Thursday, December 31, 2020

9 red-tagged IPs killed, 17 others nabbed in police ops on Panay Island

From Rappler (Dec 31, 2020): 9 red-tagged IPs killed, 17 others nabbed in police ops on Panay Island (By MARCHEL P. ESPINA)

'Those killed were recognized indigenous community leaders in their respective barangays. They were civilians and not armed combatants,' says human rights group Panay Alliance Karapatan

Nine people were killed while 17 others were arrested in simultaneous police operations on Panay Island early Wednesday, December 30.

The Philippine National Police (PNP)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Police Regional Office- Western Visayas (PRO-6), based in Iloilo City, simultaneously served 28 search warrants in the villages of Tapaz, Capiz province, and Calinog, Iloilo province.

Based on the PRO-6 report, 9 died and 10 were arrested in police operations at Tapaz, while 7 suspects were nabbed in Calinog.

The suspects allegedly fought the authorities during their arrest, which was denied by human rights group Panay Alliance Karapatan.

Karapatan claimed that the 9 fatalities, who were indigenous people (IP) belonging to the Panay Tumandok community, were “massacred” by the authorities.

“Those killed were recognized indigenous community leaders in their respective barangays. They were civilians and not armed combatants. They have consistently opposed militarization and human rights violations in their communities as they upheld their rights as indigenous people,” the group said.

They added that the killed IPs have been red-tagged and accused by the military as members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

They identified the fatalities as:

1. Roy Giganto, Barangay Lahug kagawad and chairperson of Tumandok
2. Reynaldo Katipunan, Barangay Lahug kagawad
3. Galson Catamin, Barangay Nayawan chieftain
4. Eliseo Gayas Jr.
5. Maurito Diaz
6. Artilito Katipunan
7. Mario Aguirre
8. Jomar Vidal
9. Rolando Diaz

The arrested individuals were also part of the IP community, the group added.

PRO-6, in a statement, said the operation was orchestrated based on information from civilians in the area on the presence of personalities with high-powered firearms.

This operation is a regular law enforcement activity and aims to curb the proliferation of firearms and explosives on Panay Island, PRO-6 added.

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate condemned the incident.

“This is the same modus operandi used by state forces in Negros Oriental on the December 27, 2018 early morning raids, when now-PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas was the regional commander of the Central Visayas PNP,” he said.

Red-tagged doctor, 2 others killed in Negros Oriental

He recalled that 6 farmers were killed while 31 were arrested at that time.

“They were just farmers asserting their rights to their land. With Sinas as the PNP chief, this type of questionable and bloody operations is apparently becoming the norm,” he said.

"Just like in Negros then, the identified victims were known leaders in their respective barangays and people's organizations. Due to their strong resistance against destructive projects and their continuous fight for IP rights, they have been red-tagged by security forces and Jeffrey Celis as a front organization of the CPP-NPA," Zarate stated.

"We demand that these attacks and senseless killings be stopped now," he said. –

1 slain, 1 captured in Bukidnon clash

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 31, 2020): 1 slain, 1 captured in Bukidnon clash (BY RHODA GRACE SARON)

THE military reported that an encounter in Bukidnon on December 29 resulted in the death of a member of the New People’s Army and the capture of another.

Lt. Col. Ricky Canatoy, commander of 58th Infantry Battalion, the unit that clashed with the rebels, identified the slain rebel as Leonido Pacheco, while the one who was captured was Aman Bilayong,, who was also wounded.

Canatoy said a team from the battalion, while checking on the reported presence of an armed group at Brgy Silo-o, Malitbog, Bukidnon, chanced upon about 20 rebels that resulted in the encounter.

Recovered from the clash site were two M16 rifles, one KG-9, ammunition and documents.

Maj Gen Andres C Centino, commander of Joint Task Force-Diamond, said that the encounter was the result of the intensified security operations conducted in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

He added that in December, three rebels were killed in clashes, three were captured, 20 surrendered and 29 firearms were recovered.

“The people of Northern Mindanao and Caraga can be assured of the Army’s protection so that the NPAs may not be able to disrupt the peaceful celebration of the yuletide season as we remain relentless in our security operations against the rebels,” Centino said.

Both sides have not declared ceasefire for the holidays.

MILITARY: NPA lost 72 leaders in Eastern Mindanao

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 31, 2020): MILITARY: NPA lost 72 leaders in Eastern Mindanao (BY RHODA GRACE SARON) 

THE Eastern Mindanao Command reported that the New People’s Army (NPA) lost 72 cadres this year as a result of its intensified campaign against the rebels.

Major Alex Mindanalano, spokesperson of the command, added tahat the unit also dismantled four guerrilla fronts and a unit of the Pulang Bagani Command.

Of the 72 NPA leaders, 12 were killed, 44 surrendered and nd 16 were arrested on separate incidents, Mindalano said.

Among those killed was Alvin Loque, known in the movement as Joaquin Jacinto, who was the National Democratic Front Mindanao and Komisyun Mindanao spokesperson.

The military report said Luque died while resisting arrest as law enforcers were serving warrants against him and some of his colleagues for multiple cases in Barangay San Agustin Sur, Tandag City, Surigao del Sur on December 10.

The military also reported that encounters between the 100st Infantry Brigade and the Guerrilla Front 33 of th rebels in Sto. Nino, New Corella, Davao del Norte on December 12 resulted in the dismantling of the front as some of its forces either surrendered or were arrested.

Other fronts in the jurisdiction of the command that were dismantled, the military report added, were GF56, GF6, and GF Tala and the Regional Guerrilla Unit of the Pulang Bagani Command 4 (PBC4) of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).

Between January and December 28, the unit report that 83 rebels were killed, 117 were captured and 1,393 surrendered. About 4,300 members of the Underground Mass Organizations and other allies also withdrew their support from the rebels.

The unit also recovered 875 firearms either due to clashes or surrender of the rebels.

The soldiers also discovered 251 enemy hideouts during the period.

Lt. Gen. Jose C. Faustino Jr., commander of the command, said the achievement of the unit was a sign that the rebels were losing the war.

“The surrender of the top NPA leaders just gives a very compelling reason for the few remaining cadres and other members to abandon the armed struggle. If they continue to ignore the call of the government to surrender peacefully, then it will only cause them more harm than good in the future,” Faustino said.

He called on the public to help the military put the armed struggle to stop by joining the campaign of the government in sustaining peace.

ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Pamalandong on eight hours session with MILF Chair Salamat Hashim

Posted to MindaNews (Dec 31, 2020): ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Pamalandong on eight hours session with MILF Chair Salamat Hashim (By RUDY BUHAY RODIL)

[A portion of this report was published earlier in Bantaaw at AFRIM Davao City, a month after the visit with this title –To Talk or Not To Talk; The Ups and Downs of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks. Selected portions of the full transcript of this two sessions are here. Part of this series is Part I here. The second part tells what we learned from discussions with the other leaders. In the questions and answer, CSH is Chair Salamat Hashim, IQ is Mohagher Iqbal, Ompong is Rudy Buhay Rodil, Carmen is Dr. Carmen Abubakar, and NQ is Nathan Quimpo.

What vital question today, approximately 21 years after? The historian in me reminds me of who was responsible for the creation of the Sultanate of Maguindanaw. It was Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat, That was in 1619. Now it is the head of the MILF who was responsible for the emergence of BARMM or the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanaw, even in his physical absence… because he left this world in 2003…. Because his spirit moves in the hearts of the current leaders. So, for me, today, the day of heroes, December 30, 2020… moving alive among us.]

We were three who visited Camp Abubakre, the MILF mother camp in Matanog, Maguindanao, on September 6 and 7, 1999: Dr. Carmen Abubakar of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies, Prof. Nathan Quimpo of the UP Department of Political Science and myself.

It was a trip I will never forget, full of pleasant surprises.

Pleasant Surprises

First, I half expected a touch of cloak and dagger, like meeting at the pickup point and proceeding to our destination under cover of darkness.

But no, we were fetched from our hotel in Cotabato City under the bright mid-morning sun shining upon us in full glory.

I half expected a contact man with password to come for us.

But no, it was no less than Information Chairman Mohagher Iqbal himself who showed up. As guide and passport, he was the epitome of a generous host. On the road he treated us to the famous durian. One each!

His presence in our pickup truck was our pass; no stoppage at MILF checkpoints.

We sought his advice on what questions to ask and what not to ask in our interview with Chairman Hashim. He told us to just fire away and let the Chairman decide what to answer and what not to answer.

I thought I would find a military camp, complete with barracks, gun emplacements, and so on. But I saw a full blown town, with a post office, a solar driven water pump, stores, fully cultivated farms, school, mosque, a marketplace, a carenderia, a rice and corn mill, civilian homes along the road and further away in the interior.

The cream of the cake was the office of the Chairman himself: state of the art desktop and notebook computers, colored printer, colored TV, dubbing machine, and cordless telephone from which one can place a call direct dial to any part of the world — I was tempted to call home from there — and a library full of books, attesting to the intellectual vent of the owner.

Who would think that place was an MILF camp? Yes, there were men both in and out of uniform — and boys — who were loitering about with their firearms, but to me who grew up in Moroland, that was a normal sight.

What was new was that it was called a revolutionary camp.

I was braced for austere accommodations that I thought was part of a revolutionary camp.

There were four of us in the room assigned to us for the night. It was a cold night and the floor is equally cold cement. Nathan and I had one foam mattress each complete with pillow and malong, while our hosts, Information Chairman Iqbal and Al slept on plastic mat – beside me! Inside me, I felt guilty! I know from experience the feelings of sleeping on a foam mattress and a plastic mat. I grew up sleeping on a banig made from grass, tikug in Bisaya, but is common all over the Philippines. What is new is banig made from plastic.

I have slept in Muslim homes in the past, even in the homes of MNLF commanders, and they always offer the best. This one is in an MILF home. I am always touched to the core by the gesture. It reveals the innate goodness of Muslims.

Next door were two bathrooms with flowing spring water. Super cold!

Carmen was housed in another building along with some of the women of the camp. I forgot to ask her about her accommodations.

During the interviews, I had expected to meet revolutionary leaders who were grim and determined, passionate and unwavering in their commitment — and tense or just pretending to be relaxed. They were all that. But this leader is relaxed, candid and easy to talk to, unpretentious. And pleasant. Certainly not tense. The interviews were free flowing.

We had two long sessions with Chairman Hashim, a total of eight hours, another with Murad Ibrahim, Vice Chairman for Military Affairs, and still another with Ghadzali Jaafar, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, and with Information Chairman Mohagher Iqbal himself.

They struck me as leaders who knew exactly, and believe what they are doing.

I think I learned more from those two days of person to person contact than from years of monitoring events through newspapers, magazines and television and Bangsamoro websites. I have also been able to validate what I have long known from my readings.

Touching and hearing the voice. This is something one will never get in any cites I mentioned. We are an oral people.

Here are extracts from that two long sessions with Chair Salamat Hashim.

Ompong: Kindly tell us how the MNLF began

CSH: Quick historical background. Back in early 60s. Bangsamoro (BM) struggle is rooted in history…Spanish period – Moros never conquered …American times – US did not defeat BM militarily but by policy of attraction [negotiation, Bates, etc.]… Philippine Independence – BM armed rebellions continued, could not accept Filipino rule. MNLF/MILF regards the annexation of the Moro sultanates as a historical error. No evidence of connection with Luzon and Visayas, only quarrel, antagonism, etc. especially after Spanish colonialism. Filipinos collaborated with Spanish colonialism.

NatQ: Origin of one nation concept and the name Bangsamoro?

CSH: Close connection of two sultanates; also sultanates of Sabah-Sulu-Maguindanao. Moro came from Spain, means Muslim. No common identity among “Bangsamoro people” prior to arrival of Spain and Moro. Muslim as name is too big, includes Muslims elsewhere in the world.

Ompong: Your activities in Egypt … and

NatQ: reference to meeting between students in the country and those studying abroad?

CSH: Idea of fighting the Phil Govt came first, no name yet. MNLF came later. Term Moro was used from the very beginning even as early as my time as student in Cairo. 1962, Moro students in Cairo started discussing how to regain the freedom and self-determination of their people. The term bangsa came later. When the Moro National Liberation Front was established, this was the idea of Nur Misuari and other revolutionary groups, what was used as Moro, no bangsa. Even the MILF did not use Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front, just Moro. Actually the meaning of Bangsa is nation, not just Filipinos. That was the idea there.

NatQ: But the question of fighting for independence from the Philippines, was this already the topic being discussed among students in Egypt, in the Philippines?

CSH: Yes, yes. The Bangsamoro were free long before the establishment of the Philippine Government by western imperialists. We believe that the official annexation of the Bangsamoro Homeland to the Philippines started only in 1946. The BM cannot accept that. They cannot accept that the BM who have long been independent, long before the establishment of the Philippine Government, should be under the Philippine government. Neither can they accept the name Filipino which is derived from Felipe II, the king of Spain who tried repeatedly to invade the BM homeland.

There is a very funny story in Cairo. Because they cannot accept that they are Filipinos, the Moro students in Cairo stopped getting or renewing their Philippine passports. When the Egyptian authorities found out that the Filipino students were not carrying passports, in fact the passports of some of them expired for several years already, they did not want to renew it anymore. I was the President of the Philippine Students Association in Cairo at that time. I was called by the Egyptian intelligence: Why are you not renewing your passports? I needed another explanation, I did not tell him the real reason.

I told him that we are poor people, most of these students are from poor families — which is not true because many of these students are from the Alontos, they are not poor people, Abubakar — but I told them that we are poor people, we cannot afford to renew our passport. The Philippine government is kafir government, we are Muslims, we are discriminated against, they are making the passport fee very expensive. So, we stopped renewing our passports.

The intelligence was not satisfied. I was brought to the top intelligence officer who was a general. Again, the same discussion. The general decided, don’t worry. Here in Cairo, you have no problem. We will issue identification cards but you cannot use this for travel to another country. If you stay here in Cairo, even for ten years, twenty years, you can only use this identification card; you don’t have to renew your passport, if that is true that you cannot afford to renew your passport.

When the Philippine embassy in Cairo found out about this, the matter was relayed to the Department Foreign Affairs. the Philippine embassy decided to issue Philippine passports to the students, free of charge. Then, we accepted. I told the students, never mind. We are not Filipinos, never mind because you see we also accepted the Egyptian identification card, we are not also Egyptians.

Carmen: How many students were there?

CSH: At that time, about 200, mostly from Cotabato, Lanao and Sulu, very few from Basilan, no one from Tawi-Tawi, no one from Davao.

NatQ: How was the connection between the students in Egypt and students from the Middle East and African countries?

CSH: We managed to convince them, especially at that time when we were offered free passports, the students from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and all other countries also demanded that they will be issued free passports.

NatQ: How did this develop into a movement for self-determination?

SH: During our student days in Cairo, we used to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Most of the students are gathered there. Usually Hajj time is the vacation of the students and we take advantage of that. It was also a time for us to see each other. Me met in Arafat, we met in Mina, we met in Makkah.

NatQ: Were there also students from here?

CSH: Yes, yes.

Ompong: Were you by any chance influenced by the mood in Egypt at that time; it was the time of Nasser; he was also an activist?

CSH: We cannot also deny that Egypt at that time was the center of revolutionary movements. As a matter of fact, the dormitory where we were staying, there were more than 100 nationalities from all over the world. Most of them were from oppressed countries, and most of them are also thinking of revolution, especially that they were there in that revolutionary country, because Egypt was considered a revolutionary country at that time.

Ompong: Was there any particular Islamic, ah, at that time, I think, they were not using the word fundamentalism yet, it was the media, ah…?

CSH: Yes, they was no such thing as fundamentalist at that time, but there were already movements. Islamic movements. Islamic Movements actually started about 70 years ago. I think you know about the Al-Ikhwanu Muslimun. It started in Egypt, founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. This was the first Islamic movement in this century. It was active at that time, they were against the government. They appreciate the revolutionary ideas of Abdel Nasser but they did not agree with his ways of governing the country. Some members were professors in the university; some of them were also working with the government.

NatQ: Would you say that such influence continues up to now, say, even in the MILF, the ideas that were then in Egypt in 1928?

CSH: Yes, basically the idea is still there but of course there have been some changes.

NatQ: How about this Mindanao Independence Movement in the 1960s? How did the students there in the Middle East regard this MIM?

CSH: It was declared by Datu Udtog Matalam. It was first a Muslim Independence Movement. It was modified later to Mindanao Independence Movement.

Ompong: What was the reason for the modification?

CSH: I think the reason was not very clear, it was not well planned, it was because of the sentiments of that old man against the government …. There was no revolutionary plan for that, just on paper.

Ompong: Were you back here already?

CSH: I was still in Cairo but I know that because we have the same place as Datu Udtog Matalam, from Pagalungan.

Ompong: But I was told that there was a student sector in the MIM?

CSH: Yes, yes. Actually when Datu Udtog made the declaration, he sent me a copy and asked me to help in the dissemination of that document. And I did it.

Ompong: Is there any connection between the MIM and the training of the Top 90?

CSH: Yes, there is a connection. because the struggle was only one.

Ompong: Did you have a hand in the training?

CSH: Yes, of course. We were the ones who arranged it when we were outside the country. At that time we already had some connection with some countries. We started looking for countries which could possibly support. And we found some.

NatQ: Libya?

CSH: Until now, it remains a secret of the struggle.

NatQ: So, how did the MNLF come about? How did the students from here get to meet and discuss about it?

CSH: You see, I think you know that there are many politicians who wanted to make use of everything to strengthen their political power. When those politicians found out that there were groups of students there in Cairo who have that idea of rising up against the Philippine government, they also found out that there were students here in the Philippines, especially in UP headed by Misuari. They wanted to utilize these groups, those outside the country and those inside the country, and through them it was a blessing that — although we know that they are not sincere in what they were doing but at least through them, we happen to get in touch with each other.

NatQ: Is it alright to mention their names?

CSH: Well, I think it is not wise for us to mention their names. But you can guess who they are. Very easy to guess, but it is not really necessary to mention their names.

Carmen: Do they still have influence in the movement?

CSH: No, they did not have any influence because we know them, from the very beginning we know them. But you see, this is what happened. They wanted to utilize the students. On our part also we wanted to utilize them. Because we know that we have no influence at that time, we are still students, we have no material capability, we wanted to utilize their material capabilities and their influence. Well, you know now, I think we were the ones who succeeded in utilizing them. They did not succeed in utilizing us.

Ompong: When exactly was the MNLF organized? As MNLF this time?

CSH: The MNLF was organized in 1968 and 69. That was the time when there was the batch 90 of trainees, including Misuari, they started the root of the organization from that time – during their training, and they were the ones who became the first cadres of the struggle. But the actual organization of the MNLF was in 1970.

Ompong: But the name?

CSH: At that time, the trainees were back in our homeland and also, on our part, some of us in the Middle East also returned. I was already here in the country at that time and we met here with Brother Misuari and other cadre officers.

IQ: Questions about women?

CSH: BM women can do many things that men can do. We have learned from the Algerian revolution against the French that they used their women to do many secret operations that cannot be done by men, like transporting firearms and ammunition, even planting mines in baskets of vegetables carried by old women, engaging in trade in town centers.

Carmen: If that is your perception that women are capable of undertaking difficult and dangerous missions, you are saying that women are a force in society, not to be kept in the house to do household work?

CSH: We do not agree that women should be kept in the house. We believe that they can do many things that cannot be done by men. We believe that in many business transactions, women are better than men. We believe with British that women are the best secretaries, that women are more trusted than men.

Carmen: So, you are not in accord with the Taliban policy of keeping women in the house, not allowing them to go to school, not allowing them to perform medical practices, or legal practices?

CSH: That is the tradition in Afghanistan. That is not necessarily Islamic teaching. It may be good for the Afghan people, but it is not necessarily good for the Bangsamoro people; we cannot follow that. This is not our tradition to keep our women in the house.

Carmen: But I think this kind of women’s function is restricted in the political sphere…

CSH: Not necessarily. Here in my office some of my staff are ladies. We have women in the central committee. In all our offices we have women. Some of our representatives abroad are women, some roving ambassadors are women.

Carmen: Why is this not discussed openly, that the women participate very actively in the movement?

CSH: We do not discuss it openly because it is our secret. We do not like to government to know the role of our women.

Carmen: In your vision of an Islamic state, would you consider women as a member of the cabinet?

CSH: Yes, why not. Of course there are prophetic traditions which do not allow women to become head of state but in actual practice I think there are very few non-Muslims who are head of state. In Turkey the prime minister was once a woman; now, the prime minister in Bangladesh is a woman, also in Pakistan.

Carmen: Hindi ba labag yan sa doktrina, Mr. Chairman?

CSH: You see, we have the Qur’an. The Qur’an says something. What is important is that what the Qur’an says must not be changed. Either you follow it or not. There is an indication in the Qur’an that women cannot be head of state.

Carmen: What about Pakistan, nilabag ba nila ang verse na yon?

CSH: Yes, I think what is not allowed is to change what the Qur’an says. Either you follow it or not. If you do not want to follow it, that is between you and Allah. But you see, at present, the majority of Muslims in the world are not practicing Muslims. But the number of practicing Muslims is increasing gradually. Usually practicing Muslims are not involved in politics; it is the non-practicing Muslims who are into politics. That is why the ideas of the practicing Muslims do not prevail, because the authorities are against them. But anyway this is not a problem. In our case here, if we find a woman who is better than everybody, why not allow her to become president.

Carmen: You will not object?

CSH: No. Even here in the MILF, if there is a woman that can prove herself better than Hadji Murad, better than Ghadzali, better than myself, why not allow them to take over.

NatQ: Last night we were talking about Islamic state, what exactly is your vision of an Islamic State. Is there any particular model of an Islamic State your sort of look up to?

CSH: Actually, at this time, we are not very much interested in an Islamic state. We are more interested in liberating our people. We are more interested in regaining our freedom and self-determination. Islamic state will be discussed later.

Our concern now is not the Islamic State. Our concern is the liberation of our people. Our concern is to regain the usurped freedom and self-determination of the Bangsamoro people. This is our concern.

And then, regarding Islamic state, whatever state, that will be decided by the people. Because we believe that the people will be the ones to decide. We have to ask them through free election, through free plebiscite or referendum what they want.

If they want a Communist state, why not? If they want a secular state, why not? But if they want an Islamic state, why not?

Because you see, we believe that we cannot go against the will of the people. The will of the people must prevail. Because if we go against the will of the people, then there will be lots of problems.

NatQ: The reason I was asking this question is because, even, say, areas which are predominantly Muslim and say, these areas would want to be part of an eventual state, there would also be non-Muslims who might be living there, even if they are the minority, of course, we will also like to know exactly how they would fare. How will they be able to practice their own ways?

CSH: The policy of Islam towards non-Muslim in an Islamic state is very elastic. Non-Muslims will be given many options. If they want autonomy, they can be given real autonomy.

Unlike the autonomy given by the Philippine government to us. We believe that this autonomy is nothing. Like, for example, the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, the municipal mayor is more powerful than the governor of the autonomous region. The mayor can command the police in the municipality, while the governor of the autonomous region cannot even command the police. The police is under the command in Manila.

On the question of autonomy, if they want federalism, that is their choice. If they want autonomy within the Islamic state where the Shariah will be implemented, they will also have the choice. If they do not want, then they can have their own laws.

Ompong: Mr. Chairman, when you say liberation of your people, I assume that you are talking about certain territories, specific territories?

CSH: When I say liberation of our people, I mean independence. As for the territory to be covered by the independent state, that is negotiable. We are practical, although we know and we are claiming that the entire island of Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and even Palawan were part of the Islamic Sultanates, Sultanate of Sulu and Sultanate of Maguindanao, but we know that it is very, very clear that there are many areas in Mindanao where the non-Muslims are now the majority, the settlers from Luzon and Visayas are now the majority.

We are no longer claiming these areas. These are the subject of negotiations. If we happen to gain independence, these will be subject to negotiations, and only the areas where the Moros are still the minority.

As for our brothers, the indigenous natives in the area, they call them highlanders, if they want to join us, as a matter of fact we even consider them Moros — when we talk about Moros, we do not mean all the Moros are Muslims; we believe that all the native inhabitants, now, our definition of Moro includes all the native inhabitants of Mindanao. This includes all the indigenous tribes, the highlanders.

NatQ: In the eighties, when the MILF which was not yet MILF, but you were in favor, still working out this autonomy, the framework was still autonomy, and then now, your position is for independence, what accounts for the change and when was the change in position made?

CSH: You see, this is politics… The purpose of trying to be moderate at that time … to make the Philippine government feel that we are not so aggressive, that we were moderate. If the war involves politics, and not only politics but tricks, yes, revolutionary struggle is a political struggle and involves many tricks.

NatQ: But what pushed you to take a harder position now, this independence. Before it was autonomy, now…

CSH: Well, because we believe that it is better to start from the weaker one, then move to the stronger one. This is our way.

Ompong: I understand, Mr. Chairman that up to 1988, then in 1992, you were still talking about the full implementation of the Tripoli Agreement.

CSH: No, not until 1992. In 1989, I was already here in the camp. After my return, that was the time when we stopped talking about autonomy. In the 70s and the 80s, that was the time when we were talking about autonomy. After my arrival here, I think that was December 1987, after that we stopped talking about autonomy.

NatQ: What about an idea of a state within a federal setup? A state of your own but within a bigger federal state. Are you open to such a…?

CSH: Within a bigger state, that is still within the Philippines.

NatQ: You would not be open to that?

CSH: We are not open to that now. But if that will happen would like to federalize the system, we will see, we will see the implementation. But we will not immediately accept it. This is our policy. For example, when the GRP was negotiating with the MNLF, our policy was wait and see. We did not oppose, we did not say anything, we just kept silent. The same thing, if the Philippine government will decide to federalize the system here, we will wait and see.

NatQ: Some 15 years ago, I came across your book, it was given to me by GJ at that time, and I notice there that there was hardly any mention of western imperialism, but last night you were talking about western imperialism. Did you refer to the US as western imperialism? How do you define imperialism?

CSH: When we talk about imperialism, we mean western countries that occupied all the weak countries in the world. And American was not one of these, Britain, Italy, and France. Occupation of weak countries, especially Islamic countries started after the first world war.

NatQ: Do you see Islamic countries now as facing a threat from the western powers, or do you think a more harmonious relationship can evolve?

CSH: Colonizers imposed their own system of government, education in Islamic countries. The first leaders of liberation movements in Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, were products of this colonial system. Because of this, when they took power, Islam was put aside.

NatQ: Do you now see some sort of Islamic revival or resurgence all over the world?

CSH: There is now Islamic resurgence all over the world because the Muslim people of the world realize that countries following the secular system which was introduced by the western colonizing countries, never developed. It may have been good for the western countries but not for the Islamic countries. There is now the idea that Muslims must go back to their Islamic way of life, Islamic system of government. Muslim scholars all over the world are calling for the revival of Islam. Even Saudi Arabia is not considered an Islamic state. [Carmen: About Iran?] Iran is Shia, maybe it can be considered an Islamic state but Shia is minority in the Muslim world, only about 10% of the entire Muslim world. The Sunna constitute the greater number.

NatQ: Last night we were discussing about the article of Huntington which is predicting the possible clash of civilizations, western versus Islamic, do you agree or subscribe to such a theory?

CSH: Well, not necessarily a clash of civilizations but what is sure is that Muslim Ummah all over the world has now realized that as Muslims they have to remain Muslims, and they have to regain their power, and they have to regain their civilization. Throughout the 81 years experience from 1918 to now, the Muslims realized that although they still believe that western civilization is good but it is good for the westerners, not for them. They have to revive their own.

Carmen: Pero hindi ba there are certain common universal principles between the west and Islamic society? That can bridge the gap between the two?

CSH: They are trying to do that. One of the proponents of this idea is Prince Charles of Britain.

Ompong: But is it not true that during the golden years of Islam, it was actually Islamic influence that entered into Europe and became the civilizing factor…

CSH: That’s right.

Ompong: … and then it was the turn of Europe to come over to us, it was their turn to civilize. It seems to me that there must be something common between Islam and development somewhere.

CSH: Yes, that is right. In fact Muslims are not opposed to western civilization, especially this present advancement of technology, in knowledge, but Islam is only against the values and morals of the western countries. Muslim scholars are of the opinion that western civilization is Islamic civilization; they got this civilization from Islam. And so therefore why not accept it? But only the manner of implementation.

Ompong: It seems to me that the battle actually is in the sphere of values rather than in technology?

CSH: Yes, yes. No question about it. Islam even emphasizes that Muslims must seek knowledge wherever it is in the world. Even the prophet Muhammad said to his companions that you seek knowledge even if it is in China. Because during his time, China was considered the farthest center of civilization.

Ompong: To be more particular, how do you seek to implement these thoughts, I mean these are very beautiful thoughts, within the Bangsamoro state?

CSH: As I have said, what is important to us is to gain independence and after gaining independence, after that we will try to spread the correct teachings of Islam but we will not impose it on our people, we will submit to the will of the people.

But we will do what we can to let them understand what is Islamic is.

Tagalog News: Mga dating NPA member hinikayat ang mga kasamahan na sumuko na

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2020): Tagalog News: Mga dating NPA member hinikayat ang mga kasamahan na sumuko na (By : PIA Cotabato Province)

Featured Image

MAGPET, Lalawigan ng Cotabato, Dis. 31, 2020 (PIA)---Nanawagan ang mga dating miyembro ng New People’s Army (NPA) sa kanilang mga kasama na sumuko na sa pamahalaan at magbalik-loob sa gobyerno.

Sa isinagawang pulong-balitaan ng mga dating NPA member noong Sabado, sinabi ni Ka Princess, isang surrenderee na nanatili sa rebeldeng grupo sa loob ng tatlong taon, na walang silbi ang prinsipyo at ideolohiya na sinusunod ng NPA. Aniya, niloloko lamang ng rebeldeng grupo ang mga tribo at magsasaka sa pamamagitan ng propaganda. Panawagan niya sa mga dating kasama na ngayon ay nasa rebeldeng organisasyon pa rin na huwag matakot sumuko.

Inihayag naman ni Ka Aguilla, sumanib sa rebeldeng grupo sa loob ng apat na taon, nabago ang takbo ng kanyang buhay mula nang nagbalik-loob ito sa pamahalaan. Giit niya, hindi siya pinabayaan ng gobyerno at binigyan pa ng pinansyal na tulong na siyang ginagamit niya ngayon sa negosyo niyang sagingan. Kaugnay nito, hinikayat ni Ka Aguilla ang mga dating kasamahan na samantalahin ang pagkakataong binigay ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga miyembro ng NPA na sumuko at makapiling ang pamilya.

Sa kabilang banda, binigyang-diin ni Col. Potenciano Camba, commanding officer ng 1002nd Infantry Brigade na puspusan ang ginagawang hakbang ng Philippine Army at mga katuwang na ahensya upang wakasan ang insurhensya. Aniya, sinsero ang pamahalaan sa pagsusulong ng kapayapaan at kaunlaran.

Pinasalamatan din ni Camba ang mga lokal na pamahalaan, maging ang komunidad sa tulong na mapasuko ang mga miyembro ng rebeldeng grupo.

Nabatid na mula Enero hanggang Disyembre 25, 2020, abot sa 2,666 na mga NPA member ang sumuko sa area of responsibility ng 1002nd Infantry Brigade. (PIA Cotabato Province)

CPP-NPA Terrorist (CNT) killed, another captured in Bukidnon

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2020): CPP-NPA Terrorist (CNT) killed, another captured in Bukidnon (By 4ID)

Featured Image
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Dec. 31 - A CPP-NPA Terrorist (CNT) was killed and another captured in an encounter with troops of 58th Infantry Battalion on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

58IB troopers seized 2 M16 rifles, 1 KG9sub-automatic weapon, several ammunitions and subversive documents from the CTG

According to Lt. Col. Ricky Canatoy, Commander of 58IB, his troops, while checking on the reported presence of armed group at Brgy Silo-o, Malitbog, Bukidnon, chanced upon 20 CNTs which resulted in one CNT dead identified as Leonido Pacheco at Mcdong and another wounded CNT captured identified as Aman Bilayong at Neri.

Seized from the CNTs were two M16 rifles, one KG-9, ammunitions and subversive documents.

Meanwhile, MGen Andres C Centino, Commander of Joint Task Force-Diamond, said that the encounter was part of the intensified security operations conducted in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

He added that for December alone, the CTG already suffered major losses with three of its members died in encounters, three captured, and 20 have surrendered and the recovery of 12 high powered firearms and 17 low powered firearms.

The people of Northern Mindanao and Caraga can be assured of the Army’s protection so that the CNTs may not be able to disrupt the peaceful celebration of the yuletide season as we remain relentless in our security operations against the CTG, Centino stressed.

It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte declared no ceasefire with the CPP-NPA during this yuletide season. (4ID)

Mga dating rebelde nanawagan sa Sierra Madre

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2020): Mga dating rebelde nanawagan sa Sierra Madre (By Angely L. Mercado) 

Nanawagan ang mga dating rebelde sa bundok ng Sierra Madre para sumuko na ang mga dating kasamahan na katutubong Agta. (Photo by Salaknib Battalion)

SAN MARIANO, Isabela (PIA) -- Ang Salaknib Battalion, katuwang ang TOG2 ng Philippine Air Force at mga dating rebelde, ay nasagawa ng panawagan sa bundok ng Sierra Madre para sumuko na ang mga dating kasamahan na katutubong Agta.

Gamit ang malakas na megaphone na may 800 meters na range habang nakasakay sa mga Helicopter, ang mga dating rebelde na sina @Bombo-Agta, @Allan-Agta at @Janmar ay nagsalita upang patunayan na sila ay nasa maayos na kalagayan kasama ang kanilang pamilya.

Sila din ay nanawagan na itigil na ng kanilang dating kasamahan ang madugong rebolusyon na nagbibigay ng pagdurusa sa sambayanan lalo na sa mga katutubong Agta.

Naglaglag din ang kasundaluhan ng mga polyetos upang mabati ng maligayang Pasko ang mga naiwang rebelde sa kabundukan at iparating sa kanila ang nagaantay na magandang kinabukasan para sa kanila at para sa kanilang pamilya. (ALM/Salaknib Battalion/Press Release)

Soldiers discover NPA’s medical supplies in Ilocos Sur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2020): Soldiers discover NPA’s medical supplies in Ilocos Sur (By Freddie G. Lazaro)

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union, Dec.30 (PIA) - - Soldiers belonging to the joint teams of the Community Support Program (CSP) of the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion (IB) and 69th IB have discovered a cache of medical supplies of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the outskirt area of Barangay Barangay Marozo, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur on Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo A. Mariñas Jr., the commander of the army’s 81st IB, said the soldiers learned about the location of the medical cache through a revelation of a former member of the Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) in the village.

The cache contains the following medical supplies such as 50 gauze sponges, 37 syringes, 31 vials of local anesthesia, 20 dental needles, 13 surgical gloves, 13 surgical sutures, five surgical blades, five cannulas, four medical dressings, four infusion sets, two towels, one foley catheter, medical and dental equipment, and assorted medicines.

This photo shows the medical supplies of the New People’s Army (NPA) recovered by the soldiers in the outskirt area of Barangay Marozo, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur on Monday. (Courtesy photo of the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion)

He confirmed that the medical supplies belonged to the late Pamela Peralta AKA "Maymay", a former medical officer of Komiteng Larangan Gerilya-South Ilocos Sur (KLG-SIS) of the Ilocos Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC). Ka Maymay died in an encounter in Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur on August 08, 2020.

“These medical suppliers were entrusted by Ka Maymay to a former UGMO member for safekeeping for use by the NPA - Communist Terrorist Groups (CTG) whenever they are in the area,” said Mariñas.

Such action of the former UGMO member in a village in Narvacan town, according to Mariñas, is a sign that the army’s CSP campaign has been very effective in raising awareness among the residents on the importance of people’s participation in ending the local communist armed conflict.

"The former UGMO's action of divulging the location of the medical supplies showed his full trust and confidence to the government troops," said Mariñas.

Brigadier General Audrey Pasia, the commander of the army’s 702nd Infantry Brigade, cited that the giving of information by the residents to the authorities about the NPA’s deception strategies is a manifestation that the NPA's operations are gradually lessening.

“The people do not believe in the NPAs anymore as they see the real nature of these terrorists now. This is now the best time for the NPAs to surrender to the government. I am appealing to the NPAs in Ilocos not to waste the opportunities and benefits being offered by the government once you surrender to the authorities,” said Brigadier General Pasia. (JCR, FGL, PIA 1)

JTF NCR chief recognizes dedication, sacrifices of troops amidst COVID-19 pandemic

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2020): JTF NCR chief recognizes dedication, sacrifices of troops amidst COVID-19 pandemic (By Jimmyley E. Guzman)


 JTF NCR BGen Marceliano Teodoro during his year-end 'Talk to Men' in Marikina Wednesday. (Photo credit: JTF NCR)

PASIG CITY, Dec. 31 (PIA) – Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF NCR) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines commander Brigadier General Marceliano Teofilo recognized the dedication and sacrifices of AFP personnel during this health emergency crisis.

BGen Teofilo visited the troop under the Naval Task Group – NCR Wednesday at the Marikina Sports Complex.

During his year-end ‘Talk to Men,’ emphasized the vital role of Fleet-Marine security contingents in providing support in implementing security protocols in their area of responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The JTF NCR Commander expressed his gratitude and recognized the dedication and sacrifices made by the troops despite being far away from their families this holiday season.

Teofilo also reminded the personnel to do their job properly with honor and dignity as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (JTF NCR/PIA-NCR)

3,000 plus CPP-NPA members surrender, group suffers major setbacks this year -Sinas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 31, 2020): 3,000 plus CPP-NPA members surrender, group suffers major setbacks this year -Sinas (By Jerome Carlo R. Paunan)

Philippine News Agency photo

CALOOCAN CITY, Dec. 31 (PIA) -- Capping off its list of accomplishements for this year, Philippine National Police Chief General Debold Sinas cited the surrender of nearly 3,000 communist terrorist personalities from January to November and major operational setbacks have weakened the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

Sinas said over the entire 11-month period, a total of 3,312 CPP-NPA members were accounted for, of which 366 were arrested; 117 died during the operations, and 2,829 surrendered during separate police operations.

On the very day of the 52nd founding anniversary of the CPP on Dec. 26, he said 35 communist fighters surrendered and renounced their membership with the CPP and its armed wing, NPA in Caraga and Eastern Visayas regions.

On the same day, two ranking CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front leaders, both wanted by the court to stand trial for kidnapping and murder, were captured in Quezon province.

From Dec. 18 to 26, Sinas said six CPP-NPA-NDF members were arrested, 108 surrendered and 45 assorted firearms and eight explosive devices were confiscated.

Sinas said the enactment of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on July 3 boosted “the opportunities for the PNP to fully end the local insurgency.”

He said the communist group was generally passive in terms of mounting offensive operations that could show its strength and relevance relative to the celebration of the CPP’s 52nd founding anniversary.

“This passive stance strongly supports the overall assessment that the CPP/NPA has been substantially weakened because of the sustained and intensified government efforts to end local communist armed conflict that resulted to significant losses of key CPP-NPA leaders, seasoned fighters, and mass supporters,” he said.

Sinas said the PNP has enrolled 350 rebel returnees to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and amnesty program, while 407 surrendered firearms were processed for grant of government benefits under E-CLIP.

Pursuant to Executive Order No. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), these rebel returnees are given the life-changing opportunity to lead normal lives with their families as free and empowered citizens, he said.

Sinas, however, said the PNP remains vigilant in ensuring that it can effectively neutralize the remaining strength and armed capabilities of the rebels.

“It is still likely that they will attempt to mount armed offensives, possibly through the use of improvised landmines to ensure casualties," he said.

He said the recent formal tag by the Anti-Terrorism Council of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization, is another significant setback to the underground local communist movement and its affiliate organizations.

This means that CPP-NPA assets may now be subject to the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s authority to freeze pursuant to Section 11 of RA 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act as provided under Section 25 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“With more equipment and personnel for tactical police operations, including five newly-organized maneuver battalions of the PNP Special Action Force, the PNP is poised to hit harder on its assigned internal security tasks and specific target,” he said.

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

9 dead, 17 arrested in ops vs. Reds in Iloilo, Capiz towns

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30, 2020): 9 dead, 17 arrested in ops vs. Reds in Iloilo, Capiz towns (By Perla Lena)

SIMULTANEOUS OPERATIONS. A body of a suspected New People's Army member was brought to a health facility in Tapaz, Capiz. The joint operations by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Police Regional Office 6 served 28 search warrants to alleged members of the communist terrorist group in Tapaz, Capiz and in Calinog, Iloilo for illegal possession of firearms and explosives on Wednesday (Dec. 30, 2020). (Photo courtesy of RMN Iloilo)

ILOILO CITY – Nine persons died while 17 others believed to be members of the communist terrorist group (CTG) New People’s Army (NPA) were arrested following simultaneous joint operations conducted by the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) and the Criminal Investigation (CIDG) in Tapaz, Capiz and in Calinog, Iloilo on Wednesday.

The operations were meant to carry out 28 search warrants, said CIDG Western Visayas chief Lt. Col. Gervacio Balmaceda in a press conference held in Tapaz municipal police station and carried live through Facebook by several local radio stations.

“They were alleged as members of the CTGs based on information gathered in the area even before the application of the search warrants. They were in possession of firearms in the area,”
he added.

In an official statement read by Balmaceda, the PRO-6 confirmed that seven of those arrested were from Calinog. Three suspects were from Barangay Masaroy and four from Barangay Garangan.

In Tapaz, those arrested were from Barangays Roosevelt with four, Tacayan with two, and one suspect each from Lahug, Aglinab, Acuña, and Nayawan.

The suspects who died were from Barangays Lahug with three, two in Layawan and one each from Tacayan, Aglinab, Acuña, and Daan Sur.

The operations were part of the regular law enforcement activities, which aim to curb the proliferation of firearms and explosives in Western Visayas, he said.

Balmaceda added that it was done in line with the CIDG Oplan Paglalansag.

A total of 28 individuals were subjects of the search warrants. However, Balmaceda said that they could not yet release the exact names of those arrested and fatalities as they have yet to be verified.

They hoped to gather the profile of those who died possibly by Thursday.

He said that based on the initial reports of their team leaders on the ground, the suspects, who were subjects of the search warrants, fired at the law enforcement teams.

The CIDG added that they have yet to know the circumstances in response to claims of the relatives of those who died that they did not fight back when the search warrants were being served.

Balmaceda said they have yet to compile the complete reports of their team leaders.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-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.

Marines seize P1.4-M smuggled cigarettes in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31, 2020): Marines seize P1.4-M smuggled cigarettes in Maguindanao (By Edwin Fernandez)

SMUGGLED CIGARETTES. Marine troops intercept Wednesday (December 30, 2020) some PHP1.4 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in Matanog town, Maguindanao. Photo shows the troops unloading the contraband items concealed in sacks and mixed with agricultural products. (Photo courtesy of 6th Infantry Division)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Soldiers have intercepted a cargo truck loaded with smuggled cigarettes worth PHP1.4 million concealed along with agriculture products in sacks, the military here said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said Marine troopers intercepted the contraband inside an Isuzu Elf cargo truck at a checkpoint Wednesday in Barangay Kidama, Matanog, Maguindanao.

Uy said the smuggled goods were being escorted by armed men identified as Karim Omar and Abdullah O Saidan, allegedly members of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), based on their identification cards.

He said the contraband came from Zamboanga City and transported by boat to the coast of Lanao del Sur, and then by truck to this province.

The smuggled goods and two MNLF personalities were turned-over to Matanog Municipal Police Station for proper disposition.

“We will remain vigilant to prevent any unlawful activities, especially those syndicate groups involved in hampering our trade and to protect Philippine economic, environmental, and security interests,” Uy said.

NPA rebel slain in Butuan encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31, 2020): NPA rebel slain in Butuan encounter (By Alexander Lopez)

SLAIN NPA COMBATANT. A communist New People's Army rebel identified only as Alas or Aylon was killed in an encounter with troopers of the 23rd IB on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 30, 2020) in Sitio Lawaan, Barangay Tungao, Butuan City. Army officials in the area have called on the remaining rebels to surrender. (Photo courtesy of 23IB)

BUTUAN CITY – A communist New People’s Army (NPA) combatant was killed in an encounter with government forces in Barangay Tungao here on Wednesday afternoon, an Army official said.

1Lt. Roel T. Maglalang, civil-military operations officer of the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion, said government troops
conducted a strike after receiving information from the residents about the NPA rebels' presence in the area.

“Our troops immediately engaged around six CNTs (Communist NPA Terrorists) in a five-minute clash. The rebels retreated and abandoned their dead member,” Maglalang told the Philippine News Agency Thursday.

He identified the dead NPA rebel only as Alas or Aylon, a member of the Guerrilla Front (GF) 4A of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) led by a certain Junjun Makaundag.

Government troops also recovered several firearms, ammunition, bomb-making materials, food supplies, and subversive documents, and personal belongings at the clash site.

Maglalang said the cadaver of the dead NPA was turned over to the members of the barangay council of Tungao for proper disposition, Maglalang said.

Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, 23IB commander, condoled with the slain rebel's family.

“It is sad to note that his family will be mourning during the celebration of the New Year due to his loss. This could have avoided if they had listened to our call to lay down their arms, leave the armed movement, go back to the folds of the law and to their families and avail the programs, projects, and assistance under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government,” Paulo said.

He added: “They only left the cadaver of their fallen comrade. Inside the 52 years of terrorizing the innocent people, it is impossible for them to topple down the government, especially now that the fed-up residents are revealing their whereabouts."

Army, LGUs give decent burial for 2 Reds killed in Agusan Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31, 2020): Army, LGUs give decent burial for 2 Reds killed in Agusan Norte (By Alexander Lopez)

DECENT BURIAL. The Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion, with the support of the local government units, accorded decent burial to the two New People’s Army combatants killed in an encounter on Dec. 27, 2020 in Barangay Baleguian, Jabonga, Agusan del Norte. Army officials have called on the parents to pay close attention to their children, the usual target for the communist rebels' recruitment. (Photo courtesy of 29IB)

The Army's 29th Infantry Battalion (29IB) and the local government units (LGUs) of Jabonga and Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte accorded decent burial to the two New People’s Army (NPA) combatants killed in an encounter on Dec. 27 in Barangay Baleguian, Jabonga town.

“The dead NPA rebels were already claimed by family members last Dec. 28 and 30,” 1Lt. Edmar C. Colagong, the civil-military operation (CMO) officer of 29IB, said in a press statement Thursday.

The slain rebels were identified as Reggie May Ochavillo, 20, a resident of Cabadbaran City, and Marife Mercansel Montero, 23, of Tago, Surigao del Sur

“Ochavillo’s body was claimed by his grandparents on December 28 while Montero’s cadaver was turned over to her sister last December 30,” Colagong said.

Lt. Col. Aristotle F. Antonio, 29IB commander, expressed sadness over the fate of the two rebel combatants.

"I am saddened to see the terrible situation that our youths fall into after being deceived by the NPA,” Antonio said in the same statement.

He said the parents and family members of NPA combatants are not aware of the harsh realities inside the communist rebel movement.

“We plead with you once more to help us make them see the light and find their way back. And, if you think that lying about them and hiding their true nature from us would protect them, think about it again, for doing so will just put them in great danger,” Antonio said.

Montero’s sister was quoted in the statement as saying that the family thought Marife was doing well with her studies and that they had no idea she had joined the rebels.

“She told us that she will go to school, so our mother sent her money for her enrollment. But then she was recruited while in school by her classmates,” the slain rebel's sister said

Col. George L. Banzon, commander of the Army's 901st Infantry Brigade, condemned the NPA leadership and the Communist Party of the Philippines for their "longstanding deceptions and exploitations of students and youth to advance their hidden agenda."

“The CTG’s (Communist Terrorist Groups) are using lies and propaganda to entice the youth to join their violent movement. We also denounced the CTG for the unfortunate demise of two young individuals,” Banzon said.

Banzon also appealed to the parents to be "mindful of their children who are vulnerable and target of CTG’s recruitment."

AFP plays key role in gov't Covid-19 response: Gapay

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31, 2020): AFP plays key role in gov't Covid-19 response: Gapay (By Priam Nepomuceno)

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

Aside from its internal and external security defense roles, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) plays a very important role in ongoing efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a year-end report, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay said this included the transporting of 1.9 million pounds of medical equipment and supplies via air assets of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Meanwhile, another 962,416 pounds of these items were delivered using assets of the Philippine Navy (PN), he added.

Aside from this, the AFP also helped 57,870 civilians in returning to their respective home provinces via military aircraft/vessel and commercial flights.

The military also helped in the transportation and distribution of 2,455,288 food packs nationwide.

AFP personnel also donated PHP20.5 million to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD). The amount was raised via donations using a portion of their salary.

Aside from this, the AFP also deployed over 2,000 doctors, nurses, and military medical auxiliary are deployed in Covid-19 treatment and quarantine facilities nationwide.

This can be broken down into 212 combined medical and security personnel manning emergency quarantine facilities outside the camp (Ninoy Aquino Stadium, Rizal Memorial Coliseum, and Solaire-Pagcor Mega Quarantine Center); 80 medical personnel deployed to man military emergency quarantine facilities with 86 on standby and 46 on reserve, and 1,730 military and civilian medical personnel manning 47 military treatment facilities nationwide.

The AFP also deployed 10,390 personnel to community quarantine assistance areas nationwide to support Sub-Task Group Peace and Order.

Also deployed were 1,189 Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit active auxiliaries and 835 reservists.