of left-leaning youth organizations.

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


PRRD studying US push for longer suspension of VFA abrogation

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): PRRD studying US push for longer suspension of VFA abrogation (By Azer Parrocha)

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (File photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte is studying the request of US President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien for a longer suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) abrogation, MalacaƱang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after O’Brien, in an interview with reporters on November 23, said he was pushing for a suspension of the VFA termination that would last for a year or longer to allow further negotiations for a more acceptable security arrangement.

“Let’s just say that the President has taken note of the request of the US authorities and he will decide as chief architect of foreign policy,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

On November 11, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that the government has extended the suspension of the VFA abrogation for another six months.

Locsin said this would allow the Philippines and the United States "to find a more enhanced, mutually beneficial, mutually agreeable, and more effective and lasting arrangement on how to move forward in our mutual defense".

While O’Brien welcomed the suspension of the VFA abrogation for a second time, he said it would be "better" if it would be extended for at least a year or longer.

The VFA, a military pact signed between the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows American troops who are participating in joint military exercises to visit Manila without a passport and visa.

In February, Duterte scrapped the VFA over its alleged inequities in its treaty provisions and the US’s alleged assault on the country’s sovereignty and disrespect for its judicial system.

He later decided to suspend the planned revocation of the military pact with Washington DC last June.

Roque, meanwhile, refused to comment on the accusation made by the Chinese government that O’Brien was allegedly attempting to sow discord between China and the Philippines after slamming Beijing’s encroachment of territories in the South China Sea that are under Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“I cannot speak either for the National Security Adviser of the US or the Spokesperson of China. I can only speak for the President. And the President has said that there will be increased tensions among superpowers in the region. We do not want to take part in that drive for hegemony,” he said.

He also maintained that the Philippines will pursue a “peaceful and diplomatic” approach to resolve its long-standing sea row with China.

“We will assert our national interest and we would want a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea dispute,” he added.

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its arbitration case filed against China when the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that Beijing has “no legal basis” to claim historic rights over almost the entire South China Sea.


Army seizes terrorist camp in Pangasinan town

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 24, 2020): Army seizes terrorist camp in Pangasinan town (By Hilda Austria and Ahikam Pasion)

ARMED ENCOUNTER. Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police set up checkpoints along the road near the combat area at Mangatarem town in Pangasinan on Tuesday (Nov. 24, 2020). A combat operation against the members of the terrorist group is ongoing. (Photo courtesy of Ahikam Pasion

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan – An armed encounter erupted Tuesday morning and is still ongoing between members of the New People’s Army (NPA) terrorist group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the mountainous area in this town.

In an interview, Brig. General Audrey Pasia, Commander of the 702nd Infantry Brigade, said they received a report from indigenous people of an alleged camp of the rebel group at Barangay Lawang Langka in this town.

“Soldiers requested for artillery fire support after finding themselves outnumbered against an estimated 40 heavily armed communist terrorists hiding in the mountains of Barangay Lawang Langka. Additional forces were flown in by helicopters to provide close air support and reinforce the engaged troops,” he said.

Pasia said the members of the terrorist group were from Tarlac and Zambales who tried to take refuge in Pangasinan but were unwelcomed in the province as they were reported by the people.

“The place of encounter lies along the provincial tri-boundary of Pangasinan, Tarlac, and Zambales. Pangasinan is still insurgency-free and these terrorists have no place in Pangasinan,” he added.

As of this posting, there were no reported casualties as the combat operation is still ongoing, he said.

“Our forces are still scouring the area, the result of which will be the basis of the report which we will be submitting to higher headquarters,” he added.

Follow-on forces and K-9 assets have been deployed to conduct pursuit operations against the fleeing NPA terrorists while checkpoints have been established along possible exit routes.

All of North Luzon Command’s (Nolcom ) military assets, including aircraft, are now on high alert.

“The soldiers’ ability to decisively engage the enemies of the state despite the ongoing humanitarian missions brought about by the series of typhoons is a testament to our collective commitment and high state of readiness to serve our people and secure this part of our land,” Major General Alfredo Rosario, Commander of the 7th Infantry Division, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., AFP’s Nolcom chief, said he hopes the encounter will lead the few remaining NPA terrorists to choose peace over conflict, avail of government grants, and lead normal lives together with their families.

“The fact that we are now receiving real-time information is a loud and clear warning to the few remaining NPAs in this part of the country to put down their arms and return to the folds of law while they still can because our soldiers can, and will, hunt them down even up to the most isolated corner and crevices of Northern and Central Luzon,” he said.