Tuesday, February 2, 2021

ASG surrenderers rise to 21 as 1 more yields in Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): ASG surrenderers rise to 21 as 1 more yields in Zambo City (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The number of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) surrenderers within the Western Mindanao Command’s (Westmincom) area of operations since last month climbed to 21 as another ASG bandit yielded to military authorities, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Westmincom, said Serhan Nieva Saliddin, a native of Indanan, Sulu, surrendered Monday to the Joint Task Force Zamboanga (JTFZ).

Saliddin, who lay low for more than three years, yielded an M-14 rifle when he surrendered to the JTFZ headed by Col. Antonio John Divinagracia.

Divinagracia said Saliddin decided to surrender “because he wants to clear his name and his being linked to the notorious group.”

“Through a negotiation with our intelligence personnel, he is now done being a lawless element and is ready to be reintegrated into the mainstream society,” Divinagracia said.

Vinluan said Saliddin was a follower of Sulu-based ASG leader Mujer Yada and has served as one of the guards of four kidnap victims consisting of two Canadians, a Norwegian, and a Filipina.

The ASG bandits kidnapped Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marites Flor on Sept. 21, 2015 at Oceanview Resort in the Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte.

The ASG killed the two Canadians for failure to pay the ransom while Flor and Sekkingstad were freed separately in 2016.

For fear of his safety, Saliddin said he decided to lie low and started moving from one place to another, after which he traveled to Sabah in January 2019 where he worked construction worker.

He then moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he was imprisoned due to illegal entry and was among the Filipino deportees sent back to this city in October last year due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Alaric Avelino Delos Santos, Westmincom Civil-Military Operations chief, said Saliddin would be enrolled in the government's reintegration and rehabilitation program.

“We hope that more of our misled brothers will follow his footstep,” delos Santos added.

Lt. Col. Haywein Salvado of the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) said Saliddin has no pending case and is free to be reintegrated into mainstream society.


Young NPA surrenderer becoming driver-mechanic

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): Young NPA surrenderer becoming driver-mechanic (By Liza Agoot)

CHANGE IN LIFESTYLE. “Carlo” (right), a 26-year old former rebel of the New People’s Army, and a woman who is a former Militia ng Bayan member, receive their checks from the government in the last week of January 2021. Carlo said he will use the money he got to start a business using the skill he is now honing with the help of the government through a scholarship. Carlo is finishing a driver-mechanic course through alternative learning system provided by the government. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Spending eight years of his young life in the mountains always on the run from government military forces, a young New People’s Army (NPA) fighter decided to go home and change his life for the better while there is enough time.

“I am taking up ALS (alternative learning system) to learn to become a driver mechanic,” said “Carlo” (not his real name), 26, who joined the NPA when he was 18 years old.

He said he tried to take the government’s offer to people like him, an NPA rebel fighter, in exchange for laying down his firearm.

Carlo said he first learned of the program of the government when he heard his comrades at the mountains talking about it.

In ilocano, he said, “they said the government is doing something to deceive (us)”.

While he had second thoughts and was afraid, he decided to take his chance and avail of the government program despite the claims that it was just a deception.

“I surrendered while I’m still young and I still have time to fix my life unlike the others who grow old in the mountains hiding and always running away,” he said in the vernacular.

He added that it was worth the try considering the many years of hardship without a future to look forward to.

For coming out and returning to the fold of the law in 2020, he received an initial PHP15,000 from the government.

Last week, he received a check for the firearm remuneration worth PHP86,000 and livelihood assistance of PHP50,000, which is aside from the scholarship grant provided by the government that will prepare him for his livelihood activity.

Carlo said he intends to use the money he received to start a business related to the course he is taking.

“I am taking ALS and I want to finish it because looking at my age, I think I have wasted so much and, hopefully this will give me a good life,” he said in the dialect.

Life in the mountains

In the Ilocano dialect, he described his life for eight years in the mountains with the NPAs as “not easy, tiring, sleepless nights”.

He said he regretted joining because there was nothing good achieved and it was “overly tiring”.

“I was young and enthusiastic, I was just enjoying and I did not know what was in store for me but I was always with them when I was at the province and in the city, I went with them. I was recruited in Baguio,” Carlo said in the dialect.

Carlo urged the youth like him not to be deceived into joining the communist movement.

“Listen to my story and I am telling you, it is difficult to go there (referring to his being a former NPA),” he said.

When Carlo received the check from Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas, he was with a woman, a former Militia ng Bayan who also opted to return to the fold of the law. The woman also received a firearm remuneration.


CPP-NPA in Northern, Central Luzon on brink of collapse: Nolcom

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): CPP-NPA in Northern, Central Luzon on brink of collapse: Nolcom (By Zorayda Tecson)

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac – A total of 87 former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) rebels from Northern and Central Luzon returned to the fold of the law and yielded some 16 assorted firearms in the first month of this year.

Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos, chief of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), said on Monday the surrenders were "manifestations that the terrorist group is nearing its end".

“The communist terrorists in Northern and Central Luzon are now on the brink of irreversible collapse. We have achieved decisive advantage against them, as manifested by the increasing number of surrenders from their ranks and the increasing number of their key personalities neutralized,” Burgos said in a statement.

The new surrenderers are in addition to the 396 former rebels who returned to mainstream society last year and yielded a total of 96 firearms.

The 87 former rebels who surrendered in January this year are currently processing their enrollment requirements to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), Burgos said.

Out of the 396 former rebels who surrendered last year and enrolled in ECLIP, he said that 222 already received livelihood aid amounting to a total of PHP15.9 million while the remaining 174 former rebels are now awaiting the release of their grants.

“We are right on schedule in our timeline to decimate the communist terrorists in northern and central Luzon. We will continue to perform our mandated tasks in order to ensure the safety and security of our people and sustain the democratic way of life in this part of the country,” Burgos said.

He attributed these accomplishments to the military's active partnership with the community and the different government line agencies.

“Our active partnership and concerted actions in addressing issues in the community have proven to be too much against the false promises and deception of the communist terrorists,” Burgos said.


Samar town sets ultimatum for rebels to surrender

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): Samar town sets ultimatum for rebels to surrender (By Roel Amazona)

ULTIMATUM. Matuguinao, Samar Mayor Aran Boller in this undated photo. Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and their supporters in the town of Matuguinao, Samar are given until February 15 to surrender to the government or face charges, Boller said on Monday (Feb. 1, 2021). (PNA file photo)

Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and their supporters in the town of Matuguinao, Samar are given until February 15 to surrender to the government or face charges.

This was the ultimatum set by Mayor Aran Boller and Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion commanding officer Lt. Col. Jasper Justito Pecson in a meeting with officials from the town’s 20 villages on Jan. 29.

“We are trying all we can to end the insurgency problem in my town if possible this year or maybe next year,” Boller said in an interview on Monday. “If they do not surrender before February 15, we will look for evidence to file charges against them.”

He added that they can use those who have already surrendered as witnesses in filing charges against NPA members and supporters, including community officials.

Those refusing to yield to the government will face charges for violating the Anti-Terrorism Act by collaborating with the communist terrorist group, according to the mayor.

“We need to end this problem for us to have peace. If there is peace, there is development. We cannot achieve development for as long as there are NPA, especially in our far-flung villages,” Boller told reporters.

“If we continue to fear this terrorist group they will continue to fool us. When will we have freedom from fear? Our government's only desire is to help its people,” he added.

Aside from facing charges in court, individuals who will fail to surrender before Feb. 15 may be declared as persona non-grata by their respective villages.

Since the intensified campaign to end-local insurgency problem in the municipality, members, and supporters of the communist group have been surrendering to the government, the town mayor said.

Matuguinao is very important to the communist group because it is strategically located in the tri-boundary of the three provinces of Samar Island, according to Pecson.

Villages that are still influenced by rebels are Del Rosario, Ligaya, Carolina, San Roque, Inubob, Rizal, Mahayag. These communities are near the boundary of Northern Samar and Eastern Samar provinces.

Some officials from those areas are no longer living in their respective villages but staying at the town center for fear of their safety.

“Once these villages are cleared, they will be identified as beneficiaries of the retooled community support program (RCSP), a whole-of-nation approach, that seeks to address the identified issues of the community by bridging the governance and development gaps, and providing the community their needs, and ensuring that development is sustained and peace is promoted,” Pecson said.

Matuguinao is a fifth-class town in Samar province with a population of 7,288 people. The town is 105 kilometers from Tacloban City, the regional capital.

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


9 former rebels enroll in 10-month ALS program

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): 9 former rebels enroll in 10-month ALS program (By Mary Judaline Partlow)  February 2, 2021, 2:19 pm

ALTERNATIVE LEARNING SYSTEM. Nine former members of the New People's Army are currently enrolled in the Alternative Learning System program of the government at a Philippine Army camp in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. The enrollees surrendered on separate dates and occasions to the military last year. (Photo courtesy of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army)

Nine former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) are enrolled in a 10-month Alternative Learning System (ALS) program at Camp Tirambulo in Barangay McKinley, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.

The nine former NPA members, comprised of two females from Negros Oriental and seven males from Negros Occidental, surrendered on separate occasions and different dates last year, said Capt. Raymond Jamisal, the Civil-Military Operations officer of the 62nd Infantry Battalion (62IB) of the Philippine Army based in Guihulngan City in a phone interview on Monday.

Jamisal said the ALS program is a joint endeavor of the 62IB, the 3rd Infantry Division, and the Department of Education (DepEd) in Guihulngan City, to provide alternative access to education to those who cannot afford formal education.

He said the former rebels consider the program a huge help in finding better opportunities.

“The enrollees will have to pass the ALS accreditation and equivalency test for them to qualify for a higher level of education and any job opportunities,” Jamisal said.

Launched last Jan. 25, the ALS for surrendered rebels is one of the programs of the Guihulngan City Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (GCTF-ELCAC) and Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Guihulngan is one of the priority areas in Negros Oriental for the ELCAC under the whole-of-nation approach of President Rodrigo Duterte to end the insurgency and attain sustainable and inclusive peace.


NICA-12 moves to counter NPA recruitment in schools

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): NICA-12 moves to counter NPA recruitment in schools (By Richelyn Gubalani)

Eduardo Marquez, director of the Intelligence Coordinating Agency-Region 12 (PNA GenSan file photo)

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) has stepped up efforts to counter the recruitment activities of communist terrorist groups led by the New People’s Army (NPA) in various colleges and universities in Region 12 (Soccsksargen).

This, as the agency confirmed that it has validated recruitment activities by the NPA and its allied organizations targeting college or university students, including those coming from the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus here.

The university was earlier included in the list of colleges and universities in the country where the NPA’s recruitment activities have reportedly persisted.

Eduardo Marquez, NICA-Region 12 director, said Tuesday these activities were confirmed by former NPA rebels who were captured or have surrendered in the region these past years.

He said among the top recruits from the university was Noel Legaspi alias “Ka Efren,” who rose to become the spokesperson and deputy secretary of the NPA-Far South Mindanao Revolutionary Committee.

Legaspi, who surrendered to authorities along with his wife in January 2018, was already in his senior year as a Political Science student when he decided to join the NPA, he said.

“There was another recruit (from the same university) who later became a professor,” Marquez said in a radio interview.

But the official clarified that it does not mean that MSU or any other college or university in the region have become hotbeds or breeding grounds of the NPA.

He said the recruitment activities were clearly not sanctioned or consented to by the university and any of its officials and personnel.

The NPA and its allied groups took advantage of the situation in the campuses and specifically targeted to recruit the students, he said.

Marquez, who chairs the security awareness and knowledge management cluster of the Soccsksargen Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said they are giving this information to make the people aware of such scenarios.

NICA-12 and other members of the task force have expanded their awareness campaigns in the region in the last two years to counter the NPA’s recruitment activities among the youth and students, he said.

He added that they will expand this year their information and education campaigns against these activities as well as continue organizing the youths and students in local communities to become peace advocates.


ASG mid-level leader killed in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): ASG mid-level leader killed in Zamboanga City (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ZAMBOANGA CITY--A mid-level leader of the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was killed in a law enforcement operation early Tuesday in this southern port city, a top police official said.

Brig. Gen. Ronaldo Genaro Ylagan, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, said that Arrasid Adjing Halissam alias Guru Ara was killed in a law enforcement operation around 3 a.m. Tuesday in Barangay San Roque here.

Armed with a .45 caliber pistol, Ylagan said Halissam opened fire as he tried to escape, prompting the approaching authorities to return fire that killed the ASG leader.

Halissan yielded a .45 caliber pistol with ammunition, a grenade, and components of an improvised explosive device (IED).

Ylagan said the law enforcement operation was launched following the reported plan of Sulu-based ASG sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan to conduct attacks in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) areas.

Halissam was a trusted associate of the slain “emir of all Islamic State forces in the Philippines” Isnilon Hapilon as both pledged allegiance to the ISIS in 2014, the police official said.

Halissam was also the facilitator of late Malaysian international terrorist Zulkipli Bin Hir alias Marwan, he said, adding that the slain suspect was a member of the ASG-Zamboanga cell ASG and was involved in various kidnapping and bombings incidents.

He said the suspect was recently monitored in this city, facilitating the recruitment of new members of Dawlah Islamiya (DI) and acting as financial conduits of DI and ASG.


Cop shot dead in NegOr town

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): Cop shot dead in NegOr town (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

Investigators are looking into the motive behind the shooting-to-death of a police officer in Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

A report from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) on Tuesday said Master Sgt. Jeseden Amorganda Carriaga, 54, of Barangay Interior Cabugan, Bindoy, Negros Oriental, was shot by two gunmen riding a motorcycle on Monday in Barangay Lumbangan, Mabinay.

Initial investigation showed that Carriaga was at the house of village councilor Tobias Villarejo for a settlement/agreement with Ronie Cabaron, who was allegedly indebted to him when the suspects fired at him as he was about to leave on board his motorcycle.

He was shot several times and was declared dead on arrival at the Mabinay Community Hospital.

Police investigators recovered from the crime scene five fired cartridges of a caliber .45 pistol.


20 more aircraft eyed to beef up PNP’s air fleet

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): 20 more aircraft eyed to beef up PNP’s air fleet (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

PNP PIO photo

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is eyeing the purchase of 20 fixed and rotary wing assets to beef up its rescue and transport capabilities.

In an interview Monday, PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas said once the aircraft acquisition program is completed, the police force's air fleet will consist of 18 helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft.

The PNP currently has seven active and operational helicopters in its inventory.

"We are now training our pilots. Meron kaming 10 pilots na mag ga-graduate at hinihintay lang natin 'yung training sa Airbus kapag matapos 'yun. Supposed to be mag-umpisa 'yung training ng Jan. 15 (We have 10 pilots about to graduate but we're still waiting for them to finish the Airbus training which was supposed to start on Jan. 15). However, because of the lockdown, the new strain ng Covid-19, ang mga ito ay galing sa Singapore so na-arrange na kung puwede first week of March ulit (These [aircraft] are from Singapore so we arranged if we can have the training on the first week of March)," Sinas said.

Earlier, the PNP had acquired three additional multi-role helicopters to boost its operational capability against insurgency and terrorism.

Over the weekend, the Special Action Force-Air Unit has received the three brand new Airbus H-125 single-engine turbine helicopters from Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia Pte Ltd. at the Manila Domestic Airport in Pasay City.

Sinas said the PNP fleet now has seven H-125 Airbus, two R-22 Robinson police helicopters, and a fixed-wing trainer aircraft, all stationed in Metro Manila.

The PNP is eyeing the deployment of two helicopters each in Central Visayas and Southern Mindanao and one in Northern Luzon, Sinas said. It has included an air ambulance to its shopping list of programmed procurements.


Lorenzana says military takeover unlikely in PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): Lorenzana says military takeover unlikely in PH (By Priam Nepomuceno) 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo)

A coup or a military takeover, similar to neighboring Myanmar's case, is unlikely to happen in the Philippines, as President Rodrigo Duterte has the security sector behind him, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

"(That) will never happen," Lorenzana said on Monday. "The military and police are happy with PRRD. He has our full support."

Lorenzana also cited Duterte's consistently high approval ratings as shown in surveys.

"PRRD enjoys (a) very high approval rating (91 percent last quarter 2020)," Lorenzana said.

Early on the morning of Feb. 1, Myanmar's army toppled the Southeast Asian country's elected government and arrested its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar’s military declared a one-year state of emergency, transferring power to military leader Min Aung Hlaing and new acting president Myint Swe, a former general, and vice president.

This, after Suu Kyi and other top politicians were detained by the military after allegations of irregularities and fraud in Myanmar’s multiparty general elections in November 2020.


ASG sub-leader killed in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2, 2021): ASG sub-leader killed in Zamboanga City (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

PNP chief, Gen. Debold Sinas (File photo)

Another sub-leader of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was killed during a police operation in Zamboanga City on Tuesday.

Citing reports from PNP-Intelligence Group (IG) acting director Col. Warren De Leon, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, said police operatives s
erved a warrant of arrest to Arrasid Adjing Halissam alias "Guru Ara" for illegal possession of firearms and explosives around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

The suspect attempted to evade arrest and fired upon the arresting officers who fired back.

“The full might of the law will not rest until the community is safe from atrocities and terroristic acts of the ASG,” Sinas said in a statement.

The operation was initiated in relation to the alleged retaliation plan of the Sulu-based ASG under sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan to spread atrocities in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi areas.

De Leon said Guru, a member of Dawlah Islamiyah, was listed in the 2018 Periodic Status Report (PSR) on Local Terrorist Groups and was previously identified under the Ajijul Group or the Zamboanga cell of ASG.

The Periodic Status Report revealed that suspect is the trusted man of slain international terrorist, ISIS-ASG Leader Isnilon Hapilon and facilitator of the late Malaysian international terrorist Zulkipli Kipli Bin Hir alias "Marwan".

“In 2014, the late Isnilon Hapilon together with Guru Ara pledged their allegiance to the ISIS wherein Hapilon was later on pronounced as the "Emir" (leader) of Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines. However, after the death of Hapilon in 2017 in Marawi City, the slain suspect moved to Sulu and merged with the group of Hapilon's successor, the late DI-ASG Leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan," De Leon said.

Guru Ara was also involved in various atrocities that include the kidnapping and beheading of Doroteo Gonzales in 2009; kidnapping of Kevin Lunsmann, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann and Romnick Jakaria in July 2011; kidnapping of Warren Richard Rodwell in December 2011; kidnapping of two Chinese nationals Yuan Lin Kai and Jian Luo in Poblacion, Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay on June 4, 2012; and kidnapping of Sabrina Ikbala-Voon on February 19, 2014 in Barangay Mercedes, Zamboanga City.

The slain suspect was also involved in the Bus Terminal Bombing in Guiwan, Zamboanga City on Jan. 23, 2015 that resulted in the death of two persons and wounding of 52 others as well as the kidnapping of Nwi Seong Hong, a Korean national on January 2015 in R.T. Lim, Zamboanga Sibugay.

While Guru Ara was in Sulu in 2017, he was involved in different atrocities perpetrated by ASG particularly with the group of Sawadjaan.

He was involved in facilitating the Indonesian suicide bombers in Sulu together with other Foreign Terrorist Fighters that led to the Jolo Cathedral suicide bombing on Jan. 27, 2019 which killed more or less 20 people and wounding of 105 individuals including members of the security forces and innocent civilians; suicide bombing attacks in a military detachment on June 28, 2019 in Indanan, Sulu that killed three soldiers and wounding of three civilians; suicide bombing attack in military detachment on September 2019 in Indanan, Sulu that caused damage of the detachment’s perimeter fence; twin bombing in town plaza near Jolo Cathedral, Jolo, Sulu on Aug. 24, 2020 that killed more or less 14 people and wounding of 75 others; and other atrocities in Sulu that caused the death of numerous members of security forces and civilians.

In 2017, Guru Ara was among the ASG leaders who initiated and planned the terror attack in Bohol.

However, the ASG members who were tasked to execute the plan led by the late Abu sub-leader Muammar Askali alias "Abu Rami" were killed in Inabanga, Bohol after they were intercepted by the security forces that also resulted in the death of some security forces and civilians.

In the early years of Guru Ara with the ASG, he was involved in the kidnapping of six Jehovah’s Witness members and their Muslim guides in Sulu on Aug. 20, 2002 wherein two of the kidnapped victims were beheaded while other victims were rescued by the security forces in Sulu.

Recently, the slain suspect was monitored in Zamboanga City facilitating the recruitment of new members of Dawlah Islamiya and believed to be involved in financing terrorism who acted as financial conduits of ASG.

Recovered during the conduct of search were one .45-caliber pistol, chamber loaded with inserted magazine, one hand grenade, and improvised explosive device.