Monday, January 4, 2021

33 FRs in Agusan Norte, Butuan receive assistance

 From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 4, 2021): 33 FRs in Agusan Norte, Butuan receive assistance (By LGU Agusan del Norte) 

BUTUAN CITY, Jan. 4 -- Another 33 former rebels (FRs) from Agusan del Norte and Butuan City received assistance in an activity recently attended by the four department secretaries of the national government and local officials.

The package, handed over to FRs during the Awarding of Assistance to FRs and Interfacing of Regional Task Force ELCAC and Regional Task Force for COVID-19 One Caraga Shield (RTF COCS) in Butuan City, included cash, food packs, hygiene kits, and personal items.

Sec. Eduardo Año of the Department Interior and Local Government, Sec. Delfin Lorenzana of the Department of National Defense, Sec. Francisco Duque III of the Department of Health and Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process personally awarded the package to the FRS.

Gov. Dale B. Corvera, chairperson of both the Caraga Regional Development Council and RTF COCS as well as Rep. Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante-Matba of the 2nd District of Agusan del Norte and other officials of Caraga also attended the event.

In his welcome message, Gov. Corvera shared how the region responded to the pressing issues surrounding insurgency while mitigating the effects of the pandemic.

He added that at this point, the region focused on efforts at improving the local economy while managing the risk of the pandemic and at the same time, ensured that the strong partnership and collaboration of the stakeholders in the fight against insurgency is sustained until the end of the problem.

“As chairperson of the Regional Development Council, RTF COCS and Agusan del Norte Peace and Order Council, it is our pride that so far, we are the only region throughout the country to have a regional peacebuilding initiatives, the Caraga roadmap for peace which is aligned to the goals of EO70 in ending the Local Communist Armed Conflict by addressing not only insurgency but also the other major conflict lines like criminality, resourced based conflicts, and issues and challenges of the Indigenous People living therein,” Gov. Corvera said. (Karen Kie V. Decamotan, Agusan Up, LGU Agusan del Norte/PIA Agusan del Norte)

9 NPA rebels in Bukidnon surrender as CPP marks 52nd anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 4, 2021): 9 NPA rebels in Bukidnon surrender as CPP marks 52nd anniversary (By Judy Ann P. Magsayo, 1SFBn, 403Bde, 4ID, PA)

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MANOLO FORTICH, Bukidnon, Jan. 4 -- Nine members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered on Dec. 26 on the occasion of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) 52nd founding anniversary.

The rebels who turned over six high-powered firearms and various ammunition operate under Guerilla Front 68 (GF68).

They yielded to the Philippine Army's 1st Special Forces Battalion (1SFBn) based in Mampayag, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon under 403rd Infantry Brigade (403Bde) of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID).

Lieutenant Colonel Vercisio San Jose, 1SFBn commander in a statement said two of the nine surrenderers—Arnie Capin alias Lee, 24 years old and Etchel Litan alias Langlang, 21—is a couple who both served as mass organizers of GF68.

He bared that Arnie served as CPP-NPA's political instructor, while Etchel as a medical officer.

"The couple shared how they were manipulated and exploited by their top leaders. They have come to a realization that the meaningless guerrilla fighting and deceptive communist recruitment in the mountainous communities have only brought intimidation, violence, and socio-economic despair to the people. With the AFP's peace, development, and security operations in partnership with the government agencies and local government units, we are now starting to reap the fruits of our collective efforts to finally end insurgency," LtCol. San Jose said.

The 1SFBn commander disclosed that during the initial debriefing, the NPA rebel surrenderers narrated their hardships—along with their exploited comrades in the communist underground movement. They openly admitted that the unbearable physical and psychological exhaustion, extreme emotional depression, rampant financial abuse, involvement in extortion, and other illegal activities eventually made them decide to abandon the communist armed struggle and go back to the folds of the true and legitimate government of the Philippines.

Emphasizing the government’s whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency, LtCol. San Jose urged the remaining NPA rebels in Bukidnon and in all other parts of the country to peacefully surrender.

“For those CPP-NPA terrorists who remain entangled in their twisted violent ideology and terroristic ways; to those who prefer not to heed the government’s call for peaceful surrender, the 1st Special Forces Battalion will be relentless in its operations and we will hunt down the enemy until the last communist terrorist element is prevented from waging violence and intimidation to our peace-loving people,” he said.

Brigadier General Ferdinand Barandon, meanwhile, said in an interview aired over 13 KBP-accredited radio stations that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) cascaded down to the provincial, city, municipal, and barangay level with the military and police units as components, facilitated the responsive delivery of government services in the remotest communities and this helped a lot in encouraging the disgruntled communist rebels to abandon their violent armed struggle.

“What we see now is the irreversible collapse of the CPP-NPA terror groups in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental and I think this is also happening in other insurgency-affected areas of the country. As the communists celebrate its 52nd founding anniversary of lies, violence, corruption, and exploitation on 26 December 2020, their guerrilla units are breaking down to their ultimate defeat as manifested by the continuous influx of surrenderers in the past years and recent months. These NPA rebels may have finally reached their breaking point as they realize the meaningless fighting and exploitation of their CPP-NPA leaders,” BGen. Barandon said. (Judy Ann P. Magsayo, Inf PA/PIA Bukidnon)

Army, partners extend assistance to Luzon typhoon-hit areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 4, 2021): Army, partners extend assistance to Luzon typhoon-hit areas (By Jemin B. Guillermo)

ILOILO CITY, Jan. 4 (PIA) -- The Army’s 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division assisted the Provincial Government of Capiz and partner stakeholders in Aklan province in the hauling of relief assistance on December 20 and December 25, 2020, respectively, for the typhoon victims in Luzon.

A total of sixty 63 tons of relief goods were transported via C130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force from Kalibo International Airport to Tuguegarao City Airport, a press release from the 3ID's Public Affairs Office said.

An accumulated total of 55 tons were from Aklan which came from Aklan Baghay Inc., Aklan Police Provincial Office, Kiwanis Club of Kalibo, Jewels and Blue Diamonds, and Pass Fast Cargo, while eight tons of goods came from the Capiz Provincial Government.

Major General Eric C Vinoya, the 3ID Commander, said that the activity shows the sincerity of the Spearhead Troopers in performing its mandate of serving the people at all times.

“Our soldiers, with the overwhelming support of our stakeholders, are always ready to extend a helping hand especially during trying times when they need us most. We are always ready to perform combat and disaster response mission,” Vinoya said. (PIA6/3ID-DPAO-PA)

Tagalog News: Higit 1.3M, ipinamahagi sa nagbalik-loob na 34 CTGs sa OccMin

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 4, 2021): Tagalog News: Higit 1.3M, ipinamahagi sa nagbalik-loob na 34 CTGs sa OccMin (By Voltaire N. Dequina) 

Binanggit din ni Governor Eduardo Gadiano ang Executive Order No. 70 ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, na nagtatakda ng whole of nation approach, na aniya'y pinag-isa ang lahat ng ahensya upang epektibong tugunan ang mga problema ng mga pamayanang nalilinlang ng mga makakaliwa, at sa gayon ay iwaksi ng mga ito ang suporta sa CTG at ibalik ang tiwala sa pamahalaan. (VND/PIA Occ Min)

SAN JOSE, Occidental Mindoro, Enero 4 (PIA) -- Higit sa P1.3 milyon ang ibinigay kamakailan ng gobyerno sa 34 na mga dating kasapi ng Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) na nagbalik-loob sa pamahalaan, sa ilalim ng Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Sinabi ni Provincial Director (PD) Juanito Olave Jr, ng Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) - Occidental Mindoro na 16 sa mga sumuko ay regular na kasapi ng New People’s Army (NPA) na tumanggap ng tig-P65,000 habang 18 naman ang Militia ng Bayan (MB) at nabigyan ng P15,000 bawat isa.

“Ang tulong-pinansyal na ito mula sa ating pamahalaan ay panimula pa lang,” ayon kay PD Olave.

May mga programa pa ang iba’t ibang ahensya at lokal na pamahalaan (LGU) para sa tuloy-tuloy na pagbabagong buhay ng mga former rebel (FR), na pangunahing layon aniya ng Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC). Saad pa ni Olave, sana'y suriing mabuti ng mga rebelde kung may saysay pa ba ang patuloy nilang pag-aaklas sa gobyerno sa gitna ng sinserong hangarin ng huli na makipagkasundo at makamit ang pangmatagalang kapayapaan.

Binigyang- diin naman ni Lt Col Alexander Arbolado na hindi kailanman natutuwa ang Philippine Army sa tuwing magkakaroon ng engkwentro. Aniya, bagama’t salungat ang paniniwala ng mga CTG, kinikilala ng mga tropa ng pamahalaan na kapwa- Pilipino pa rin ang mga ito at hindi dapat naglalabanan. “Kailan pa ba titigil ang karahasan?”, tanong ni Arbolado sa mga rebelde.

Pakiusap pa ng opisyal, sikapin ng mga sumukong rebelde na mapaunlad ang kanilang kabuhayan upang maging magandang ehemplo sa mga dating kasamahan. Makatitiyak aniya ang mga FR ng patuloy na paggabay ng PTF-ELCAC upang maging maayos ang kanilang buhay at muling maging kapakipakinabang na mga miyembro ng lipunan.

Samantala, sinang-ayunan ni Governor Eduardo Gadiano ang mga pahayag nina Olave at Arbolado. Sa kanyang mensahe sa maikling seremonya ng distribusyon ng E-CLIP assistance sa PGO Sub-Office sa San Jose, pahapyaw na ibinahagi ng Punong-lalawigan ang kanyang naaalala nang nagsimula ang pag-aaklas ng New People's Army, bilang armadong grupo ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP), sa panahon ng diktaduryang rehimen noon. Subalit ayon sa Gobernador, tapos na ang naturang yugto sa ating kasaysayan.

“Napakarami nang lupain ang sumailalim sa land reform; ang mga lupaing ninuno ay titulado na at ipinamahagi sa mga katutubo; may libreng pa-ospital, libreng binhi at kagamitan sa pagsasaka, hindi ba’t magaganda ang mga programa ng ating gobyerno?” patanong na paliwanag ng Punong Lalawigan. Aniya, ang mga serbisyong ito ay dinadala mismo ng PTF-ELCAC sa mga liblib na pamayanan ng mga katutubo upang maipadama na sila ay bahagi ng lipunan na kinakalinga ng pamahalaan.

Binanggit din ni Gadiano ang Executive Order No. 70 ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, na nagtatakda ng whole of nation approach, na aniya'y pinag-isa ang lahat ng ahensya upang epektibong tugunan ang mga problema ng mga pamayanang nalilinlang ng mga makakaliwa, at sa gayon ay iwaksi ng mga ito ang suporta sa CTG at ibalik ang tiwala sa pamahalaan.

Pakiusap ng Gobernador sa mga nagbalik-loob, hikayatin ang mga dating kasamahan na makipag-usap na rin sa gobyerno upang maipaliwanag ang programang laan sa mga ito. Handa aniya ang kanyang administrasyon na pangunahan ang isang local peace talk upang dinggin ang hinaing ng mga nag-aaklas at maipaliwanag naman ng pamahalaan ang mga programang naghihintay sa kanila. Panawagan din ni Gadiano, nagpalit nang muli ang taon, tuloy ang alok na kapayaan ng pamahalaan, panahon nang isalaang- alang ng mga NPA ang kani-kanilang pamilya at makapiling nang muli ang mga ito. (VND/PIA MIMAROPA)

Army links BIFF to Maguindanao mayor’s ambush, harassment

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): Army links BIFF to Maguindanao mayor’s ambush, harassment (By Edwin Fernandez and Noel Punzalan)

EVACUEES. Some of the displaced families who left their homes in Barangay Itaw, South Upi, Maguindanao following the harassment by BIFF gunmen in their village on New Year’s Day. The evacuees have started returning home Monday (Jan. 4, 2020) after military troopers have been detailed in the area. (Photo courtesy of Radio DXUP FM)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Military authorities have blamed the Daesh-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the ambush of a town mayor Sunday and the recurring harassment against Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities in South Upi, Maguindanao.

Lt. Col. Anhouvic Atilano, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Monday the BIFF was behind the harassment of civilian communities in Barangay Itaw, South Upi, and the ambush of town Mayor Reynalbert Insular, who emerged unscathed.

During the ambush, a hitchhiker identified as Thelmo Divinagracia Sasi, was killed while three others -- King Sasi, John Andro Tumbaga, and Pao Dalimbang -- were injured in the 2 p.m. ambush in Barangay Pandan, South Upi, Maguindanao.

“The BIFF wanted to grab the ancestral lands of the Teduray people in Barangay Itaw,” Atilano said in a phone interview.

He said five BIFF combatants were killed when two attack helicopters fired rockets and machine gun at the fleeing BIFF after the ambush.

“Elements of 57th Infantry Battalion extracted the ambush victims at the site while artillery fires were launched against the attackers,” Atilano said.

A resident said the slain gunmen were taken by their fleeing comrades as they rushed toward the upland communities of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Talayan, also in Maguindanao.

Insular said he and the town’s disaster risk reduction and management council went to Barangay Itaw Sunday morning to extend relief aid to some 599 families affected by the BIFF harassment on Jan. 1.

“We are already returning to the town center when the ambush took place, I thank the military for responding quickly that save our lives,” Insular said.

He requested the deployment of peacekeeping troops in Barangay Itaw to prevent similar harassment in the future.

The displaced families have started to return home Monday morning, Insular said.

2 communist rebels surrender in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): 2 communist rebels surrender in Masbate (By Connie Calipay)

The military sees a sustained breakthrough in its campaign against insurgency as it welcomed back two new surrenderers from the communist terrorist group (CTG) at the start of 2021.

Capt. John Paul Belleza, 9th Infantry Division (9ID) spokesperson, on Monday said
alias Edwin, 30, and alias Mark, 33, both regular CTG members, voluntarily surrendered to the elements of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) in Barangay Lanang, Aroroy town in Masbate province over the weekend.

“The two also turned in .30-caliber carbine rifle, .45-caliber, magazines, and ammunition,” he said.

Lt. Col. Siegfried Felipe Awichen, 2IB commander, attributed the development to the collaborative efforts of the security sector, the government, and the public's commitment to wipe out communist terrorism in the province.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Henry Robinson Jr., Joint Task Force Bicolandia and 9ID commander, congratulated the surrenderers for starting the year right by abandoning the useless cause of the CTG.

"Masbate has been a stronghold of the CTG for so long a time, but since the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach, the number of CTG members and supporters returning to the folds of the law from this province skyrocketed and it continues to snowball. It only means that all our efforts towards sustainable peace and development are already bearing fruits. We thanked these two surrenderers for setting a good example to the remaining communist terrorists who, in the coming days and months, will also follow their footsteps. Bagong taon, bagong buhay. Ito ang naghihintay sa kanilang dalawa at sa mga benipisyong nakatakda nilang matanggap mula sa gobyerno, wala silang pagsisisihan sa kanilang desisyon (New year, new life. These are the things that are waiting for them and the benefits they will receive from the government, they will never regret said decisions),” Robinson said.

Last year, a total of 111 CTG members and supporters surrendered in Masbate and publicly denounced communist terrorism in the province.

PMA confirms clustering of Covid-19 cases after mass testing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): PMA confirms clustering of Covid-19 cases after mass testing (By Liza Agoot)

Philippine Military Academy cadets (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAGUIO CITY – The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Monday confirmed the clustering of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases among assigned soldiers and cadets in the country's premier military institution.

Major Cherryl Tindog, chief of the PMA Public Affairs Office, announced this in an official statement released to the media on Monday afternoon. “It is with deep concern that the Academy confirms the positive Covid-19 cases among the cadets and its military and civilian personnel,” she said.

The cases were known following the conduct of mass testing which was initiated to assure the safety of the cadets.

“After the Command's initiative for mass RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction) testing with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard, a number of cadets, civilian human resource (manongs) and organic military personnel were identified to have contracted the virus. These cases were properly reported and coordinated with the health officials of the City of Baguio,” Tindog said.

The academy ordered a lockdown of its facilities, prohibiting the public from entering the premises and containing cadet activities in a bubble. All major activities like the annual alumni homecoming, the graduation of cadets, reception of plebes, as well as recognition ceremonies were confined to “online events” to prevent contact with the public.

Tindog also said that since March 2020, the academy has been doing rapid test on cadets and personnel but opted to do a PCR test just to assure, considering that it had been months since the pandemic started.

She said the academy administration is implementing a strict policy, preventing the cadets’ contact to avoid the possibility of getting the infection, but were not spared.

“Though the Cadet Corps of the AFP has been isolated as one bubble from the outside world by canceling contact activities and employing online mode of instructions, still there is no foolproof system,” she said.

One way or another, a leak to the bubble can occur from day-to-day activities of the whole community, thus the need for mass testing, she added.

Tindog assured the public as well as the parents of the cadets that the academy is taking care of those infected.

For several days during the holiday season, the city government has been releasing a daily record of cases with confirmed patients’ addresses being “Fort Del Pilar”, the location of PMA but no details have been obtained.

On Monday morning, Mayor Benjamin Magalong urged the media to get authorized statements from the PMA.

Tindog said the patients are being treated, the contacts were traced and isolated, and the further spread is contained, in coordination with concerned government agencies.

She said the patients are asymptomatic and “poses no greater danger to cadet's health”.

“There are a number of them who have also recovered,” Tindog added.

Aside from the tests, the Academy has conducted immediate isolation of positive cases, lockdown, contact tracing, quarantine of general contacts, and disinfection of affected areas, based on safety and health protocol for Covid-19 of PMA and the DOH.

“The mass testing is part of the PMA's effort to eradicate Covid-19 within the Cadet Corps and the whole of the Academy, and we shall continue to do so,” Tindog said.

Military ops result in mass surrender by Reds in Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): Military ops result in mass surrender by Reds in Iloilo (By Perla Lena) 

SUCCESSFUL OPERATIONS. NTF ELCAC consultant former cadre Eric Almendras and Spokesperson of PCOO, Usec. Lorraine Marie T. Badoy (first and second from left, second row) share inputs during a press conference Monday (Jan. 4, 2021) following successful military operations against members of the CPP-NPA in Iloilo and Capiz towns last Dec. 30. The operations resulted in the death of nine rebels and arrest of 16 others. (PNA photo by Perla G. Lena)

An influx of surrenderers was noted in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo after the legitimate operations conducted by the Police Regional Office in Western Visayas (PRO6) and supported by the Philippine Army at the end of last year.

The operations were conducted
to serve 28 search warrants to members of the New People’s Army (NPA) for illegal possession of firearms and explosives on Dec. 30, 2020.

In a press conference Monday, Col. Orlando Edralin, deputy brigade commander of the 301st Brigade of the Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), said an additional 127 residents of the two municipalities turned themselves in to authorities.

He added that the surrenderers themselves volunteered to clear their names and identify those who are supporting the communist terrorist group (CTG).

“The positive effect is that development will surely come because the people themselves have accepted that they were wrong in supporting the CPP-NPA,” Edralin said during the conference held at the Madia-as Hall of the Camp Martin Delgado, this city.

He urged active NPAs and their supporters to come out in the open and return to the fold the law.

Once the surrenderers are validated under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integrated Program (E-CLIP), they could avail of remuneration for their firearms and livelihood support.

The validation is still ongoing and so far, 84 have already been profiled.

The Dec. 30 operations by PRO6 and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) with the support of the Army resulted in the death of nine and arrest of 16 members of the Milisyang Bayan of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA in two barangays of Calinog and seven villages in Tapaz.

Three others, however, are at-large. They were identified as Allan Caspillo of Lahug and Abelardo C. Diaz from Nayawan, all in Tapaz and Fortunato Legario of Garangan, Calinog.

Among those who died were three barangay council members of Barangay Lahug in Tapaz namely Roy Giganto alias Allan, Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre.

Others who died were Rolando Caspillo Sr., Maurito Diaz Sr., both from Barangay Tacayan; Eliseo Gayas Jr. from Aglinab; Artilito Katipunan from Acuña; and Jomar Vidal from Daan Sur, all in Tapaz town.

Of the arrested, six were from Calinog and the rest came from Tapaz.

PRO6 deputy regional director for operations Col. Ross Alvarado, in his presentation, also said that one of the arrested, Marivic Aguirre from Lahug, a former chairwoman of Tumandok Inc., an open organization of the CPP, is safe and being taken care of, in contrast to a report of the that she is missing.

“We would want to correct the news being propagated by that said person is missing after the operation. She is in Tapaz Municipal Police Station now, safe and well. So please stop misinforming people and stop spreading fake news,” he said.

As of December 31, cases have been filed for violation or Republic Act (RA) 9516 or the Illegal Possession of Explosives Act and Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

Alvarado said that 47 firearms, 307 ammunitions, and 38 explosives confiscated were presented as evidence during the filing of the case.

A case for violation of RA 10591 has yet to be filed against Alan Castillo, one of the three at-large suspects.

Meanwhile, Eric J. Almendras also known as Jeffrey Celis, affirmed that the area, particularly Barangay Lahug, where the warrants were served was rebel-infested.

Celis represented the group of Sambayanan (Sentro Alyansa ng Mamayan Para sa Bayan), composed of former cadre and operatives of the CPP-NPA during the press conference.

PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy, spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), lauded the successful military operations.

“I’d like to congratulate the PNP for having done this, for having accomplished this for this is ground breaking. As Eric says our condolences to the family but there are consequences when you joined the communist terrorist group CPP-NPA NDF,” she said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has provided psychosocial counseling first aid to the families and children affected by the operations in partnership with the local MSWDO of Tapaz.

The department also prepositioned 132 standby food packs and 66 hygiene kits ready for dispatch upon request of the LGU.

The families of the nine casualties will be provided burial assistance worth PHP25,000 each, according to Delia Bagolcol, assistant regional director for operations of DSWD-Western Visayas.

PSG ready to face consequences of getting Covid-19 vaccines

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): PSG ready to face consequences of getting Covid-19 vaccines (By Azer Parrocha)

Malacañang is confident that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel will be ready to face the consequences of receiving a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine which has yet to get approval from local regulators.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that if close-in security personnel are willing to die to protect President Rodrigo Duterte, they are also willing to face possible consequences and even penalties for their actions.

“Kung sila’y handa mamatay para sa Presidente, handa sila kung ano ipapataw na parusa (If they’re ready to die for the President, they’re ready to face whatever penalties),” he said in a virtual presser on Monday.

Roque, a lawyer, said he does not see anything wrong with the PSG’s decision to get inoculated with the vaccine as it was necessary to ensure the President’s health and safety.

“Yes, I don’t think it was a mistake to protect the President. If there’s whatever accountabilities issue, sasagutin po ‘yan ng PSG. Gaya ng sinabi ko, e kung kamatayan nga tatanggapin nila ano naman yang mga ibang parusa na puwede ipataw sa kanila (the PSG will answer them. Like I said, if they are willing to face death, what is having to face penalties)? Let’s leave it at that. Kung may kaso (If there are cases), let the cases be filed and let them proceed,” he added.

He said Duterte would even want to honor PSG personnel who agreed to be given vaccine shots to prevent him from getting infected with the virus.

“Nagbibigay pugay po ang Presidente sa ginawa ng PSG. Sinugal po nila ang kanilang buhay para bigyan ng proteksyon at ating Presidente (The President is paying tribute to the actions of the PSG. They risked their lives to protect the President),” he said.

Roque said everyone, besides Duterte’s critics, would agree that the President should be protected from all forms of threat including Covid-19.

“Iisa lang naman po ang Presidente ng Pilipinas. Siguro naman walang Pilipino, well, siyempre may mga kalaban ang Presidente who are wishing otherwise, pero tingin ko naman po lahat ng natatakot sa Panginoon, hindi naman nagnanais na magkasakit ang ating Presidente (There’s only one President of the Philippines. Perhaps there’s no Filipino, of course the President has enemies who are wishing otherwise, but I think everyone who fears God would not wish the President ill),” he said.

Stop politicking

Roque appealed to members of the opposition, including Vice President Leni Robredo, to stop playing politics and using the issue to show that the Duterte administration is seemingly covering up misdeeds.

“Haharap pa po sila sa mga imbestigasyon. Siyempre po, wala po tayong tinatago VP Leni Robredo. Kaya nga po nagkakaroon po ng mga imbestigasyon ngayon ang [National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Food and Drug Administration]. (They will face investigations. Of course, they’re not hiding anything, VP Leni Robredo. That’s why there will be investigations at the NBI, DOJ, and FDA),” he said.

He also sought for mutual respect from the Senate which will convene as a committee of the whole to open its own investigation and summon PSG Commander, Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, to explain how the vaccine doses were procured.

“Hindi ko po maintindihan kung bakit panghihimasukan ng Senado, ang co-equal branch of government, ang seguridad ng ating Presidente e gayung hindi naman pinaghihimasukan ng Presidente ang seguridad ng Senado. Siguro po (I don’t understand why the Senate is interfering with a co-equal branch of government, in matters concerning the security of the President when the President is not interfering with the security of the Senate. I hope there is), mutual respect for co-equal branches of government,” he said.

Roque also reiterated that no public funds were spent in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines for PSG personnel. Last week, he said they were given to them as a “token”, but could not identify where the vaccines came from.

“Kung gusto po nila sabihin, sasabihin nila. Pero ng importante po, pinrotektahan ang Presidente (They’ll say where they got it from if they want to. But what’s important is they’re protecting the President),” he said.

He also insisted that the PSG’s actions did not violate Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009 since there was no sale and distribution of vaccines that took place.

Several agencies including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs (BOC), NBI, and FDA earlier announced that they will conduct separate probes into the inoculation of PSG personnel with a Covid-19 vaccine not yet authorized by the FDA.

The PSG’s vaccination drew flak for allegedly violating the law and undermining more vulnerable sectors, particularly healthcare workers.

155 NPA rebels killed in PNP ops in 2020

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): 155 NPA rebels killed in PNP ops in 2020 (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

KILLED IN ENCOUNTER. Two New People’s Army members die in an encounter with government forces under the Army's 29th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Baleguian, Jabonga, Agusan del Norte on Dec. 2020. Government authorities killed an estimated 155 NPA rebels in 2020. (Photo courtesy of 29IB)

Aside from the military, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has also dealt a serious blow to the communist terrorist groups (CTGs) through operations that resulted in the death of an estimated 155 New People's Army (NPA) members and arrest of 433 others in 2020.

This was revealed by PNP directorate for operations chief, Major Gen. Alfred Corpuz, in press briefing at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday.

He said 155 NPA members killed during PNP operations last year were much higher than the 15 deaths recorded in 2019.

Corpuz also said the 433 arrested NPA rebels are far greater than the 28 arrests logged in 2019.

The PNP said the NPA surrenderers have also significantly increased from 405 in 2019 to 3,155 last year.

Meanwhile, the number of confiscated or surrendered NPA firearms dropped from 1,699 in 2019 to only 897 in 2020.

Corpuz also reported 202 NPA-initiated violent incidents in 2020 that are lower compared to 231 posted in 2019.

He added that in 2020, the communist terrorists were able to conduct 113 offensives against government forces compared to 128 in 2019.

In the 113 offensives launched against government forces last year, the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), killed 22 government security troops compared to the 40 recorded in 2019.

NPA’s extortion activities decreased from 35 in 2019 to 23 last year while mass actions reduced from 678 to 538. (with reports from Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)

DOJ panel to indict 9 Jolo cops for killing 4 soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4, 2021): DOJ panel to indict 9 Jolo cops for killing 4 soldiers (By Benjamin Pulta)

MURDER. The nine police officers charged by the National Bureau of Investigation for shooting to death four Army intelligence officers in Jolo, Sulu last June take their oath during the Senate investigation looking into the incident on Aug. 19, 2020. A panel of prosecutors of the Department of Justice have found probable cause to charge them for four counts of murder and planting of evidence. (Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB)

A panel of prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) have found probable cause to charge nine policemen in the killing of four Army intelligence officers on June 29 last year for four counts of murder and planting of evidence and that they be held without bail.

In a statement on Monday, Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said his office recommended the murder charges against Senior Master Sgt. Abdelzhimar Padjiri; Master Sgt. Hanie Baddiri; Staff Sgt. Iskandar Susulan; Staff Sgt. Ernisar Sappal; Cpl. Sulki Andaki; Pat. Moh. Nur Pasani; Staff Sgt. Almudzrin Hadjaruddin; Pat. Alkajal Mandangan; and Pat. Rajiv Putalan.

"The killing was attended/qualified by treachery. The victims were unarmed, unsuspecting and were not in a position to defend themselves when they were shot. The autopsy and post-mortem examination results reveal that the victims succumbed to the multiple gunshot wounds inflicted at the back of the bodies," Malcontento said.

The report of the panel noted that a firearm was placed and planted near the left hand of Army Maj. Marvin A. Indammog, who was right-handed. He also yielded negative for gun powder nitrates.

"The foregoing indicates that respondents planted the firearm to cover up for the intentional killing of the victims," it said.

Immediate officers of the policemen namely, Col. Michael Bayawan Jr., Maj. Walter Annayo, and Capt. Ariel J. Corcino would be held administratively liable in separate proceedings by the appropriate government agency, the report said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, for his part, directed to pursue the case to be filed with the Jolo, Sulu court as soon as possible.

"I have directed Prosecutor General Malcontento to immediately release the resolution, file the criminal information in court, and secure the warrants ASAP. I understand that the accused police officers have been dismissed from the service, so the court should immediately obtain jurisdiction over their person, lest they be able to flee," Guevarra said.

Aside from 39-year-old Indamong, also killed in the Jolo shooting incident were Army Capt. Irwin B. Managuelod, 33; Sgt. Jaime M. Velasco, 38; and Cpl. Abdal Asula, 33.

The four soldiers were conducting intelligence and monitoring operations against two suspected suicide bombers when gunned down by the nine Jolo police officers.

The NBI Western Mindanao filed the charges against the police officers.