Friday, December 4, 2020

Youth takes center stage in Mindanao peace week celebration

 From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2020): Youth takes center stage in Mindanao peace week celebration (By Edwin Fernandez)

YOUNG PEACE LEADER. Bangsamoro Youth Commission chair Marjanie Macasalong delivers the opening remarks during the Mindanao Week of Peace culmination in Cotabato City on Thursday (Dec. 3, 2020). The youth leader emphasized the importance of the youth in shaping the region’s future through peace and development. (Photo courtesy of BYC)

COTABATO CITY – The roles of the young in peacebuilding in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) were highlighted in this year’s culmination celebration of Mindanao Week of Peace (MWP) here on Thursday afternoon.

“The youth are valuable innovators and active agents of positive change,” said Marjanie Macasalong, chairperson of the Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC), during the program.

He added that the group has significant roles in peace promotion and community development.

“Young people played an important role in the Bangsamoro peace process, and they continue to play an important role in safeguarding this peace,” said Macasalong who is also a member of parliament of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) representing the youth.

The culmination activity anchored on its theme, “Zooming-in the Bangsamoro Peace Narratives”, was held at 4 p.m. at the Bangsamoro government center in this city.

It showcased inspiring stories of selected youth peace advocates and leaders in different fields of governance, education, active citizenship, environment, health, and peace-building.

Al-Fatah Abdullah, a youth who shared his story during the culminating program, recalled how difficult it was for him to work for an end to “rido” (family feud) his clan was locked into.

“Retaliation is not, and will never be the solution,” Abdullah emphasized.

Faced with numerous cases of rido in their community, he engaged his fellow youth to join him in acts of peace and resort to peaceful negotiations through their “RIDOnt for Lasting Kamapiyaan” (No rido for lasting peace) campaign.

The MWP is celebrated throughout Mindanao from last Thursday of November until the first Wednesday of December for the past nine years.

The event was simultaneously commemorated in Mindanao with local peace advocates and youth taking part in building a culture of peace on the island.

The BYC led the program along with other youth groups in the Bangsamoro region.

Army hits NPA ambush on militiaman in Surigao Norte town

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2020): Army hits NPA ambush on militiaman in Surigao Norte town (By Alexander Lopez)

Map of Sison, Surigao del Norte.

Authorities have condemned the ambush perpetrated by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) that wounded a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Surigao del Norte on Thursday afternoon.

1st Lt. Edmar C. Colagong, civil-military operation officer (CMO) of the 29th Infantry Battalion, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Friday that Angelito Salvador, a CAFGU member under their unit, was wounded when
waylaid by at least five armed individuals in Sitio Payawag, Barangay Mayag in Sison town.

“These armed men are believed to be members of the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) 16B of the Guerrilla Front (GF) 16 of the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) of the NPA,” Colagong said.

He added that Salvador was able to fire back at the attackers until he reached an Army patrol base in Barangay Tagbayani in the same town.

The firefight between the militiaman and the suspected NPA rebels lasted for four minutes, Colagong said.

He added that Salvador, who sustained a wound on his left foot, is now safe in a medical facility in the area while a pursuit operation was immediately launched to track down the NPA rebels.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office in Caraga (PRO-13) said it will conduct an investigation on the slay try on Salvador.

“The police personnel in Sison has already started conducting an investigation to identify the members of the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) responsible for the said shooting incident. Rest assured that those responsible will be put behind bars,” Brig. Gen. Romeo M. Caramat Jr. on Friday said.

He also lauded the bravery of Salvador who fought back against the NPA rebels, despite being outnumbered.

He pointed out that the same group of NPA rebels were responsible for the ambush of the personnel in Sison who were serving a warrant of arrest last Nov. 30 in Barangay Mayag.

The ambush wounded a police personnel and the civilian who was the subject of the arrest warrant.

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

Northern Samar farmers warned vs. NPA deception

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2020): Northern Samar farmers warned vs. NPA deception (By Sarwell Meniano)

NO TO NPA. Lt. Col. Juan Gullem, commander of the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Batallion speaks to villagers in a gathering in Las Navas, Northern Samar. The official has warned villagers in Northern Samar against a farmer's group spreading the communist terrorist ideology. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army 20th Infantry Batallion)

A Philippine Army official has warned villagers in Northern Samar against a farmer's group spreading communist terrorist ideology.

Army's 20th Infantry Batallion commander, Lt. Col. Juan Gullem said
the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and its umbrella organizations in Northern Samar have been encouraging farmers to join the armed struggle of the New People’s Army (NPA).

KMP has been identified as one of NPA's legal fronts.

Their local subgroups are the Northern Samar Small Farmers Association and Samahan ng Gugti na Parag-uma (alliance of small farmers).

"To KMP, I just want you to know that my heart belongs to you. My father is a farmer and I was raised on a farm. Just like you, I also experienced eating crops instead of rice. Our difference is that you allowed yourself to be influenced by communist ideology," Gullem said in a Facebook post on Friday.

The official recalled how the NPA killed his father due to his refusal to pay revolutionary tax.

In a message to the Philippine News Agency, Gullem said he has to make the public post "for people to know the truth to alienate them from the bondage of Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA".

The story of former rebel Rey Christian Sabado proves that the NPA in Northern Samar has been using farmer's group to promote the communist ideology, according to Gullem.

Sabado, who was captured in Las Navas, Northern Samar on Oct. 3, 2019, admitted that he used to gather farmers through KMP and affiliate groups.

Sabado is one of the former rebels who testified in a Senate hearing on red-tagging held on Tuesday.

"My appeal to the NPA and their legal fronts is to stop your lies and stop deceiving people. If you want peace, lay down your arms and let us talk. We will welcome you open arms and embrace you in the name of peace," Gullem added.

Northern Samar is considered to be the NPA’s stronghold in Eastern Visayas due to poor road network, thick forest, high poverty incidence, and low level of education in upland communities.

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.

Truce, peace talks untimely as Reds continue to weaken: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2020): Truce, peace talks untimely as Reds continue to weaken: AFP (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay. (File photo)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said it is not the right time to have a ceasefire or resume talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) as the group’s members are dwindling due to relentless pressure from the government.

AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay said such actions will only
give the communist terrorists a respite from the pressures being exerted against them by security forces.

"Peace talks? They only buy time, respite from the pressures being (exerted) by security forces on them especially during this time. Their capabilities are on the decline, their numbers are dwindling, and in fact, we have their backs against the wall and this is not the right time to really impose or recommend (a) ceasefire and peace talks," Gapay said in an online presser.

He also added that the AFP is raring to "permanently resolve" the insurgency problem which has been plaguing the country for more than 50 years.

"So we will not give them that time, that opportunity to relax, to rebuild and their capabilit(ies), to recruit, to extort, mahina na sila (they are already weak), and I think, and also the AFP and the security sector has already gained momentum and it's just of a matter of time before we really put an end to this insurgency problem," Gapay said.

As far as the AFP is concerned, he said the military is not recommending either a holiday truce or a resumption of peace talks with the CPP-NPA.

Gapay added that they have learned their lessons of past Christmas Season ceasefires where the military have committed to observe the truce but the CPP-NPA continues to stage attacks against security forces and civilian communities.

"Una muna, hindi naman sila sincere dito, in the past nag-ceasefire tayo (First, they are not sincere during our past ceasefire) and they continue to attack, not only security forces but even communities and for the purpose of extortion, so there are many incidents, the NPA violated such ceasefire and ganun ang ginagawa nila (that is what they have been doing) so it is expected na ganun na naman (they would do it again), so what's the use of having ceasefire," Gapay 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.

PNP probes Datu Piang police chief as target in attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2020): PNP probes Datu Piang police chief as target in attack (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan and Priam Nepomuceno)

HUNT VS. BIFF ATTACKERS. Police officers from the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) inspect the site of the police car that was burned in an attack by BIFF members in Datu Piang, Maguindanao on Friday (Dec. 4, 2020). The PNP is now looking into reports that the target of the attack that happened on Thursday night was the town's police chief, Capt. Israel Bayona. (Photo courtesy of PRO-BAR)

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is now looking into reports that Capt. Israel Bayona, police chief of Datu Piang, Maguindanao, was the target of the attack by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Thursday night.

"Isasama po yan ng mga imbestigador natin. Lahat po ng angle ay titingnan (Our investigators would include that in the probe. All angles would be looked into)," PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said in media statement on Friday.

Earlier reports quoted Joint Task Force Central spokesman Lt. Col. Anhouvic Atilano as saying that around 50 suspected members of the BIFF and terrorist group Dawlah Islamiya attacked Barangay Poblacion, resulting in an encounter between the terrorists and government troops.

Usana, meanwhile, added that there were no casualties from the incident but a police vehicle was burned.

"The PNP Regional Mobile Force Battalion and the Army from 40th Infantry Brigade responded immediately and reinforced the troops in the area. After 45 minutes, the municipality was cleared from any further intrusion," he added.

PNP chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, meanwhile, has alerted the Special Action Force to help in pursuit operations against those behind the attack.

"The police will file criminal charges against those terrorists responsible for the attack and burning of our patrol car, as we assure the Datu Piang residents of intensified security measures to prevent similar threats posed by violent extremists in the future", Sinas said in a statement.

Act of terror

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay called the attack a "clear act of terror".

"The burning of a PNP patrol car last night around 11 p.m. in Datu Piang, Maguindanao is a clear act of terror of the BIFF and whatever is the motive behind it, we are still investigating it jointly with the PNP," he said in a virtual media conference.

He added that these attacks are not new as they have been receiving reports of such incidents in Maguindanao every now and then with such harassments being repelled by government security forces.

"We have been receiving reports of harassments of security forces, detachments of the AFP, detachments of the PNP are being harassed every now and then as part of the terroristic action of the biff to sow terror in the area but most of these, in fact, all these harassments were repelled by our security and including this one," he added.

Gapay also noted that troopers from the 6th Infantry Division were able to respond immediately forcing the BIFF to retreat and prevent further loss of lives and destruction of properties.

"So this calls for renewed vigilance actually not only on the part of the security forces but for everyone because addressing terrorism really is a concern of everyone so with this incident I urge each and everyone to cooperate, particularly the general public, our stakeholders and partners to please continue cooperating and working with your security forces in their area so that we could prevent another incident such as this," he added.

Joint military exercise brought out best from PH troops: Gapay

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2020): Joint military exercise brought out best from PH troops: Gapay (By Priam Nepomuceno)

The conduct of this year's "DAGIT-PA" exercises brought out the best from the troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its chief said on Friday.

"With the closing of AJEX DAGIT-PA, we were able to meet our targets in line with our goals to enhance the interoperability and synchronization of joint military operations. It yet again contributed (to) maintaining a high level of readiness, responsiveness, joint relations, and capabilities among our Major Services," AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay said in a virtual conference during the closing of the exercises.

"DAGIT-PA", which stands for “Dagat-Langit-Lupa", is a unilateral exercise that aims to further enhance the joint force interoperability and cohesiveness of the AFP across defense mission areas.

Its highlights included the cyber-defense exercise in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City which was held last week; amphibious operations and island defense in San Antonio, Zambales on Wednesday and combined-arms live firm exercise in Tarlac on Thursday.

"During the 'AFP Joint Exercise DAGIT-PA' different units from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Special Forces, including reservists, took part in major joint interoperability events as well as command post exercises.

"Our units from the regular and reserve forces greatly benefitted from this multi-service exercise that aimed to develop our skills and capabilities in joint sea, air-and-land operations," Gapay said.

He added that the fourth iteration of "DAGIT-PA" also helped the AFP evaluate its readiness in conducting joint operations from unilateral defense posture approach to territorial defense.

"This is all part of our continuous endeavor to achieve better unity of command and capitalize on the synergy of military operations," he added.

Gapay said that constant joint training exercises like "AJEX DAGIT-PA" a necessary tool to enhance our joint forces’ personnel capacity and unit capabilities, as this will enable its members to be readily deployable in all kinds of contingencies.

"The AFP will continue to conduct capabilities development training like the 'AJEX DAGIT-PA' in order to further develop our forces’ tactics, techniques, and procedures across a wide range of military operations. This we do to better perform our mandate in protecting our people so that they may continue to enjoy just and lasting peace in our nation," he added.

Some of the assets showcased in the exercises were the amphibious assault vehicles of the Philippine Marines, AgustaWestland AW 109, and the missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal of the Philippine Navy.

“The true prowess of the Armed Forces of the Philippines can only be realized through well-coordinated actions where each component effectively contributes to the accomplishment of our objectives. The conduct of AJEX DAGIT-PA bears all these in its essence. The joint exercises aimed to improve and develop our troops' skills and technique as well as to strengthen the interoperability among our troops with different specializations and expertise,” Gapay said.