Saturday, December 12, 2020

Combatting Terrorism Amid The Pandemic

 Posted to The ASEAN Post (Dec 12, 2020): Combatting Terrorism Amid The Pandemic (By Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman)

Philippine soldiers return to camp after an armed encounter with members of militant group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP Photo)

Terrorism is as old as politics. States must therefore stay ahead of the threat while engaged in combatting COVID-19. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) demonstrated its commitment to combat terrorism at the 3rd Sub-Regional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Security on 1 December, 2020.

The meeting explored two main issues: 'The Impact of COVID-19 on the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Security Environment' and 'Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) Regional Preparedness'. In looking ahead to 2021, ASEAN member states should also pre-empt how these two issues could influence FTFs travel in Southeast Asia, particularly in the maritime domain.

Terrorist Activities At Sea

A June 2020 paper by the United Nations (UN) Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate assessed that restrictions on international travel due to COVID-19 could affect the movement of FTFs. The paper also forewarned of the potential long-term impact of COVID-19 on national counter-terrorism budgets and international cooperation.

These issues could create opportunities for FTFs who may be forced to adapt their travel methods. In Southeast Asia, FTFs could resort to more illicit travel by exploiting the seas.

The archipelagic geography and high maritime traffic in Southeast Asia make border security a constant challenge. This challenge provides a conducive environment for the clandestine movement of people and goods. Illicit maritime activities are a longstanding problem in the region and might worsen over time. COVID-19 could affect maritime security measures such as coastal surveillance as states re-direct national resources to fight the pandemic.

The economic impact of COVID-19 could drive more disenfranchised people in coastal communities to resort to piracy to supplement their incomes. The risk of people becoming radicalised is also higher as they spend more time online due to movement restrictions.

In 2020, the Tri-Border Area comprising the Sulu/Celebes seas between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines has been in the spotlight for terrorist activities. For example, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) had led an operation codenamed 'Maharlika III' from February to March based on intelligence on common routes that criminals and terrorists use to travel in the area.

During operation 'Perfect Storm' in November, Philippine special forces successfully intercepted Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists during a sea battle.

Watching The Straits Of Malacca And Singapore

ASEAN member states focus their attention on the Tri-Border area given the severity of terrorist activities there. However, they should also maintain maritime domain awareness of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. This waterway is another crucial sea line of communications, especially for cargo vessels. The use of cargo vessels is one way that FTFs could adapt their travel methods. For example, in March 2020, the US Justice Department reported that Islamic State (ISIS) supporter Muhammad Masood attempted to travel to ISIS territory in Syria in part via a cargo vessel.

The Straits of Malacca and Singapore have seen security incidents in the past. While no terrorist attacks had occurred there, there were instances of smuggling, planned and actual terrorist travel. For example, in 2016, the Indonesian Navy intercepted a boat smuggling used Singapore military uniforms to the Riau Islands in Indonesia.

Earlier in 2001, Islamist rebel group Jemaah Islamiyah had explored smuggling explosive materials from the Riau Islands to Singapore while its recruits attended training in Mindanao. Ethnographic research indicates that smuggling activities have been endemic in this waterway since the 1800s.

In 2015, Singapore authorities stopped some Indonesian men who travelled from the Riau Islands to Singapore via ferry. These men were on a journey to Syria to join ISIS. Also, Singapore's National Maritime Sense-Making Group – through the use of data analytics – detected a possible ISIS supporter on board a tanker.

In 2017, Indonesian authorities stopped an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in the Riau Islands. This cell had planned to launch a rocket attack on Singapore, possibly from a boat near the coastline. This cell also helped to smuggle two Uighur militants from Malaysia into Indonesia through the porous borders of Riau Islands to join terrorist group Mujahidin Indonesia Timor in Sulawesi.

This year, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore have seen more piracy incidents – robbery and theft against ships. In particular, the Singapore Strait has recorded a sharp increase in such incidents from 2019 - 2020 according to a recent report by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

Of concern, a rise in piracy incidents might be indicative of other illicit maritime activities, which could facilitate illicit travel. For example, in October 2020, Singapore authorities arrested four Indonesian men after coastal surveillance cameras detected them. These men had used a small boat to enter the country by sea illegally. Separately, another Indonesian man whom Singapore authorities arrested for suspected involvement in the illegal entry incident had tested positive for COVID-19.

Due to COVID-19, seafarers are more fatigued. They could be less vigilant against pirate activities as they are spending longer hours at sea. Patrols along the Singapore Strait might decrease if the Indonesian Navy re-deploy more assets to the South China Sea to defend the Natuna Islands. The islands are the scene of rising geopolitical tensions and illegal fishing activities. These developments might create opportunities for illicit travel along the Singapore Strait. 

Source: Various

Furthermore, the possibility of the COVID-19 virus slipping through border control measures is also a cause for concern. Illicit travel could be one of the means for terrorists to spread COVID-19 as an improvised tactic of a biological attack.

Countering Terrorist Travel At Sea

In preventing FTFs from capitalising on new opportunities in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore for illicit travel, the littoral states there should sustain and enhance four core operational strategies.

Firstly, littoral states must enhance capacity in law enforcement through better use of technology for coastal surveillance, boarding operations and sense-making.

These functions would support coordination between security and maritime agencies, in partnership with the maritime industry in monitoring vessels and unofficial small ports known as pelabuhan tikus (rat ports).

Secondly, littoral states must continue sharing information with international organisations such as ReCAAP and INTERPOL, given the nexus between terrorism and illicit maritime activities. Also, it is crucial to enhance the monitoring of barter trade routes that may intersect with illicit maritime activities. In the Tri-Border Area, for example, smuggling activities and security threats on land are intertwined with barter trade.

Thirdly, littoral states must ensure that the impact of COVID-19 and tensions in the South China Sea do not significantly hamper regional cooperation or distract cooperative efforts to interdict terrorists. These efforts include the Malacca Straits Patrol and law enforcement intelligence exchange as stipulated in the ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism.

Sharing biometric information of known and suspected terrorists among national agencies and with INTERPOL is key to detecting terrorist deception tactics when travelling.

Finally, littoral states must continue improving the welfare of coastal communities to reduce the conditions that enable illicit maritime activities. Better welfare could improve community engagement and trust with security agencies.

Uplifting the livelihoods and security of coastal communities is one area that littoral states could perhaps cooperate more under the aegis of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

[Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman is a Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. His research interests include cyber and homeland defence, intelligence and counter-terrorism.]

Under Pressure on Shore, Abu Sayyaf May Increase Reliance on the Sea

 Posted to The Diplomat (Dec 5, 2020): Under Pressure on Shore, Abu Sayyaf May Increase Reliance on the Sea (By Jay Benson)

A November incident holds important lessons about the militant group’s changing operations, as well as how to counter them.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Laragione, center, and Philippine navy special operations group Sailors conduct simulated interdiction operations May 22, 2009, during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) in Cebu City, Philippines.Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David M. Votroubek

In the predawn hours of November 3, a boat with seven Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members left a small island in the Sulu archipelago on a suspected kidnap for ransom operation. Locals had seen the group of unfamiliar men the day before and informed the security services. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) forces intercepted the vessel in the darkness. It was fired upon by a helicopter before being rammed and split in two by a Philippine Navy vessel. An ASG leader, Mannor Sawadjaan, and the remaining six fighters were killed in the operation.

This dramatic nighttime encounter both demonstrates the increasing capacity of the AFP to counteract ASG activity in the maritime space and highlights trends and lessons learned that could be useful in informing the AFP’s continued efforts to combat ASG operations as they evolve.

As demonstrated in the above infographic from Stable Seas’ recent Violence at Sea report, Abu Sayyaf Group’s maritime activities have largely been focused on piracy and kidnap for ransom (Take) and the movement of fighters and supplies (Tactical Support).

Civilians and HUMINT in Maritime Security

The first interesting component of this incident is the information collection that allowed it to unfold in the first place. Media reports indicate that local fishermen on Sulare Island saw the unfamiliar men in the area and reported their presence to authorities. While this may seem an insignificant detail, it highlights an extremely important, and sometimes overlooked, component of maritime security: civilians as a source of human intelligence.

Maritime domain awareness is critical to maritime security broadly and to combating the use of the maritime space by violent non-state actors like ASG. However, it is often discussed as an objective with largely technical (and expensive) solutions. The acquisition of assets such patrol vessels, aerial surveillance assets, and remote sensing systems is often framed as the singular means to achieving robust MDA. While such capabilities are extremely advantageous for MDA, this conversation sometimes overlooks another critical component, the role of civilians at sea and in coastal communities as a source of human intelligence.

The sea, particularly coastal and archipelagic waters, is not an empty space. A huge number and diversity of vessels operate around the clock and civilians on these vessels, as well as coastal communities that often rely on maritime industries, are acutely aware of the pattern of life in their local waters. As such, they represent a rich source of potential information for navies and maritime law enforcement agencies attempting to combat a variety of maritime security challenges.

However, in order to tap into this potential source of MDA, maritime security practitioners need to ensure two things: positive relationships with civilians in the maritime space and clear reporting tools when civilians detect potential suspicious activity at sea. If the relationship between maritime law enforcement and local civilians is contentious or punitive in nature there may be less willingness to cooperate with security services. If clear tools or procedures for reporting do not exist, civilians in the maritime space may simply allow suspicious behavior to go unreported.ADVERTISEMENT

This is no easy task as civilians may reasonably fear retribution for providing information. This being the case, two factors will need to be considered in order to ensure that this vital information can be collected. The first, and more narrow, requirement is that discreet mechanisms for reporting exist. Those with relevant information may be more likely to remain silent if reporting requires them to be seen meeting with the security services. The second and broader factor is the degree to which civilians feel safe from retribution should they provide information. Civilian protection in conflict settings is a difficult task in its own right and the need to consider it is a demonstration of the porous nature of criminality and political violence at sea and onshore.

A map of the Sulu archipelago (Wikimedia Commons).

ASG’s Geographic Dispersion

The second small but telling detail to be derived from this incident is its location. The epicenter of ASG activity recently has been Jolo Island, where AFP has been conducting a long string of operations against them. Since 2015, 54 percent of conflict incidents involving ASG recorded in the ACLED data set have occurred on Jolo Island. Over the course of the last year that has increased to 67 percent. However, the militants in this incident were intercepted operating off of Sulare Island, roughly 14 kilometers southwest of Jolo Island. Sulare is a very small island of only a few square kilometers. It is largely flat with a lagoon that covers a large portion of its surface area. Satellite imagery shows a small number of buildings and several small vessels along one section of the shoreline.

This information is important as it may be an early indication of a changing geographic distribution of ASG activity. As the string of recent operations on Jolo have put increased pressure on the group’s base of operation there, the use of such smaller, outlying islands as a launching point for ASG’s maritime operations may become increasingly appealing. Should this become an operational preference for the group, they have a variety of such launching points to choose from. Jolo is surrounded by many smaller islands of varying sizes and apparent population density at a similar distance from Jolo as Sulare.

Similarly, as the group becomes increasingly vulnerable on Jolo, it may seek to broaden its area of operations and target civilians across a broader geography. Subsequent incidents, such as the interdiction of a vessel carrying ASG members with small arms and explosives off of Zamboanga City by the Philippine National Police (PNP), suggest an even further geographic dispersion of ASG’s maritime operations. This may heighten the risk of potential attacks in maritime and coastal areas across the Bangsomoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Geographically Dispersed Intelligence and Operational Presence

So how can both of these seemingly disparate observations inform future AFP efforts to combat the evolving threat of ASG operations in the maritime space? They may, in conjunction, point to a need for more dispersed operations and intelligence collection efforts beyond ASG’s recent area of operations on Jolo. As pressure mounts against the group there, the motives to exploit what are perceived as relative weak points in AFP presence may grow according. This could cause a shift to increased kidnap for ransom and terrorist attacks in the maritime space and the use of outlying islands for staging such activity.

In response to this shift, AFP should consider the options at its disposal for expanding the scope of its operations and intelligence collection to match the dispersion of ASG activity. Given the geography of the region and the resources available, this is a challenging task. The Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and PNP Maritime Group already face pressures on the number vessels available for patrolling the maritime space. As such, a more semi-permanent, land-based presence in the form of small deployments of Philippine Marines on outlying islands around Jolo could be an alternative means for expanding presence into the areas ASG may be eying as potential new base areas for operations and denying them access. This would potentially deny the group new safe havens and help protect civilians in the areas where they may establish a presence.

Perhaps more promising though is the expansion of intelligence gathering efforts focused on these same areas. As was demonstrated in this most recent incident, civilians in these small island communities know when something suspicious is afoot. Building strong relationships between security services and these civilian populations and ensuring they can provide any relevant information discreetly and securely could help close off potential exit points and prevent more dispersed targeting of civilians by ASG as the pressure on them in Jolo mounts and they seek to diffuse their operations.

[Jay Benson is the Indo-Pacific project manager at Stable Seas, a nonprofit research organization focusing on issues of maritime security and governance.]

‘US still the target’: Indonesia’s arrest of Jemaah Islamiah terrorist leader reveals thousands of recruits

 Posted to This Week in Asia (Dec 12, 2020): ‘US still the target’: Indonesia’s arrest of Jemaah Islamiah terrorist leader reveals thousands of recruits (By Amy Chew)

  • JI said to be in ‘damage control’ after detention of Ustad Arif but expected to be operating normally in six months to a year
  • Group is now raising funds through various business activities as it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia and the southern Philippines

Members of Indonesian counterterrorism task force Detachment 88 during an anti-terror exercise at the Borobodur hotel in Jakarta. The unit recently arrested the leader of IS, Ustad Arif. Photo: AFP

About two months ago, Indonesian counterterrorism task force Detachment 88 arrested a little-known cleric named Ustad Arif, according to a senior security source.

The 54-year-old from Klaten, Central Java, turned out to be the leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the Southeast Asia branch of  al-Qaeda.

JI was behind all the deadly terror attacks in Indonesia from 1998 to 2010 before it was weakened by Indonesian counterterrorism police, who arrested hundreds of its members during the period, including several leaders.

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“Ustad Arif was arrested about two months ago,” a senior security source told This Week In Asia on condition of anonymity this past week before adding a tantalising detail: “He has links to Malaysia, but those links have not been profiled. They are sleeper cells.”

Following the JI-masterminded 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including 11 Hong Kong residents, JI had split into two factions, said Robi Sugara, a lecturer and counterterrorism analyst at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in Jakarta. One faction believed in violent jihad and supported al-Qaeda and later, Islamic State, while another believed in what Sugara called “jihad proselytisation”.

JI suffered a near extinction in 2007 when an armed clash with police in Poso, Central Sulawesi, led to the arrest of more than 40 of its members, including top leaders, according to a 2017 report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). From 2007, it has also been known as “neo-JI”, IPAC said.

Sugara said it was mostly members of the jihad proselytisation faction of JI that were arrested recently as “they supplied funds to terrorists”.

Umar Patek, a member of Jemaah Islamiah, during his trial in Jakarta in 2012. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder and bomb-making in the 2002 Bali bombings. Photo: Reuters

“This jihad proselytisation [faction] doesn’t call itself JI any more,” Sugara said, and has instead set up schools and charity organisations to raise funds for the group.

The advent of Islamic State (Isis) in 2014 saw the rise of Isis-linked Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which replaced JI as the main perpetrator of all major terror attacks in Indonesia since 2016. In that same year, at least eight people, including four terrorists, were killed when bombs were detonated and shooting broke out outside Sarinah department store in central Jakarta.


The arrest of Arif revealed that JI has been regenerating and is estimated to have recruited “thousands” of members, according to the security source and analysts.

Its pattern of recruitment – through Islamic boarding schools it owns, cooperation with other militant groups, fundraising, logistical support and equipment – is very well-organised and difficult to detect, said National Police Commission head Benny Mamoto, a retired police general who investigated the Bali bombings and estimates that JI has recruited 6,000 people into its ranks.

Before his arrest, Arif had led JI for only eight months, the security source said. He was the second JI leader to be arrested within the last two years.

The source said JI would “need time to find a figure” to take over leadership of the group.

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“In the meantime, JI will continue to operate. It is very strong but will still need to carry out consolidation as many of their leaders have been arrested,” the source said.

Muhamad Taufiqurrohman, senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies (PAKAR) agrees: “JI is still strong at the moment as it has a lot of money and members. For example, a branch of JI’s charity organisation in Tangerang [in greater Jakarta] alone is able to generate 2 billion rupiah (US$142,000) a year.”

Taufiqurrohman expects JI will lie low for now until it selects a new leader. “At this moment, JI is doing damage control from the recent arrests. It will take around six months to one year for JI to elect a new leader and to operate normally,” he said.

Indonesian police have arrested more than 30 JI members this year, including Arif and JI’s expert bomb-maker Upik Lawanga, who was detained two weeks ago. Lawanga had been on the country’s most-wanted list for 14 years

According to Taufiqurrohman, JI members have decided “not to avenge the arrest of their fellow members for now” because they believe retaliation against the police would only damage their organisation even more as it would “anger the police and cause further crackdowns”.

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For the last 10 years, JI has flown under the radar as it has transformed itself from a militant group that lived off robberies and donations for its terror activities to a business enterprise with interests in palm oil plantations and the mining industry. The security source said Detachment 88 – the counterterrorism force – has continued to monitor and carry out operations against JI for the past several years, despite its lower profile.

Arif’s predecessor, Para Wijayanto, was arrested in July last year and sentenced by a court to seven years’ imprisonment this year on terrorism charges as well as for sending JI members to Syria to fight alongside opposition rebels there.

Following Wijayanto’s arrest, police discovered he had restructured and rebuilt JI into a well-run organisation with business interests in palm oil plantations, the mining industry and other commercial sectors.

“The sources of their funding came from legitimate business interests in palm oil plantations and mines in Kalimantan as well as donations and others,” said Mamoto, the National Police Commission head, adding that many of the palm oil plantations and mines in Kalimantan have since been confiscated.

The military wing is part of JI’s preparations to wage jihad in [foreign] conflict zones and in Indonesia in the event future chaos or communal conflict takes placeMuhamad Taufiqurrohman, Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies

Taufiqurrohman said that JI’s palm oil plantations are estimated to be worth “billions of rupiah” – perhaps as much as a few million US dollars. JI is also involved in courier services, religious boarding schools on Java island, herbal medicines and fitness centres, although the fitness centres have now been closed.

JI members are also required to donate 5 to 10 per cent of their earnings every month to the organisation, he said.

Neo-JI has established units of its military wing, known as Asykari, throughout Java island and also in Lampung province in Sumatra. Despite the loss of JI’s leadership, these units still exist, Taufiqurrohman said.

“The military wing is part of JI’s preparations to wage jihad in [foreign] conflict zones and in Indonesia in the event future chaos or communal conflict takes place like what had happened in Ambon and Poso,” said Taufiqurrohman, referring to the sectarian violence that occurred in Ambon on the Maluku Islands and Poso in Central Sulawesi in 1999, killing thousands.

An Indonesian anti-terror policeman helps a wounded foreigner after a bomb blast in front of the Sarinah department store in Jakarta in January 2016. Photo: ETA

JI’s intelligence arm conducts paramilitary training at its training centres, which are called Sasana. Every JI member who passes Sasana’s training course will be sent to Syria to receive further training from al-Qaeda-linked groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra, Taufiqurrohman said.

At least 62 JI members have gone to
Syria, with 50 returning to Indonesia, six remaining and six were killed in action.


The security source said that JI has no plans for terror attacks in the immediate to short-term – part of what he said was its “long-term” strategy. When it does resume activities, the US is at the top of its strike list, he said.

“JI’s main target remains the US and its allies due to its involvement in the Middle East, according to some of the recent JI documents that we found,” the source said, adding that one of the factors behind JI’s targeting the US was President Donald Trump’s support for Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, which is a holy city for both Muslims and Jewish people.

JI has also been making moves to court various political parties in Indonesia and the Philippines as part of its strategy to achieve an Islamic caliphate encompassing Indonesia and Mindanao island in southern Philippines. Mindanao is home to several militant groups, including the notorious Abu Sayyaf group, which is known for beheading its kidnapped hostages.

“The marriage of terror groups with intolerant groups as well as political groups could result in a Syria,” said the security source.

Taufiqurrohman views JI as a threat in the medium to long term, as it still wants to wage jihad against parties it considers “enemies of Islam”.

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Both the security source and Taufiqurrohman said JI is far more dangerous than the Isis-linked JAD because it has far greater financial resources, is better organised, and has better-educated and better-trained members than JAD.

Ahmad El-Muhammady, a counterterrorism analyst and lecturer at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), said, however, that there was no indication of JI’s reactivation in
Malaysia. JI in Malaysia and Singapore had previously used the countries as bases for fundraising for the group.

“Monitoring continues as usual by the police to detect any kind of activities” in the country, he said, adding that he was not aware of any funding activities by JI in Malaysia.

Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, associate dean and head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, said there have not been any signs that JI has re-emerged in either Malaysia or Singapore.

“The bigger threat has been Isis in terms of online radicalisation in recent years,” Kumar said.

A chart of suspected terrorist cells in the southern Philippines. Graphic: Rommel Banlaoi, Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research

Regionally, the continuing slow pace of economic reconstruction of Marawi in the southern Philippines – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic – would “only fuel the extremist Islamist ideology” that sustain the militant group Abu Sayyaf and similar pro-Isis groups there, he said. The reconstruction of Marawi, after it was destroyed when it was taken over by pro-Isis groups for five months in 2017, has been moving slowly.

“We do know that the pro-Isis threat groups in the southern Philippines also have links with pro-Isis threat groups in Indonesia, so there is the potential … [for] its transnationalisation, thus threatening the wider Southeast Asian region,” said Kumar

In the Philippines, the biggest threat would come from suicide bombings, which is a fairly recent phenomenon, said Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

“The biggest terror threat continues to emanate from pro-Isis groups, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group, because of their intention to mount more suicide terrorist attacks in the island provinces of Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi,” Banloai said.

Family pressure, starvation forces Abu Sayyaf duo to surrender in Philippines

From the Arab News (Dec 12, 2020): Family pressure, starvation forces Abu Sayyaf duo to surrender in Philippines

  • Yusop, one of the militant group’s senior members, was also on Malaysia’s most wanted list

A military checkpoint in Butig, Lanao del Sur in the southern Philippines, the home base of militant group Abu Sayyaf. (Reuters/File)

Two senior Abu Sayyaf (ASG) operatives and 13 followers of the Daesh-linked militant group in the southern Philippines surrendered to the authorities over the weekend, the military said on Saturday.

A report by the Sulu-based Army 11th Infantry Division (11ID)
identified them as Alvin Yusop (Arab Puti) and Barahim Nurjahar.

The duo belonged to factions formerly led by slain ASG senior leaders, Radulan Sahiron and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, both of whom were on the US global terror list.

Friday’s move follows “efforts” by the Army’s 1101st and 1102nd infantry brigades, under the 11ID headed by Maj. Gen. William Gonzales.

Yusop was allegedly involved in major ASG kidnapping operations and was one of Malaysia’s most wanted men for his involvement in cross-border crimes in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone.

Brig. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, 1102nd brigade commander, said Yusop’s family convinced him to surrender after his mother suffered a stroke.

“He (Yusop) also wanted to change for the better for the sake of his four children,” Patrimonio said.

Meanwhile, Nurjahar, who was with Sawadjaan’s group, had allegedly led the kidnapping of the Sulu mayor’s sister, while Col. Antonio Bautista, 1101st Brigade commander, said the military had long been hunting for him.

“The presence of government troops drove out Nurjahar from his stronghold and caused him to starve. Realizing that his struggle made no sense, he approached the Moro National Liberation Front Jikiri faction, who then linked him to us for his proper surrender,” Bautista said.

“He (Nurjahar) will face proper legal proceedings and is now willing to cooperate with government forces,” he added.

Others who surrendered included two of ASG senior figure Apoh Mike’s sons, Muarip Adja, alias “Arip,” and Hatimil Adja, also known as Timmir.

Timmir was reportedly present when Sawadjaan — the designated Daesh emir in Mindanao — died in July from bullet wounds sustained during an encounter with government forces.

Gonzales said all returnees would be enrolled in government-led livelihood programs.

“Go on and raise your kids to be peace-loving citizens. Tell the others (ASG members), tell Apoh Mike, that they are welcome so long as they are sincere, willing to face the rule of law, and most of all ready to cooperate in our fight for peace here in Sulu,” Gonzales said.

Also on Saturday, police arrested ASG leader Hadi Faisal Abdulkarim, wanted for the murder of a village official in 2014 and the burning of several houses in the Basilan province in 2004.

In a report, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Abdulkarim was seized in a counterterrorism operation conducted by the PNP-Intelligence Group and the PNP-Special Action Force in Barangay Matata, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan around 2 a.m. local time.

Abdulkarim was said to have succeeded ASG-Basilan leader Furuji Indama, who was killed in a military operation in October.

Kalinaw News: Mamamayan ng Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur tumanggap ng maagang pamasko

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 12, 2020): Mamamayan ng Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur tumanggap ng maagang pamasko

Malita, Davao Occidental – Ang kumpanya ng Prime Xynergies Incorporated at Coco Davao Inc. kasama ang kasundaluhan ng Alpha Company, 73IB, 10ID, PA ay namahagi ng maagang pamasko sa mga mamamayan ng Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Ang Prime Xynergies Incorporated sa pangunguna ni Mrs. Yolanda S. Abella, Plant Manager, ay nagbigay ng spaghetti pasta at sauce kasama na rin ang 600 na mga de-latang produkto. Sa katunayan, nagbigay din si Mr. Marlon Si, Plant Manager, ng Coco Davao Inc., ng spaghetti pasta and sauce, 400 na mga de-latang produkto at 400 na Pancit Canton.

Sa maagang pamaskong ito ay nabenipisyohan ang mamamayan ng Sitio Tubison, Brgy Astorga, Sitio Landig 1 at Sitio Landig 2 ng Brgy Tibolo at Sitio Batuno, Brgy Sibulan na matatagpuan lahat sa munisipyo ng Sta. Cruz.

Sa ipinarating na mensahe ng Punong Barangay ng Brgy Sibulan na si Hon. Abe, “Ang yano apan daghang tabang nga gihatag sa amon. Kadaghanan sa aton dili makahimo sa pagpalit niini. Mao nga salamat kaayo sa niining higayon nga imong gipaambit,” kanyang madamdaming sabi. (Simple ngunit malaking tulong na ang ibinigay na ito sa amin. Karamihan sa amin ay walang kakayahang makabili ng ganito. Kaya maraming salamat sa pagkakataong ito na inyong ibinahagi.

Bilang tugon, nais ding iparating ng Pinuno ng 73IB na si Lt. Col. Ronaldo G Valdez ang kanyang pasasalamat sa mga kumpanya sa pagkakataong ibinigay nila sa taumbayan ng Sta. Cruz na maramdaman ang pasko sa simpleng regalo na ibinigay.

“Ang simpleng kawanggawa na ito ang magpapatibay sa samahan ng gobyerno, mga pribadong sektor, kasundaluhan at mga mamamayan sa darating na anibersaryo ng kilusang Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)”, kanyang dagdag.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: Eastmincom Statement on the Death of Wanted National Democratic Front Mindanao, Komisyun Mindanao Spokesperson

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 12, 2020): Eastmincom Statement on the Death of Wanted National Democratic Front Mindanao, Komisyun Mindanao Spokesperson

The interest of public safety, security, and the general well-being of the people is of paramount importance in the face of challenging decisions. The Eastern Mindanao Command irrevocably upholds the same in all the aspects of our mission.

The neutralization of National Democratic Front (NDF) Mindanao and Komisyun Mindanao (KOMMID) Spokesperson Alvin Loque, alias Joaquin Jacinto, during the serving of several warrants of arrest against him by the police and the troops in Barangay San Agustin Sur, Tandag City, Surigao del Sur on December 10 is a clear manifestation of Eastmincom’s unwavering passion to safeguard the public from all forms of threats.

Loque’s death has apparently immobilized the capabilities of the CTG in perpetrating notorious operations, particularly KOMMID, which has been responsible for destroying the life, liberty, and property of many innocent individuals and had stunted the growth of this nation for many years through the CTG’s twisted ideology.

Loque’s unlawful behavior and unwillingness to cooperate with the authorities in dealing with the situation peacefully had never been more apparent when he, together with an unidentified companion who also lost his life during the incident, resisted arrest by firing their guns and trading shots with the arresting authorities.

Loque, a pillar of KOMMID who provided leadership and direction to vertical units on the ground, has a P6-Million bounty on his head and six standing arrest warrants issued by the courts of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.

The neutralization of Alvin Loque was a big blow to the NDF KOMMID hierarchy. Such a feat brings a milestone of success, not only to the military and other law enforcement agencies but also to the people in general, in the quest for lasting peace in Mindanao. This is also a resonating win to tribal communities whose innocent and helpless members and leaders have been executed and traumatized by CTGs under KOMMID.

The fate of Alvin Loque is hoped to be an eye-opener to other CNT personalities and cadres who remained at large and refused to peacefully surrender to authorities.

The Command abhors killing as a means to an end, but the duty to protect the lives of our fellowmen is of transcendental importance. We are always open and true to our commitment to helping those who are willing to go back to the folds of the law.

We also reiterate our call to the public and leaders of different institutions of our society to support and help us suppress the armed struggle by being proactive and more discerning about the activities being undertaken by the CTG, particularly extortion, recruitment, and other acts of terrorism so that we can finally put a period to the destruction they bring.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: Another batch of Former Rebels undergo month long De-Radicalization and Healing & Reconciliation Program

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 12, 2020): Another batch of Former Rebels undergo month long De-Radicalization and Healing & Reconciliation Program

Maco, Davao de Oro – Another batch composed of Seventeen (17) Former Rebels completed the month long program which took about Ten (10) Days De-Radicalization Program which started last November 23 to December 02, 2020 conducted at BALAI PAG-ASA, Headquarters 1001st BDE, Brgy Maco, Davao de Oro.

The De-Radicalization Program objectives is to de-radicalize former members of CPP-NPA terrorist and transform them into law-abiding citizens and productive advocates of peace, to prepare the FRs for their admission to the E-CLIP and to ensure that FR’s will not return to the CPP-NPA Terrorist organization. This Derad phase focused on the Four (4) modules that re-directs and re-orient the FRs from the indoctrination of the CPP-NPA Terrorist that requires subject matter expert that is credible and also a former rebel and subsequently followed by Healing and Reconciliation Program of PSWDO, Davao de Oro Province.

The Frs were former Squad Leader, Logistics Officer, Team Leader, Political Guide, Team Medic, Squad Medic and Member/Element of various Guerilla Fronts such as: WGF 33, SRC 4,SMRC; Front North, SRC 1,SMRC; WGF 2, SRC 2, SMRC and WGF 3, SRC 4, SMRC. They were from municipalities of Laak, Monkayo, Compostela, Montevista, Mawab all of Davao De Oro; Loreto of Agusan Del Sur and Kapalong of Davao del Norte

The closing ceremony were attended by HON. JAYVEE TYRONE L UY, Governor, Province of Davao De Oro, represented by MR. JUN TABAS, Executive Assistant and Media Relations Officer; MS. JOSEPHINE FRASCO, PSWDO Head; MGEN REUBEN S BASIAO, PA, Commander, 10ID, PA, represented by COL NOMAN ALCOVINDAS GSC (INF) PA, Inspector General, 10ID, PA and COL LUIS REX D BERGANTE INF(GSC) PA, Commander, 1001st Brigade, represented by MAJ LARRY C PANCHO INF(QMS) PA, Executive Officer, 1001st Brigade.

Tatay Isidoro @ JUN and the rest of the Fr participants detested the lies and deceit of CPP-NPA-NDF that lured them to join the armed group which objective is to destroy the existing democratic government through armed struggle.

In the testimony of @ BIHAN he said “ Nag pasalamat jud me sa Derad kay dire amo jud nasabtan nga dakong bakak ang ilang gitudlo sa amoa, nga tama jud ang pagka patriyotiko og ang pagka nasyunalismo, Og makita sa gobyerno ang tinood nga demokrasya, paglaum og kalambuan sa kinabuhi, busa kita awhagon nato ang uban sa kalihokan sa pag surrender og pagbalik sa sabakan sa gobyerno og sa gihimong Healing og Reconciliation nga amoang nabatian ang paghigugma sa atong ginoo “.

Likewise, Gov. Uy’s message, as delivered by Mr. Jun Tabas congratulates them as they embraced now the life of a normal citizen. In his speech he said that “ Sa Genesis ni ingon ang ginoo, kung kining mga tawhana magtapok og kung kamo mga anghel og iya na sa Ginoo mudaug ta sa katarong og tinood na gobyerno, tinood na sandatahang lakas og tinood na demokrasya kung magkahiusa kita”.

Col Bergante, 1001st Bde Commander expressed his gratitude to the Provincial Government of Davao De Oro and all partner stakeholders for their support to this Deradicalization and Healing & Reconciliation Program. The collaborative efforts of all stakeholders/partners under the guidelines of EO 70 NTF-ELCAC to established a conflict-reselient and development ready community.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Sayyaf sub-leader captured in Basilan

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 12, 2020): Sayyaf sub-leader captured in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police commandos captured an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader following a raid early Saturday in his hideout in the southern province of Basilan, officials said.

Officials said Faisal Abdulkarim, who is facing a string of criminal charges, was tracked down in the village of Matata in the town of Ungkaya Pukan. Abdulkarim is also being linked to the murder of a village chieftain in Sumisip town, Naber Usani, in 2014 and the burning of houses in Bulo-Bulo village, also in Sumisip.

The raiders also seized three assault rifles, a grenade launcher and several rounds of 40mm grenade from Abdulkarim’s hideout, according to Maj. Gen. Bernabe Balba, of the Special Action Force.

Abdulkarim’s capture came a day following the mass surrender of 15 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the neighboring province of Sulu. Among those who yielded to the military were two notorious sub-leaders Alvin Yusop and Barahim Nurjahar.

Both provinces belong to the restive Muslim autonomous region where security forces are fighting the Abu Sayyaf and other pro-ISIS groups. (Zamboanga Post)

DOH-CALABARZON brings health services to insurgent areas in Atimonan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12, 2020): DOH-CALABARZON brings health services to insurgent areas in Atimonan (By DOH-CALABARZON)

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna Dec. 12 (PIA) --Department of Health (DOH) – CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 joined the “Serbisyo Caravan and Ugnayan sa Barangay” to bring health services to residents of Barangay Rizal, one of the insurgent areas in Atimonan, Quezon.

The objective of the caravan is to bring government services from the various government agencies directly at the grass roots level.
According to Health Education and Promotion Officer II Ms. Evangeline F. Caidoy, who led the team from the regional office, around 500 residents of Barangay Rizal benefitted from the activity.

She added that the activity was successful because most representatives from the regional government agencies have experienced and witness the challenges and difficulties of the residents in the area.

DOH-CALABARZON provided health kits and conducted health education activity among the residents promoting the DOH-B.I.D.A. solution in fighting Covid-19 which stands for B-awal ang walang mask, I-sanitize ang kamay, D-umistansya ng isang metro, A-lamin ang tamang impormasyon tingkol sa Covid-19.

The different agencies involved showcased their services and extended benefits to selected residents.

Mr. Ramir Dela Cruz, Data Controller IV from the Media Relations and Communications Unit emphasized that addressing the concerns of the community in insurgent areas like Barangay Rizal, needs the immediate intervention of various government agencies in order to educate and free them from communist’s deception and exploitation which is rampant in the area to its geographical location.

He also stressed that coming up with immediate solutions is what the people need apart from advocacy and encouragement.

Aside from the health packages, groceries and livelihood projects, cash aid was also extended to selected individuals through the DSWD cash assistance program. Housing assistance amounting to P50,000 cash were also given.

DOH-CALABARZON OIC-Regional Director Paula Paz N. Sydiongco stated that people need to feel that the government is there and ready to serve them with their needs. “And through this caravan we can bring these services directly to them.”

Among the participating agencies involved includes regional offices from the DOH, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education, National Youth Commission (NYC), and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Philippine Army, National Electrification Administration, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine National Police, Department of Public Works and Highways, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the local government of Atimonan, Quezon.

The “Serbisyo Caravan” is conducted in collaboration with the CALABARZON Regional Task Force ELCAC. (PIA-4A/DOH-CALABARZON)

6ID lauds BARMM gov’t on skills training for ex BIFF combatants

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12, 2020): 6ID lauds BARMM gov’t on skills training for ex BIFF combatants (By PIA Cotabato City)

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao, Dec. 12 (PIA)-- The 6th Infantry (KAMPILAN) Division commended the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government in the implementation of Skills and Development Training for the former Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) combatants.

During the recent commencement program of the training, Major General Juvymax Uy, commander of the 6ID and Joint Task Force Central, through Col. Jovencio Gonzales, Assistant Division Commander for Reservist and Retirees Affairs, extended his appreciation for the efforts of the BARMM government in supporting the needs of the former fighters.

“Activities like these were made to ensure that our brothers are given a chance to have a new and better lives here in the civic areas,” Col. Gonzales said.

The 67 former BIFF combatants completed the 30-day skills development training given by the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG).

It was conducted as part of their “Tulong ng Gobyernong Nagmamalasakit” (TuGoN) program, initiated under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) programs.

The training aimed to capacitate former combatants in preparation for their transition back to civilian life and become more productive Bangsamoro citizens. (With reports from DPAO-6ID)

PH security, defense fortify presence for CPP-NPA-NDF day on Dec. 26

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12, 2020): PH security, defense fortify presence for CPP-NPA-NDF day on Dec. 26 (By Jimmyley E. Guzman)

PASIG CITY, Dec. 12 (PIA) -- Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday said Philippine security and defense forces have strengthened their presence for the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) on Dec. 26.

During the Laging Handa public briefing hosted by the Presidential Communications and Operations Office, Lorenzana assured that they will further strengthen military presence since leftist groups might launch an attack.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had earlier ruled out a ceasefire against the CPP-NPA this holiday season.

“Gumagawa sila ng mga karahasan para siguro ipakita sa lahat ng tao na sila ay nandiyan. Hindi pa sila nawawala,” Lorenzana said.

The defense chief, however clarified that the military is not on red alert amid the threat.

“We are not on red alert, we just continue our efforts and activities against insurgency although we will intensify efforts in view of the Dec. 26 anniversary,” he said.

“When we think of ‘all out war’ declaration, it is a whole-of-government approach against insurgency, that is why we have the NTF-ELCAC and we involve the LGUs [local government units],” Lorenzana emphasized.

Meanwhile, in a report by PTV News Ulat Bayan, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Spokesperson and Philippine Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said they are not shocked with the complaint filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers against several officials of the NTF-ELCAC.

“We expect more of these legal fronts to follow suit. It is an old, worn out tactic of the CPP-NPA-NDF to harass and threaten government to silence us. Unfortunately for them, those days when that worked are long over,” Badoy said.

“They have come before the full force of the government they have tried to destroy,” she added. (PIA NCR)

313 rebels in North, Central Luzon surrender this 2020

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12, 2020): 313 rebels in North, Central Luzon surrender this 2020 (By Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

TARLAC CITY, Dec.12 (PIA) -- About 313 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Regions 1,2,3 and Cordillera returned to the folds of government this 2020.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Commander Lt.Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said a total of 96 assorted firearms have been turned-over to government security forces during these series of mass surrenders.

“Commensurate remunerations depending on the state and caliber of firearms will be given to the surrenderers as part of government grants under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program prior to the weapons’ demilitarization,” Burgos explained.

“Formal surrender is an overt expression of the former rebels’ withdrawal of support from the Communist Party of the Philippines, something which the underground movement dreads more than losing fighters during encounters because it only shows that people are already enlightened and no longer support their so-called cause,” he furthered.

These surrenders are on top of the 4,378 persona non-grata declarations across the 4 regions and 22 provinces under NOLCOM’s area of responsibility (AOR).

“This further solidify our assessment that insurgency in this part of the country will soon be extinct and, later on, its existence will only be remembered as a dark chapter in Philippine history,” Burgos said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Northern Luzon Command Commander Lt.Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr (left) and Army 7th Infantry Division Commander MGen. Alfredo V Rosario Jr. (right) inspect the firearms surrendered by former rebels and their supporters. (NOLCOM CIO File Photo)

The official assured the public that they will relentlessly reach out and collaborate with local chief executives, residents and other stakeholders as they continue to push the communist rebels to a state of irrelevancy.

NOLCOM has the largest AOR among all the Unified Commands of AFP wherein the vast maritime domain that the unit is mandated to guard is 10 times larger than that of the land domain.

“Such peculiarity of our AOR has placed us in a position to simultaneously fight and win our battles in three fronts — internal security, territorial defense and disaster response. Thus, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have that sense of urgency in defeating insurgency in the soonest possible time so that we can fully refocus our efforts in the greater challenge of preserving the Filipinos’ sovereignty over every inch of Philippine territory,” he said.

Just last month, NOLCOM ordered the deployment of unprecedented number of aircraft, disaster response units and rescue equipment immediately after a historic flood hit Cagayan Valley.

Military reservists and engineers were then dispatched to assist local government units as they shifted their efforts from relief and rescue to recovery and rehabilitation operations. (CLJD-PIA 3)

USAID aids LGUs in full implementation of Universal Health Care Act

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12, 2020): USAID aids LGUs in full implementation of Universal Health Care Act (By Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Dec.12 (PIA) -- United States Agency for International Development TB Platforms Project (USAID’s TB Platforms) has been assisting local government units (LGUs) in the full implementation of Republic Act No. 11223 otherwise known as Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

It launched the “Usapang Dibdiban” which is a comprehensive discussion with local chief executives, health officers and National Tuberculosis Control Program coordinators. It highlights essential details of the UHC Act as presented by Department of Health (DOH).

“To date, 43 Usapang Dibdiban sessions were held this year engaging 24 LGUs in Central Luzon and 19 LGUs in CALABARZON. All of them expressed support in the full implementation of UHC and the immediate passage of local TB ordinances which provides annual budget appropriation for the procurement of drugs and hiring of additional human resource for diagnosis, care and treatment,” USAID’s TB Platforms Social and Behavior Change Communications Specialist Diwata de Castro-Paredes said.

With support from the regional offices of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and provincial offices of Department of the Interior and Local Government, USAID’s TB Platforms also provides technical assistance to LGUs in the establishment of primary care provider network given the commitment of the local health board to make TB a priority amid COVID-19.

USAID’s TB Platforms, in partnership with DOH National TB Control Program and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, also organized a webinar for all elected officials to consolidate agreements related to the UHC implementation and strengthening of local TB response amid the pandemic. 

USAID’s TB Platforms Project’s Chief of Party Marianne Calnan shares how the Project engages local government units in making TB a priority amid COVID-19 and how local chief executives can support the full implementation of the Universal Health Care Law. (USAID’s TB Platforms/URC)

Invited representatives from DOH and UHC champions shared ongoing initiatives and efforts from UHC Advance Implementation Sites to guide gradual implementation in other areas and ensure prioritization of TB health services.

“We are happy to work with dynamic local chief executives who are championing TB response amid COVID-19, celebrities turned #EndTB Ambassadors, civil leaders leading their organizations' support to #End TB campaign and most of all to the members of the media who have been with us since we started raising public awareness on TB as a killer disease amid COVID19. With all of them rallying with us along with our frontliners, the community healthcare workers, we believe we will succeed,” USAID’s TB Platforms Project’s Chief of Party Marianne Calnan said.

For 20 years now, USAID has provided PhP30 billion for the Philippine health sector to realize its national development goals.

For 2018-2022, USAID is investing more than PhP3 billion to support the National TB Control Program and help DOH reduce the number of TB cases.

Philippine Information Agency is USAID’s TB Platforms’ primary advocacy partner in the dissemination of information about the implementation of UHC Law as well as in raising public awareness about TB as a killer disease amid COVID-19. (CLJD-PIA 3)

USAID’s TB Platforms provides technical assistance to local government units to ensure continuous provision of TB services and monitor treatment adherence of enlisted TB patients. (USAID’s TB Platforms/URC)

Residents of NPA-infiltrated village undergo 10-day skills training

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12, 2020): Residents of NPA-infiltrated village undergo 10-day skills training (By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog) 

STA. MARIA, Ilocos Sur, Dec. 12 (PIA) – Twenty residents of Sitio Paring, Babal-lasioan village here started their 10-day skills training on motorcycle and small engine repair and maintenance on Tuesday, December 8.

Fourteen of the said trainees are former members of the Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) – who withdrew their support to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and took oath of allegiance to the government on October 2, while the other six trainees are their relatives.

This community-based training program is a collaboration between the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-Ilocos Sur Provincial Office, the Ilocos Sur Polytechnic State College (ISPSC)-Santiago Campus, and the 81st Infantry (SPARTAN) Battalion, 702nd Infantry (DEFENDER) Brigade, Philippine Army.

According to Leonida Bides, extension coordinator of ISPSC-Santiago Campus, each trainee shall receive tools and materials such as screw (flat and Philip), plier, and combination wrench (8, 10, 12, 14, 17 inches) which they can use in applying their acquired skills after they finish the skills training.

Andrew (not his real name), one of the trainees, expressed his gratitude to the agencies and the Philippine Army for their continuous support and assistance to their community.

“Nagpapasalamat kami ulit sa inyong lahat at narito na naman kayo upang magbigay tulong sa amin, lalong-lalo na sa 81st IB, thank you sir, kasi kayo ang naging tulay namin sa mga biyayang ito. Sa DTI at TESDA, gayun din sa ISPSC, maraming salamat at bumalik ulit kayo sa aming sitio kahit na sobrang layo,” he said.

All 25 families of said sitio also received food packs sponsored by Sacred Heart Savings Cooperative in Galimuyod, Ilocos Sur.

Moreover, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Ilocos Sur, led by Provincial Director Grace R. Lapastora, conducted monitoring to the livelihood kits which were distributed last October 17 through the Serbisyo Caravan of the member-agencies of the Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Wendell Botacion, TESD Specialist II of the TESDA-Ilocos Sur, lauded the partnership between the institutions, agencies, and the Philippine Army for the constant implementation of various counter-insurgency efforts in line with the Executive Order No. 70 of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Nagpapasalamat ang TESDA sa ISPSC for sharing their resources, expertise, and time. Napakalaking contribution ito para sa ating mga kababayan sa Sitio Paring. Kaya hinihiling ng TESDA sa ating mga trainees na seryosohin ang pag-aaral kasi sila ang magbe-benefit sa knowledge and skills na ma-acquire nila. Yong alam nila ang pag-maintain at pag-repair ng sarili nilang motorsiklo or mga farm equipment ay napakalaking tulong na sa kanila. Lesser ang gastos kasi hindi na sila magbabayad ng repair o maintenance fee,” he said.

“Yong mga may planong magpatayo ng repair and maintenance business, hiling po lang namin na ang pinaka-objective po sana ay para makatulong sa kapwa. Sabihin ang totoong problema ng makina at maningil lang ng sakto,” he further added.

The activity was spearheaded by TESDA-Ilocos Sur Provincial Director Socorro F. Galanto, ISPSC-Santiago Campus Extension Coordinator Ms. Bides and their trainer, Mr. Alwin Morales, and the 81st IB led by Lt. Col. Rodrigo A. MariƱas, Jr. (JCR/AMB/JMCQ/PIA Ilocos Sur)

300 soldiers deployed for SK town community immersion

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12, 2020): 300 soldiers deployed for SK town community immersion (By Noel Punzalan)

IMMERSION. Some 300 soldiers get last-minute instructions from their superiors and local government officials on Saturday (Dec. 12, 2020) before their deployment to six remote villages in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat that are affected by the presence of communist-terrorists. The soldiers were tasked to immerse themselves in the communities and repel attempts by the communist New People’s Army to dupe and recruit members from the remote villages. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

Community support program (CSP) teams, composed of soldiers from the three infantry battalions under the 603rd Infantry Brigade (Bde), were deployed on Saturday for an immersion program in remote communities in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat that are threatened or affected by the presence of communist-terrorists.

“The main purpose of the CSP is to help the barangays in the establishment of conflict-resilient communities through a multi-stakeholders and people-oriented approach,” said Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

At least 300 soldiers, backed by local militia forces, from 15 CSP teams coming from the 37th, 38th, and 57th Infantry Battalions were sent off to conduct community support activities in six affected barangays of Kalamansig, in partnership with the Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (MTF-ELCAC).

Kalamansig Mayor Rolando Garcia, meanwhile, expressed his appreciation to the 603Bde for deploying the CSP teams to the municipality to help in the overall peace and security efforts of the national government.

“We will continuously work with the military and any other law enforcement agency to stop the communist New People’s Army from sowing fear among communities of the municipality,” Garcia said.

He conveyed his full support for the CSP teams in the fight against insurgency through the MTF-ELCAC.

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.

Navy completes 5-day amphibious exercise in GenSan

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12, 2020): Navy completes 5-day amphibious exercise in GenSan (By Richelyn Gubalani)

The BRP Apolinario Mabini courtesy of the Philippine Navy

The Philippines Navy units in Eastern Mindanao have further upgraded their maritime security capability, with the completion on Friday of its five-day amphibious exercise in the Sarangani Bay.

Commodore Antonio Palces, commander of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, said the latest leg of the naval exercise, dubbed “Pagsisikap 2020,” was conducted in the area from Dec. 7-11.

In a media interview, he said the activity was mainly aimed to enhance the preparedness of naval resources and personnel in the region in responding to maritime-related incidents.

He said the exercise covered two components -- the assessment of the readiness of naval units deployed in the Eastern Mindanao area and the evaluation of the existing doctrines in maritime security operations.

“This is part of our efforts to better equip our naval assets in the region, especially in terms of maritime security,” Palces said.

The official said the exercise was participated in by 350 sailors, 160 marine troops, and 70 reservists.

He said these include the Philippine Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) special operations team and the Naval Combat Engineering team.

It was joined by the BRP (Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas) Apolinario Mabini (PS36), one of the three Jacinto-class corvettes or patrol vessels and considered as one of the most modern ships in the Philippine Navy.

The other involved assets were the BRP Magat Salamat (PS20), BRP Emilio Liwanag (PC118), and a Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (BA494).

2 ASG leaders, 13 followers yield in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12, 2020): 2 ASG leaders, 13 followers yield in Sulu (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

Google map of Sulu province.

Two mid-level leaders and 13 followers of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have surrendered to the Army's 11th Infantry Division (ID) in Sulu province, military officials said Saturday.

Col. Antonio Bautista, commander of the Army's 1101st Infantry Brigade,
identified the surrenderers as Alvin Yusop, an aide to ASG senior leader Radulan Sahiron, and Barahim Murjahar, also an aide to the late ASG leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.

The two mid-level leaders and 13 followers surrendered Friday through the concerted effort of Bautista and Brig. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the 1102nd Infantry Brigade.

They have turned over 14 assorted high-powered firearms.

Two of the 13 followers were identified as Muarip Adj and Hatimil Adja, both sons of ASG sub-leader Apoh Mike.

Patrimonio said Yusop was convinced by his family to surrender after his mother suffered a stroke.

Nurjahar, on the other hand, was compelled to surrender following sustained military operations against him, Bautista said.

“The presence of government troops drove out Nurjahar from his stronghold and caused him to starve. Realizing that his struggle has no sense, he approached the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) Jikiri faction, who then linked him to us for proper surrender,” he added.

Nurjahar will face legal proceedings for the abduction of the sister of a Sulu town mayor, Bautista said.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, the 11ID commander, said they were working with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Sulu governor’s office so that the ASG surrenderers could start a new life.

“Go on and raise your kids to be peace-loving citizens. Tell the others (ASG members), tell Apoh Mike, that they are welcome, so long as they are sincere, willing to face the rule of law,” Gonzales told the surrenderers.

QC reso already denounced Reds terrorism in March 2020: DILG

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12, 2020): QC reso already denounced Reds terrorism in March 2020: DILG 

Contrary to Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte’s earlier statement, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday said the Quezon City Government already denounced communist terrorism several months ago when it passed Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Resolution No. 8189 s. 2020 dated March 16, 2020.

“Our records show that Quezon City passed the SP Reso. 8189 early this year which is entitled 'A Resolution Strongly Condemning All Forms of Atrocities and Acts of Violence in Support of Executive Order No. 70, s. 2018' during its 25th regular session. The resolution was approved by the Quezon City Council on March 16, 2020,” said DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

Malaya, who is also DILG spokesperson, was reacting to Belmonte’s statement on Dec. 11 denying that the city government issued a resolution declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (NDF) as persona non grata after the DILG reported that QC was among the 1,546 LGUs nationwide that issued such a resolution.

“I never said this… We are an inclusive city, where people are free to express their views, so long as we all follow the rule of law and behave ourselves accordingly,” Belmonte was quoted as saying in a text message to an online newspaper when asked if Quezon City issued such a declaration.

The resolution itself, Malaya said, states that the Quezon City Government supports the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 which created the National Task Force to End Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace in our country.

He added that the strong condemnation by local government units (LGUs), including Quezon City, of the atrocities of communist terrorist groups (CTGs) through SP resolutions in effect declares them as persona non grata in their localities.

“That is the effect of an LGU’s condemnation of the violence and atrocities perpetrated by these communist terrorists. When a local government unit (LGU) denounces the acts of violence of the CTGs, would it still open its doors and welcome them into their localities? Of course not. That has no rhyme nor reason,” Malaya said.

“Kapag sinabi nating kinokondena natin ang karahasan ng mga Komunistang terorista, ang ibig sabihin din noon ay nakapinid at nakakandado na ang kanilang mga pintuan laban sa kanila. Ibig sabihin, persona non grata na sila (If we say we are condemning the violence of communist terrorists, that also means that their (LGUs) doors are closed to them. It means they (CTs) are already persona non grata),” he said.

Persona non grata is a generic term that includes all forms of condemnation against the CPP-NPA-NDF and its front organizations whether it is directed against its members of the CTGs or their acts of violence and atrocities.

“Just the same, it means that they are not welcome in the LGUs and they cannot use that LGU as a base to kill or ambush government forces or liquidate, kidnap or extort from innocent civilians,” he said.

EO 70, which was signed by President Duterte in 2018, created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach in achieving inclusive and sustainable peace as a means to end the five-decade problem with communist-terrorists.

The issuance of EO 70 shifts the fight against CTGs and their front organizations from a military-centric approach, wherein the AFP and the PNP are solely responsible, to a whole-of-nation approach where all civilian national government agencies, local government units, and civil society organizations take an active part in ending the CTGs by addressing the root causes of the insurgency.

The time has come for LGUs to make a stand against the end of the reign of terror of the CTGs and express their support for democracy, for peace, and for the country.

“Dalawang panig lang naman po ito. Sa isang panig ay ang gobyerno at ang mga Pilipino na tunay na nagmamahal sa demokrasya, kapayapaan at sa bayan. At sa kabilang panig ay ang mga kaaway ng taong bayan na ang gusto ay patalsikin ang gobyerno at magtatag ng communist state. Saang panig tayo? (This is only two sides. One side is the government and Filipinos who truly love democracy, peace, and for the nation. And on the other side is the enemies of the people who want to topple the government and establish a communist state. Which side are we?) ” he asked.

Of the total 1,546 LGUs that have declared CTGs as persona non grata, 64 provinces, 110 cities, and 1,372 municipalities have already passed resolutions while the remaining 169 LGUs are in various stages of deliberation in their respective provincial, city, and municipal councils.

In addition, some 12,474 barangays nationwide have also declared the CPP-NPA-NDF as persona non grata in their respective localities.

Gov't never red-tagged anyone; Sison did: Palace exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12, 2020): Gov't never red-tagged anyone; Sison did: Palace exec (By Lade Jean Kabagani)

Undersecretary Severo Catura, Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PNA File photo)

MANILA – Admitting that the issue of "red-tagging" is a very serious concern that has to be properly explained, a Palace official said it was Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria "Joma" Sison himself who red-tagged militant organizations and individuals.

In a virtual presser on Dec. 11, Undersecretary Severo Catura, Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), said the government “has never red-tagged anyone.

Catura said various statements associating some organizations and individuals to the communist movement were based on the pronouncements of Sison in a video during a meeting at the International Center, CIC in Brussels, Belgium on March 4, 1987.

“At any rate, even while there are of the armed revolution, there are the legal democratic forces in the Philippines. The biggest of these is Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN, in short. Its biggest component organizations are: Kilusang Mayo Uno which is the labor center; the Kilusang Magbubukid (KMP); GABRIELA, the woman’s Alliance; League of Filipino Students (LFS); Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT); KADENA; and so on,” Sison was quoted as saying.

Some government critics, Catura said, often correlate the issue of red-tagging to the anti-terrorism campaign.

"It actually takes off from statements coming from Joma Sison himself, who identified groups that are supportive of his organization, an organization that advocates for the violent overthrow of the Philippine government," he added.

He said the red-tagging issue can be inimical in the effective implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law, he said.

Respect for civic space

"Now, remember that under the Anti-Terrorism Law, we need to clarify also that dissent, legitimate dissent, peaceful dissent, advocacy are excluded from the Anti-Terrorism Law," Catura said. "In fact, the provision in the Anti-Terrorism Law, you’ll be surprised, is very much respectful of what we call the civic space wherein people should be able to avail of if only to have their own advocacies but we should clarify that these advocacies should be using peaceful means."

Catura added that various terms including "advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights" are excluded from the definition of "terrorism”, as stated in Section 4 of the Anti-Terror Act of 2020.

"I think, that term [red-tagging] is simply to diminish the value to have a very effective Anti-Terrorism Law and at the same time it wishes to diminish the efforts of the government to address terrorism in our midst," Catura said. "So, it’s all about using the same term to really move forward an agenda that they are being persecuted, when in fact they are not."

He said there would have been visible cases of unjust detention, suppression, and physical harassment if the government was really red-tagging groups, organizations, or individuals.

Meanwhile, former cadres of the New People's Army (NPA) have recently come out to expose the deceptive recruitment schemes of the communist group through its legal front organizations.

The former NPA members, in identifying various militant organizations that served as the recruitment arm of the communist group, explained the mutual relationship of the legal democratic mass movement with the revolutionary underground mass movement.