Monday, May 17, 2021

WESTMINCOM: Collaborated efforts peacefully dismantle unregistered MNLF camp in Tawi-Tawi

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 17, 2021): Collaborated efforts peacefully dismantle unregistered MNLF camp in Tawi-Tawi

Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City – May 17, 2021
Local government officials and security forces in the province of Tawi-Tawi paecefully dismantled an unregistered MNLF encampment in Tawi-Tawi on May 16, 2021.

“Establishment of unregistered camps of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is strictly prohibited so the troops of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi in coordination with local government of Tawi-Tawi and the Barangay officials of Barangay Duhol Bato, Mapun, Tawi-Tawi proceeded to Sitio Mount Leran, the area where the unregistered camp is situated, and conducted a dialogue with the inhabitants of the said camp,” said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

The said dialogue resulted in the voluntary dismantling of the unregistered camp by the MNLF personnel led by Mr. Akip Damli. The group also voluntarily removed their signage and MNLF flags in the vicinity.
“The negotiating team reminded the peace-inclined group that they are not allowed to hoist their flag and establish a camp in the area as this is not recognized by the military and the local government,” Lt. Gen. Vinluan, Jr. added.

The group was further reminded to avoid doing things that might violate the peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MNLF.
It can be recalled that Mapun residents previously reported that the group of Damli Akip was conducting extortion activities in the area. However, through a dialogue with said group and coordination with BLGU, said illicit activities were stopped.
“Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi is in full support of the peace initiatives of the government towards peace-inclined groups. So far, this is the third MNLF that was dismantled in Tawi-Tawi through the efforts of local government units and the security forces,” said Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, Commander of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi.

“That is the beauty of good governance and the active participation of the locals. Small problems are easily and peacefully resolved through the interagency collaboration and cooperation,” Brig. Gen. Rojas added.

The first camp situated in Barangay Lakit-Lakit, Bongao was dismantled in March 2021 through the efforts of the military and Tawi-Tawi Governor Yshmael Sali while the second camp in Saluag, Sitangkai was dismantled last month (April).

“We ensure that the peace agreement between the government and the MNLF is implemented in accordance with the Implementing Guidelines, Rules, and Regulations (IGRR). We will continue to implement and support government programs here in Tawi-Tawi. More importantly, I thank the support of the local government of Tawi-Tawi and the communities in sustaining the peace,” Brig. Gen. Rojas concluded.

2 Ilonggo ‘terrorists’ alive, active in Panay – 3ID

From Panay News (May 17, 2021): 2 Ilonggo ‘terrorists’ alive, active in Panay – 3ID (By Ruby Silubrico)

Representative photo. AFP

Two Ilonggos – Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala and Tomas Dominado Jr. – who were included in the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) list of individuals it tagged as “terrorists” are just somewhere in Panay Island and every active in the communist insurgency movement, according to the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID).

The two are the key regional leaders running the affairs of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Panay
, said Major Cenon Pancito III, 3ID spokesperson.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“Tracts and traces suggest that they are in the area, but we are ready to divulge how our tracker members is consolidating information for their whereabouts, but at least we have leads in pursuing them,” Pancito added.

The ATC said Bocala and Dominado were affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which the government has classified a terrorist organization.

Pancito said the 3ID formed tracking teams to hunt them down.

“It is clear that their minds are working to bring this government down and advance their outdated communism ideas. The long arms of the law will eventually catch them. We have captured Bocala before, we can definitely catch them again, given their limited support. Now the people’s will to end insurgency is louder than ever,” Pancito said.
He added: “We subscribe to the Anti-Terror Council for the need to identify who our enemies are. It is the natural for anybody that before we address the problem, we should identify who and what is our problem. Their association to the CPP-NPA may have come late but at least for now we can say that our vision is clearer now.”

Bocala is a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) while Dominado is an activist.

In Resolution No. 17 (2021) released recently, the ATC lumped Bocala and Dominado alongside CPP founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison and wife Julieta Sison and 15 others alleged officials and members of the CPP.

The ATC branded them “terrorists” for allegedly “planning, preparing, facilitating, conspiring, and inciting the commission of terrorism and recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization or a group organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.”

1 soldier hurt in Miag-ao encounter

From Panay News (May 17, 2021): 1 soldier hurt in Miag-ao encounter (By Ruby Silubrico)

A soldier was wounded during an encounter with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Alimodias, Miag-ao, Iloilo over the weekend.

A staff sergeant assigned at the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) sustained wounds to the body caused by the shrapnel. An anti-personnel landmine exploded while he and his companions were checking the hideout of the rebels.

The victim was recuperating at a hospital here and now in stable condition.

According to 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) spokesperson, Major Cenon Pancito III, the encounter happened around 9:46 a.m. when personnel of 61IB received reports on the presence of the armed group.

Upon reaching the area, an encounter transpired between the Army and personnel of Suyak (SDG) Platoon, Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay under Joven Ceralvo, alias Lex.

The firefight lasted for 30 minutes.

Ceralvo was tagged as the one who sexually molested a 15-year-old female surrenderer.

“We have an augmentation force sent to area for the manhunt operation,” Pancito said.

On the other hand, 61IB commander Colonel Joel Benedict Batara said more troops were deployed in the area to continue scouring for enemy casualties and war material that they may have been left behind.

“With the help of the populace to end the local armed conflict, the communist terrorist group has nowhere to hide. Our troops can track and find them wherever they are. We will not stop denying their presence in the communities much more allow them to sow fear and terror to the peace-loving Panayanons,” Batara stressed.

Landmine blast at NPA camp in Iloilo wounds soldier

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17, 2021): Landmine blast at NPA camp in Iloilo wounds soldier (By Tara Yap)

A government soldier has been wounded after a landmine exploded during an encounter at a temporary encampment of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Miag-ao town, Iloilo province over the weekend.

The soldier of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61 IB) sustained multiple wounds when government troops encountered the NPA in Alimodias village.

Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, 61IB commanding officer, said the soldier is now in stable condition and is recuperating at a medical facility.

Batara said that government troops encountered around 30 NPA rebels belonging to NPA’s Southern Front Committee under the leadership of Joven Ceralvo.

A 30-minute firefight ensued between the government troops and the NPA rebels until they withdrew in different directions.

Meanwhile, Batara sent in more troops to find possible remaining NPA rebels in the area.

“With the help of the populace to end the local armed conflict, the communist terrorist group has nowhere to hide. Our troops can track and find them wherever they are. We will not stop denying their presence in the communities much more allow them to sow fear and terror to the peace-loving people,” Batara added.

Jardeleza tells SC: Dismiss pleas vs anti-terrorism law due to petitioners' lack of legal standing

From the Philippine Star (May 17, 2021): Jardeleza tells SC: Dismiss pleas vs anti-terrorism law due to petitioners' lack of legal standing (Kristine Joy Patag)

Retired Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, tapped expert to help the Supreme Court to resolve anti-terrorism law petitions, told the tribunal that the legal challenges against the law due to petitioners’ lack of legal standing.

But retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, also an amicus curiae (friend of court) in the case at bar, said the SC must resolve the petitions based on merit and not be dismissed based on technical grounds — but he opined that the petitioners failed “discharge” their duty in mounting a facial challenge against the law.

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The SC appointed Puno and Jardeleza as amici curiae in the 37 consolidated petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. As experts, they will help the SC dispose of the issues raised before it.

Puno and Jardeleza delivered the statements on Monday, as the SC wrapped up its oral arguments.

Legal standing

The petitioners’ lack of legal standing has been one of the issues raised for the dismissal of the pleadings against the anti-terrorism law. They mounted a facial challenge against the law, arguing that the ATA infringes on freedom of expression and creates a chilling effect on the public.

Jardeleza, in his brief, cited the case of Aeta farmers Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos who are charged with ATA violation. Their petition in intervention was later junked as the SC noted the ongoing trial case against them.

He also noted that the Office of the Solicitor General also cited two other pending cases of ATA, and the recent designation of the Anti-Terrorism Council of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as terrorist organization.

“As for the matters of record, save for the petitions of Gurung and Ramos, and possibly of the three others in the Negros Occidental case, none of the petitioners in these cases has claimed direct, personal or constitutional injury, or has alleged actual prosecution under the ATA as to be entitled to relief,” he said.

RELATED: Lawyers: Terrorist designation gives petitioner legal standing to question ATA

Citing Southern Hemisphere v. the Anti-Terrorism Council, Jardeleza moved that all the 37 petitions be dismissed. “This is of course, without prejudice, to continuation of all other cases cited by the [solicitor general],” he added.

Jardeleza added that the claims of Gurung and Ramos of torture must be tried, under the doctrine of hierarchy of courts and following the rules of evidence before the trial courts. “Petitioners cannot short-circuit this process by simply invoking the ‘transcendental or paramount’ importance of their case,” he also said.

READ: Leonen quizzes petitioners on running immediately to SC to assail anti-terrorism law


But for Puno, the petitioners have legal standing as he noted that they are challenging the law “because on its face, it infringes freedom of speech due to its vagueness and overbreadth.”

“A law that is vague and overly broad is considered as an immense evil and destructive of fundamental rights in a democratic regime, it ought to be struck down at the earliest opportunity by anyone in the body politic,” he stressed.

Puno moved to the SC that the petitions at bar be resolved on the merit and not dismissed outright based on technical grounds.

The retired chief justice noted that facial challenges on ground of the law’s overbreadth are difficult to mount since petitioners would have to prove that there can be no instance where the law is valid.

In the case against the anti-terrorism law, the petitioners “failed to discharge this heavy burden,” Puno said.

“With due respect to the petitioners, I respectfully submit that their valiant efforts fall short to justify striking down the whole Anti-Terror Law as unconstitutional on its face on the ground of vagueness or overbreadth,” he added.

But Puno noted that there can be subsequent challenges that may be filed against the law, on an applied basis.

Jardeleza also noted the same. Although said the petitions must be dismissed, he acknowledged that petitioners raised “very important” issues against the law, stressing that the ATA “implicates liberties dear to all of us.”

But he pointed out that there is “an absolute dearth of facts in the case record, as of the moment, to support a ruling against the ATA, at this time.”

RELATED: Anti-terrorism law debates weigh state interest vs freedom of expression

Constitutional concerns on ATA sections

Puno however pointed out “other areas of constitutional concern” on the ATA. This includes sections on designation, proscription, arrest without judicial warrants and on surveillance.

On designation, Puno raised concern on the Philippines’ automatic adoption of UN Security Council’s list of terrorists, stating that the criteria used by the international body may change from time to time and may be demanded by different legal landscapes in member-countries.

Puno also raised apprehension on the Anti-Terrorism Council’s designation of terrorists, as he noted that “the finding of probable cause may lack sufficient evidentiary basis.”

He continued: “The disconcerting question is whether there is a meaningful remedy on the part of person or organization designated by ATC as a terrorist when its finding of probable cause rest on erroneous ground.”

Puno also noted that there seems to be no remedies on Section 29 of the law that allows prolonged period of detention without judicial warrant under written orders by the ATC.

The retired chief justice added that the resolution of the petitions against the anti-terrorism law will “lead to the adjustment of the existing balance between the rights of an individual against the right of the state to safeguard the security of our people.”

In open court, Puno stressed: “The balance should not reduce individual rights into insignificance, for they are inherent to human dignity. Neither should the balance out an end to the security of the people for they did not enter into a ‘suicide pact’ when they ratified the Constitution. The ideal is for us to be both free and safe.”

Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo wrapped up the oral arguments on Monday. Parties are given 30 days to file their respective memoranda.

Defense department red-tags UP, PUP in House hearing

From Rappler (May 17, 2021): Defense department red-tags UP, PUP in House hearing (By RAMBO TALABONG)

Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago condemns a defense official for red-tagging the state-run University of the Philippines and Polytechnic University of the Philippines

The Department of National Defense (DND) red-tagged the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) once more on Monday, May 17, during a House committee on higher education hearing that tackled the UP-DND accord.

During the hearing, DND's chief of legal affairs lawyer Norman Daanoy named UP campuses and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) as recruitment grounds for the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

"Several students who were killed and captured as CPP-NPA came from UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños, UP extension program in Pampanga, UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, UP Cebu, UP Tacloban, and PUP Santa Mesa," Daanoy said.

"The evidence of [killed] and captured [students]... cannot be denied," Daanoy said.


[PODCAST] KRIMINAL: Living with a red tag in the Philippines

UP and PUP are universities known to have robust activist communities after decades of repression and harassment. Many of their students led movements protesting the government.

Through his phone's camera, Daanoy then showed lawmakers a concealed list of students who were killed or captured, and who surrendered after joining the CPP-NPA from attending university.

Daanoy said he would disclose the names based on instructions of DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The committee's chairman, Baguio City Representative Mark Go, told him to make sure to ask for Lorenzana's nod before sharing any confidential information in the public hearing.

Meanwhile, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago condemned Daanoy for his statement red-tagging UP and PUP.

Elago also flagged the list as dangerous, as students have been red-tagged based on questionable lists that the government claimed to have pieced together through intelligence. (

LISTEN: [PODCAST] KRIMINAL: How government intelligence works)

"Those statements are not helping in giving assurance and safety for students and teachers," Elago said.

Terror law orals end: SC asks Te to explain tweets, skips Esperon and TRO

From Rappler (May 17, 2021): Terror law orals end: SC asks Te to explain tweets, skips Esperon and TRO (By LIAN BUAN)

Petitioners had asked the Court to reprimand Calida and expunge Esperon's testimony from the records because of red-tagging

After nine days of sessions in the course of 4 months, petitioners are not bringing home an injunction against the anti-terror law, but instead a show cause order against one of their own.

"The court also resolved that a show cause order be issued to Attorney Ted Te for his statement post-hearing last time which was posted in the social media," Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said at the beginning of the short session on the 9th and final day of oral arguments on Monday, May 17.

A show cause order will require Te, who is both a counsel and petitioner, to explain his tweets and essentially argue why he should not be cited in contempt of court. There is a gag order by the Supreme Court prohibiting involved lawyers from discussing the case.

Te had tweeted after Day 8 on May 12 how "ironic" it was for the High Tribunal to allow National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr to red-tag progressive groups in open court, when in the same hearing, the justices asked whether the situation in the country was reminiscent of McCarthyism.

That period in American history in the 50s was characterized by a communist witch hunt spearheaded by American senator Joseph McCarthy.

Te deleted the tweets a while after, recognizing the gag.

Te's sentiments were later reflected in a joint motion officially filed before the Supreme Court on May 14, asking Esperon's testimony to be stricken off the records, and for him to no longer to be called back. Petitioners got one of those.

Esperon was supposed to be further interpellated by the Court on Monday, but Gesmundo said "the Court also decided not to continue the interpellation of Secretary Esperon based on the compliance they submitted earlier."

Rappler learned that the compliance being referred to included Esperon's additional videos and additional claims against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

On the request to expunge Esperon's May 14 testimony, Gesmundo said the Court has ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to comment.


LIVE UPDATES: Supreme Court oral arguments on anti-terror law


The Supreme Court also merely required the OSG to comment on a May 12 motion by the petitioner group of Gabriela, which had wanted to reprimand Solicitor General Jose Calida for red-tagging.

In his opening statement to the Supreme Court on Day 5 last April 27, Calida red-tagged progressive groups Gabriela and Bayan Muna, and lawyer Neri Colmenares.

"[Gabriela] strongly denounces the assailed statement made by the Solicitor General and humbly moves that the Honorable Court reprimands the Solicitor General or any one acting for and on his behalf for red-tagging and/or terrorist-tagging Petitioners and Counsel," said the motion submitted on May 12.

These were the actions taken during a special en banc held on Monday, short of the action that petitioners had been waiting for, for 10 months already – resolve the requests for an injunction or a temporary restraining order (TRO).

Although resolving the prayers for TRO sounded like an urgent matter for the Supreme Court during Day 3 on February 16, the refiled requests were consequently stuck in Calida's repeated motions for extension.

Another unresolved matter for the petitioners is Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr, spokesperson of the notorious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), who had threatened on Facebook not only petitioners, but also a journalist covering the case.

The OSG had explained that Parlade's Facebook posts were done in his personal capacity, although Associate Justice Amy Lazaro Javier had asked during Day 7: "Is this spokesperson allowed to voice his personal opinion on matters specifically relating to national security?"

The OSG deferred to Esperon, but it was a question that they never got to ask in open court.

"There are specific questions that members of the court would like the respondent Secretary Esperon to respond, and the court will issue a resolution to that effect, incorporating the specific questions addressed to Secretary Esperon, which would be incorporated in the respondent's memorandum," said Gesmundo.

While Parlade is not a respondent in the petitions, an earlier manifestation by the group of retired senior justice Antonio Carpio pointed out that the lieutenant general "reports to the respondents in these consolidated cases," meaning, Esperon and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The 37 groups of petitioners were given 30 days to submit their final position papers, which the Court had limited to only 6, as the petitioners had already been clustered into 6 topics. After the memoranda are submitted, the case is deemed submitted for decision.

The feared law has been in effect for 10 months now. Two Aetas have been charged, jailed and put on trial for terrorism, and 19 people – including a recently freed peace consultant – have been designated terrorists under one of the law's most contentious arbitrary powers.

IP kids' parents aggrieved parties in trafficking case: RTF-ELCAC

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17, 2021): IP kids' parents aggrieved parties in trafficking case: RTF-ELCAC (By Perla Lena)

Prosecutor Flosemer Chris Gonzales, spokesperson for the Regional Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Western Visayas. (PNA file photo)

Groups that are critical of the rescue of indigenous peoples (IP) minors in Cebu by an inter-agency task group last Feb. 15 hide the truth that parents of the children were present during the anti-human trafficking operation and were in fact the private complainants and aggrieved parties in the case, the Regional Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Western Visayas said Monday.

Prosecutor Flosemer Chris Gonzales, spokesperson for the RTF-ELCAC-6 (Western Visayas), reiterating his statement issued on Feb. 17, said that institutions where the children were rescued should “have undertaken measures to check, verify, confirm, and validate if the minor ‘delegates’ were allowed by their parents to join the ‘delegation’.

“Any assumption to this effect is beyond ordinary oversight; it is reckless, irresponsible, and will definitely warrant the fact that these institutions will have a lot of explaining to do as to why there are trafficked children on their premises and facilities,” he said in a press statement.

He added that the undeniable fact is that the primary goal of the operation was to “reunite the children with their parents”.

“Those who say that the rescued children were saved from conflict in Mindanao are those who have not spoken to the parents of the rescued children. The fact remains that these children were taken away from their parents,” Gonzales said.

The government, he said, has succeeded and those who think otherwise are “either dumb or dimwits”.

He said the trafficked children could be allowed to speak after they undergo the needed psycho-social intervention.

The children, he added, should not be used against their parents.

“The indigenous families must be allowed to be reunited, and nothing must get in between. The only opinion that matters now is the indigenous mothers and fathers whose children were just returned to them,” Gonzales said.

CPP-NPA as root cause of the problem

Gonzales said the real cause of the problem is the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) because without the communist terrorist group, Mindanao would be almost like paradise, as would the rest of the country.

“Those who say that the indigenous peoples are victims of oppression and injustice, We agree. Indigenous children are being forcibly recruited by the CPP-NPA to be child warriors. This is real injustice. This is real oppression,” he said.

Denounce CPP-NPA

Gonzales also challenged the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and the rest of organizations questioning the rescue operations in the “context of the enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws” to condemn the CPP-NPA and their pseudo legal fronts for the atrocities that they have committed against the IPs of Mindanao.

Likewise, he urged them to denounce the recruitment of IP children by the CPP-NPA and turning them into child warriors.

“If you cannot, and if you will not, you simply lost that moral high ground,” he said.

Gonzales added that there could be a need for such groups to rethink their values and convictions if they condemn the reunification of parents with their children but could not do the same for the exploitation and oppression of the indigenous children by the CPP-NPA.

“This is the best time to contemplate the consequences of your action,” he added.

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

Babaeng umano’y miyembro ng NPA, arestado sa Davao del Sur

From ABS-CBN (May 17, 2021): Babaeng umano’y miyembro ng NPA, arestado sa Davao del Sur

Timbog sa ipinatupad na search warrant Lunes ng madaling araw ng Santa Cruz Police, Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office, at iba pang unit ng Philippine National Police at Armed Force of the Philippines ang isang babae na miyembro umano ng New People's Army (NPA) sa Sitio Luceba, Barangay Zone 1, Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Kinilala ng mga awtoridad ang inaresto na si Celia Corcuera alyas Madam Cherry, na target sa search warrant na pinalabas ni Digos City Regional Trial Court branch 19 executive judge Carmelita Davin.

Nasamsam mula kay Corcuera ang ang isang .38 caliber revolver at mga bala, dalawang bandila ng National Democratic Front (NDF), isang bandila ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan o New People's Army (NPA), at ilan pang gamit.

Nasa kustodiya ngayon ng Santa Cruz PNP si Corcuera at inihahanda ang kasong haharapin nito.

Dinala rin sa PNP Crime Laboratory sa Digos City ang mga narekober na gamit, kabilang na ang armas para sa ballistic examination.

5 NPA rebels surrender in Cagayan

From the Manila Times (May 18, 2021): 5 NPA rebels surrender in Cagayan (By Leander C. Domingo)

FIVE members of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the police in Sto. Niño town, Cagayan province as a result of the PNP’s Lingkod Bayanihan Project, police regional office 2 (PRO2) said on Sunday.

For security reasons, the PRO2
only identified the surrenderers as Jun, 36 years old; Jong, 40; Sendong, 29; Lino, 23 and Kiko, 38, all known in the sub-village of Lagum in Barangay (village) Lipatan as ordinary farmers.

In a tactical interrogation conducted by the police, Jun admitted that he joined the NPA in 2011 after eight days of combat training.

Jong also joined the NPA in 2011 after he was issued a firearm. His initial assignment was to gather intelligence information for the NPA as he was not able to undergo training for health reasons.

Read: Explosives recovered in Isabela

In 2004, Kiko joined the NPA as a courier who procures supplies for the rebels in Piat town and joined in 2011 as a member of the Anakpawis led by Isabela Adviento.

In 2001, Sendong said he was recruited by NPA commander Alias Loroy while commander Reybi recruited Lino as chairman of the Kabataang Makabayan in Lagum.

Sendong and Lino said they were actively involved in teaching the “Pamulat na Aral sa Masa.”

The five surrenderers remained under the custody of the Sto. Niño police for the second round of tactical interrogation.

SC drops Esperon’s testimony

From the Manila Standard (May 18, 2021): SC drops Esperon’s testimony

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to discontinue the testimony of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon after he earlier linked several groups with the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army during last week’s oral argument on the 37 petitions challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

During the last day of the oral arguments on the petitions against anti-terrorism law, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said the high court would instead issue a resolution detailing the specific questions that the justices would like Esperon to answer.

According to the top magistrate, Esperon’s response to the questions would have to be incorporated in the memorandum that would be submitted by the Office of the Solicitor within 30 days upon issuance of the resolution.

The tribunal made the decision following the filing of a motion by several petitioners seeking to expunge the testimony of Esperon and to delete from its records of the controversial videos that Esperon presented to the justices during oral arguments last Wednesday.

“With regards (sic) to motion to expunge testimony, video presentation and annotations of respondent Hermogenes Esperon… the Court resolves to require respondent to comment,” Gesmundo ordered.

“The Court also decided not to continue the interpellation of Secretary Esperon based on the compliance that they have submitted earlier,” the top magistrate said.

On the other hand, Gesmundo said the SC agreed to issue a show cause order to Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer and one of the counsel-petitioners Theodore Te for his statement posted in social media castigating the Court for allowing Esperon to red-tag several groups in open session last week.

During the court proceedings, Esperon played a two-minute video of self-exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison wherein the latter can be heard mentioning the names of 18 organizations whom the latter called "allied organizations ."

He also played a 1987 video of Sison supposedly naming the legal organizations in the supposed National Democratic Revolution.

Esperon disclosed that about 75 organizations such as the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Anakbayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Gabriela and several others were present in a meeting presided by Sison in Hongkong in 2020.

These groups are part of the so-called International League of People’s Struggles which meets every year, Esperon said.

In its motion, the petitioners argued that Esperon should not have been allowed to testify since the SC is not a “trier of facts.”

In doing so, the petitioners said the Court provided Esperon the opportunity to openly red-tagged progressive groups, which is one the main issues raised in the petitions.

Meanwhile, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and former SC Associate Justice and ex-Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, gave contrasting opinions on the issues raised against the ATA.

Both Puno and Jardeleza were designated by the Court as amici curiae (friends of the court) to give their impartial and expert opinion on the matter.

In his position paper submitted to the Court, Puno called on the SC to strike a balance between the protection of rights guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution and national security in resolving the 37 petitions seeking to declare the ATA of 2021 as unconstitutional.

“Your Honors, we are to seek the right balance between individual liberty and national security. This is not a case of all or nothing matter but a matter of more or less,” Puno told the SC magistrates.

“The balance should not reduce individual rights into insignificance for they are inherent to human dignity. Neither should the balance put an end to the security of the people for they did not enter into a ‘suicide pact’ when they ratified the Constitution. The ideal is for us to be both free and safe,” Puno stressed.

The retired Chief Justice admitted that there were provisions in the ATA that he considered as a matter of “constitutional concern,” particularly in the process of designation of terrorists.

The retired Chief Justice also raised the possibility of violation of existing rights of arrested persons with the implementation of Section29 of the ATC which authorizes in writing law enforcers to take custody suspected terrorists and detain them for a period of 14 days which can be extended for a maximum of 10 more days depending on several conditions.

For his part, Jardeleza took the position that the petitions against ATA should be dismissed on the grounds of lack of legal standing and that the Court is not a trier of facts.

“While a case for ‘pre-enforcement review’ of a criminal statute is possible, the same is allowed solely on grounds of vagueness. Since none of the petitioners has sought to avail of this exception, I humbly submit that …37 petitions should be dismissed,” Jardeleza stressed.

The former SC magistrate said that cases presenting factual issues, such as the alleged torture of petitioners Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, should be tried first under the doctrine of hierarchy of courts – before the lower court first, then the Court of Appeals.

Guru and Ramos, both Aetas, were charged with non-bailable offenses of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and for violation of the provision of the ATA. before the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City last September.

Gurung and Ramos and two other female Aetas are accused of being members of the communist New People’s Army.

Explosives recovered in Isabela

From the Manila Times (May 18, 2021): Explosives recovered in Isabela (By Jerico J. Kahulugan)

The 98th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army recovered 28 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in four different locations in Sitio Divisoria, Barangay Disulap, San Mariano, Isabela on May 13.

Major General Laurence Mina, 5th Infantry Division Commander of the Philippine Army, said the IEDs were discovered by the troops while conducting security operations in the said areas.

“The recovery of the IEDs of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is a result of a successful Focused Military Operation (FMO) and cooperation between the government troops and the Local Government Unit as well as the local residents against the terrorist CPP- NPA,” he said.

Mina also said the use of IEDs by the terrorist group is a clear violation of the Republic Act (RA) 9851, an Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes under Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, especially on the use of weapons prohibited in warfare such as land mines.

1,506 atrocities in 10 years justify CPP-NPA terror tag

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17, 2021): 1,506 atrocities in 10 years justify CPP-NPA terror tag (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Brig. Gen. Noel Alejandro Nacnac, Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFPCLAC) director (Screengrab from PCOO page)

The sheer number of atrocities committed by communist terrorists from 2010 to 2020 against civilians and military personnel justifies their designation as a terror organization.

"These 1,506 incidents show a nationwide pattern of organized, orchestrated, continuing, deliberate and systematic scheme perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs) which justifies their designation as a terrorist organization," said Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFPCLOAC) director, Brig. Gen. Noel Alejandro Nacnac, during Monday's "TAGGED: Debunking Lies by telling the truth" online press conference.

Nacnac said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) has recruited and utilized 544 children as "child warriors" during the said period.

Of the 544, Nacnac said 304 of these are male while 240 are female.

Some six of these "child warriors" were reported killed while another 11 were wounded during encounters with security forces.

He added that a total of 25 were reported to have been abused by communist terrorists while 464 have surrendered to authorities.

"These reports (are coming from) from field units, verifiable with names," Nacnac said.

The 464 child surrenderers, he said, could readily testify that they were used as "child warriors".

Nacnac added that Region 11 has logged the most "child warriors" with 141 compared to other regions in the Philippines.

The year 2019 has the highest number of "child warriors" with 119 recorded.

Damaged properties

He added that from 2010 to 2020, the CPP-NPA perpetrated 532 incidents where civilian properties were destroyed.

He said 2017 was the year with the highest communist terrorist attacks against civilian properties as the military recorded 87 incidents.

Region 13, he said, has the highest number of CPP-NPA attacks against civilian properties with 107 recorded.

Communist terrorists were also involved in the 141 incidents involving anti-personnel mines (APM).

Nacnac said this can be broken down into the following: Three incidents for production; 22 for stockpiling; six for transporting; and 110 for actual use.

The number of APM casualties was placed at 224 individuals.

This can be broken down into 32 killed for the military and another 163 wounded for a total of 195 for the AFP.

Also, five civilians killed and 24 wounded for a total of 29 civilian casualties.

Nacnac said 2020 saw 68 incidents involving APMs while Region 8 has the distinction of the area where the CPP-NPA used the anti-personnel mines the most with 25.

Willful killings

In what Nacnac has termed as "willful killings", 373 deaths were attributed to the CPP-NPA and can be broken down into 77 military personnel and 296 civilians.

Nacnac said the year where the CPP-NPA conducted the most "willful killings" was 2019 with 66 incidents.

While Region 13 has the distinction of where the communist terrorists have conducted most of their "willful killings" with 66 in the record.

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

The AFP earlier expressed its support to Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC)'s Resolution Numbers 16 and 17 the designated 29 individuals as terrorists.

"The military organization further conveys its full confidence to the ATC’s decision which was carried out based on verified and validated information," AFP chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement.

He added that the AFP will be able to further protect Filipino citizens from terrorist acts by closely working together with government law enforcement agencies and focusing our resources to bring the mentioned personalities to justice.

"We are optimistic that the ATC’s resolution will continue to empower government, under the rule of law, to eradicate terrorism in our country, and maintain a peaceful and progressive nation for every Filipino," Sobejana added.

NTF-Elcac: Comparing ATC reso to red-tagging waters down gravity of terrorism

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 17, 2021): NTF-Elcac: Comparing ATC reso to red-tagging waters down gravity of terrorism (By: Zacarian Sarao)

(FILE PHOTO) BADOY PRESENTS FORMER REBELS: National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, during the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation hearing on the issue of red-tagging /red-baiting of certain celebrities, personalities, institutions, and organizations Tuesday, November 24, 2020, presents before the panel self-proclaimed former rebels who joined the government’s anti-terrorism campaign. (Henzberg Austria/Senate PRIB)

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) on Monday dismissed comparisons between “red-tagging” and the Anti-Terrorists Council’s (ATC) designation of 29 individuals as “terrorists,” saying that it “waters down” the gravity of terrorism.

“When you say it’s red-tag, winater-down niya eh, ‘yung (it waters down the) gravity of the offense,” newly-appointed spokesperson of the NTF-Elcac and director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Cordillera, Marlon Bosantog, said in a press briefing on Monday.

“We’re talking about terrorism in itself, its boundaries transcends ideologies,” he added.

This came after the ATC identified 19 alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), along with another 10 alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group as “terrorists,” without providing any supporting proof on May 13.

Bosantog explained that designation is different to “red-tagging” because it is “very specific.”

“It does not [just] pertain to ideological perception or being a part of an ideological society, but it’s more of the actions,” said Bosantog.

Bosantog further explained that the designation was done under the premise of due process given that the ATC was passed by Congress, and that the designees have remedies available to them.

“Kahit nga yung decision ng ATC [even the decision of ATC], can actually be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Bosantag said.

“Because the Supreme Court has overarching power when it comes to actions by the executive department. So they can actually review the actions of the ATC,” he added.

Meanwhile, in the same press briefing, NTF-Elcac spokesperson for social media affairs Lorraine Marie Badoy reiterated that there is no such thing as “red-tagging” under the Philippine law.

“In fact red-tagging is an invention of the CPP-NPA-NDF [Communist Part of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front] that they use to silence those who speak the truth about them,” she said.

Badoy’s claim, however, has already been debunked by Rappler’s fact-checking team on January 12, 2021.

According to the online news portal, the term has already been used in journals and newspapers even before the CPP was founded in 1968.

The CPP itself has also already slammed the designation, saying that the resolutions are clear signs that the the Anti-Terrorism Law is being used as an “oppressive weapon used by tyrants to perpetuate their rule.”

US ready to pull troops from Philippines ‘in months’ if no new VFA: expert

Posted to the South China Morning Poste (May 17, 2021): US ready to pull troops from Philippines ‘in months’ if no new VFA: expert (By Raissa Robles)

  • Special forces involved in fighting Islamist terrorists in Mindanao could be pulled out by June if no new Visiting Forces Agreement is signed, US forum told
  • Warning over pact, in question since Rodrigo Duterte’s former police chief was denied a US visa, comes as alliance in South China Sea is called a ‘paper tiger’

US Marines take part in an amphibious landing exercise during US-Philippines war games. Photo: Reuters

Some 400 American soldiers and defence contractors deployed in the southern Philippines could be pulled out within months if Washington and Manila do not sign a new Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by then.

So heard an international conference titled “The Philippines Hedging Between Alliance or Appeasement: Can the Biden Administration Tip the Balance?”

The US was “ready to withdraw” the contingent of soldiers from the Mindanao island group, where they are involved in operations against Islamist extremists and communist rebels, Renato De Castro, an international relations professor at De la Salle University in Manila, told the webinar hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute of Columbia University on Friday.

Asked to elaborate in a one-on-one interview on Sunday, the specialist in Philippines-US security relations said a defence attaché from a Southeast Asian country had told him last week that the Americans would “be withdrawing all troops by June or July if no new agreement comes out”.

Since 2002, in the wake of the World Trade Center suicide bombings the previous year, the
United States has maintained a rotational presence of troops in the Philippines to fight Islamist militants.

Until 2015 the troops had operated under the umbrella of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), consisting of Navy SEALs and special operators drawn from the US marines and army. At one point there were as many as 600 military personnel involved in the task force, but it was disbanded in 2015 and since then the US presence has fallen to around 400 troops who are referred to as military advisers, according to the US Naval Institute.

De Castro said he understood the advisers would not remain under the present scenario in which the VFA needed to be renewed every six months. “It’s creating uncertainty. So they might as well pack their bags and leave,” he said.

De Castro said that if this happened it would compromise government counterterrorism operations against Islamic State-linked groups and communist rebels.

De Castro, a former Asean Research Fellow for the US State Department, said senior police officials had told him US special forces and contractors had provided timely “signal intelligence” against Islamic State (Isis), the Isis-linked Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army communist rebels and that this had helped reduce troop casualties during operations.

Protesters rally against joint US-Philippines antiterrorism military exercises in Manila. File photo


Until 1991 the US Navy and Air Force had maintained two bases in the Philippines, Naval Station Subic Bay and Clark Air Base. Both were damaged by an eruption of Mount Pinatubo in that year and disputes over the costs of rebuilding them coupled with rising Philippine discontent with what were seen as lopsided terms ensued.

The bases were controversial with the Philippine public partly because US servicemen accused of committing crimes were routinely spirited out of the country to escape trial, according to University of the Philippines professor Roland Simbulan. The Philippine Senate – having seen how the US had propped up the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in exchange for continued use of the bases – rejected a requested 10 year extension after the US refused to pay more than US$203 million a year and to allow US troops to be tried locally. Previously, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had offered Marcos US$1 billion for a five-year extension in 1977.

After years of wrangling, the two countries in 1999 signed the VFA, which allowed for the temporary stay of US troops on the condition that crimes committed by them would be tried in Philippine courts while the US would retain custody of the accused until final conviction.

In February last year, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would terminate the VFA after he learned that the US had unilaterally cancelled the US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, his former national police chief, due to his involvement in Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of people and given rise to claims of human rights violations.

The VFA was supposed to have been terminated in August last year, but the Duterte government suspended the cancellation for six months, then suspended its decision once again in February this year.

De Castro said the US under President Joe Biden seemed prepared simply to wait until Duterte’s term ends in July next year and renegotiate a new VFA with the next administration.

Jose Antonio Custodio, a defence analyst and historian, said he had not heard of any imminent plan to pull out US troops.

Philippine and US Marines take part in a beach assault exercise facing the South China Sea in San Antonio, Zambales province, Philippines. Photo: AFP

He said the suggestions may be a type of “psyops”, or psychological operations, on the part of the US to make Duterte come to the table.

But he added that he would not be surprised if the troops were pulled out because the Biden administration had been winding down its military presence in other countries and the Philippines was “one of the longest foreign deployments of the US after Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Custodio agreed with De Castro that the US was likely to wait for the next administration to negotiate a new VFA.

However, Custodio said that even without the VFA, the US was likely to continue patrolling the
South China Sea as what drove its presence there was different to its motivation for being in Mindanao.

“In Mindanao, the more decisive factor in pulling troops out is American taxpayer money, while the presence of US forces in our seas is driven by Chinese presence. The dynamics are different.”

The US troops’ presence in Mindanao was governed by the VFA while the presence of the US Navy in the South China Sea fell under the Philippines-US Mutual Defence Treaty, he said.

A senior Philippine military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said even the total withdrawal of US troops from Mindanao would have “little effect” on counterterrorism operations since “for many years we have seen a reduced presence”.

He conceded that US troops were “a big help in our anti-terrorism operations by providing technical support … but we are slowly standing up on our own when it comes to counterterrorism operations”.

The officer said the Philippines had improved its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and was in possession of equipment that previously it had needed the US to provide.

Women protesters lie in front of a police blockade during a rally outside the US Embassy in Manila, Philippines. The group were calling on the government to immediately stop military exercises between the Philippines and US under the Visiting Forces Agreement. Photo: AP


During the webinar, a Southeast Asia specialist for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the US-Philippine alliance was at best “a paper tiger” in the South China Sea.

Greg Poling, director of the centre’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said the US could not “credibly defend” its allies in the South China Sea at the moment.

Poling explained that an add-on agreement to the VFA called the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, was signed in 2014 but never fully implemented. Aside from allowing the rotational presence of US soldiers, it would have allowed the US to build and operate facilities inside Philippine military bases.

Because this had not been implemented, “there are no American forces closer than Okinawa. You cannot credibly defend Filipino marines stationed on the Sierra Madre from 1,300 nautical miles away on Okinawa”, he said, referring to a World War II era Landing Ship/Tank that the Philippines ran aground at Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed feature of the Spratly Islands. The coral atoll, known in the Philippines as Ayungin Shoal, is also claimed by China and Vietnam.

Poling said, “So unless there is an actual EDCA implementation, a pretty rapid one under the next administration, I worry we are in this dangerous area wherein if China pushes too hard, we’re going to find that the alliance is at the moment a paper tiger, not because of the lack of will on our side but because of the lack of preparation and proper posture. The US is not situated in a way that allows it to defend Filipino forces in the West Philippine Sea.”

The West Philippine Sea is the name the Philippines uses to refer to the eastern parts of the South China Sea that fall within its exclusive economic zone.

Custodio, however, remained confident that a US response to any attack on Philippine troops or ships would be almost immediate because “there is always American presence in the area. There will always be an attack submarine nearby, lurking somewhere”.

MNLF camp dismantled in Tawi-Tawi, residents accuse ex-rebels of extortion

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 17, 2021): MNLF camp dismantled in Tawi-Tawi, residents accuse ex-rebels of extortion

SECURITY FORCES dismantled an illegal camp of former Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF rebels in Mapun town in Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines, officials said.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the camps were all illegal.
“The establishment of unregistered camps of the Moro National Liberation Front is strictly prohibited,” he said.

Vinluan said the camp in the village of Duhol Bato was dismantled Sunday, saying it was not even recognized by the military.

He said
a similar camp in the village of Lakit-lakit in the capital town of Bongao was also dismantled in March and another camp in Saluag village in Sitangkai town in April.

Vinluan said residents of Mapun town also accused the MNLF group of extorting money from them. “Mapun residents previously reported that the MNLF group of Damli Akip was conducting extortion activities in the area. However, through a dialogue with the MNLF group and in coordination with the local government, the illicit activities were stopped,” he said.

It was unknown whether the police or military filed charges of extortion against Akip’s group, but Vinluan said the former rebels were “further reminded to avoid doing things that might violate the peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MNLF.”

MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari did not release any statement on the continuing violations of his followers of the September 1996 peace accord with Manila.

In March, security forces also pre-empted a supposed gathering of MNLF members in Zamboanga City following reports by civilians and village officials in Pamucutan. The former rebels were supposed to gather for the MNLF’s 53rd anniversary celebration.

Hundreds of supporters of Misuari attacked Zamboanga in September 2013 after declaring independence and their failed attempt to raise the (MNLF) Bangsamoro Republik flag at City Hall. Misuari publicly denied involvement in the siege that displaced over 200,000 people and affected the economies of Basilan and Sulu which are dependent on Zamboanga for their trades and goods.

In 2016, Mayor Beng Climaco banned any so-called peace rally or gathering of MNLF members in Zamboanga City. She said such rallies may disturb Zamboanga anew and the destruction wrought by the 2013 siege continues to linger, as internally displaced persons – both Muslims, Christians and Lumads, most of whom are those who eluded the conflicts in Sulu and Basilan – have suffered the brunt of the MNLF attack.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, he became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, Misuari said there was widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

It was the second attack by MNLF in the past decade. In November 2001, hundreds of MNLF members occupied the Cabatangan Complex and held hostage dozens of civilians, including children; and another group also attacked a military base in Sulu province in an effort to stop the elections in the Muslim autonomous region after Misuari was ousted as governor.

More than 100 people were killed in the fighting and in the end, then Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat allowed the attackers to leave Zamboanga in exchange for the hostages.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in 2004. He also ran several times for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost. Now, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to resume the peace process with Misuari and ordered police and military not to arrest the MNLF chieftain. (Mindanao Examiner)

NPA political officer killed in Surigao del Norte clash

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17, 2021): NPA political officer killed in Surigao del Norte clash (By 901st Infantry Brigade, Phil. Army)

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte, May 17 -- A ranking cadre of Guerilla front 16 died in an encounter with the government forces at the vicinity of Sitio Pingaping, Barangay Motorpool, Tubod, Surigao del Norte on May 12.

The encounter ensued between the operating troops of 30th Infantry (Fight On) Battalion (30IB) and
members of SYPC2, GF16 under Alberto Castaneda alias ‘JD’ when the soldiers responded to the report regarding the presence of the said armed group in the area.

The said firefight lasted for about 25 minutes and resulted to the death of Christopher John Trugelio alias ‘Krokis/Ajet,’ a political instructor of SYP16C2, Guerilla Front 16 and a resident of KM 10 Purok Rosal, Barangay Quezon, Surigao City.

Seized from the encounter site were one 9mm pistol, one improvised explosive, four Baofeng VHF radios, assorted ammunition and magazines, personal belongings, hammocks and subversive documents. No casualty was reported on the government side while pursuit operation is still ongoing.

According to Lt. Col. Charles Ryan G. Callanta, commanding officer of 30IB, they immediately launched the operation when they received the information regarding the whereabouts of the CTG.

“We are determined to go after the said group because we want to ensure the safety and security of communities within the vicinity. The initial information revealed that the said group may possibly conduct atrocity in the said area,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brigader General George L Banzon, commander of 901st Infantry (Fight’Em) Brigade, expressed gratitude to the local residents who gave their full trust and untiringly support the soldiers by giving timely information that led to the successful operation.

“As we always say, the information coming from the localities are very vital. The outcome in the recent encounter clearly manifests that our soldier can promptly act on the arising situation if the community will give their utmost cooperation. Our main objective is to prevent this armed group from entering the community and disrupting the lives of the people,” he said.

On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Banzon expressed his condolences to the family of the dead NPA rebel. He said that another life had gone to waste because of a senseless armed struggle being waged by the CPP-NPA-NDF. He further said that the use of violence in resolving societal issues will never be an option.

“The use of violence will never resolve our problems and it will just make things complicated. The recent encounter that led to the untimely demise of another NPA may serve as a wake-up call for those CTG members who are still blinded by the wrong ideology,” he said.

He likewise gave assurance that the operating troops will continue to be relentless in conducting security operations so that the communities will be safeguarded from the threat of the CTG who capitalizes violence to pursue their agenda. (901st Infantry Brigade, Phil. Army/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

Honoring rites for AFP chief held in NegOr

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17, 2021): Honoring rites for AFP chief held in NegOr (By Roi Lomotan)

DUMAGUETE CITY, May 17 (PIA) -- In recognition of his achievements in the military and as tribute for bringing pride and honor to Negros Oriental, the provincial government gave a plaque of commendation to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.

Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and his wife, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, presented the plaque of commendation to Sobejana in a ceremony held on May 14, 2021 at the Provincial Convention Center here.

Sobejana was accompanied by his wife, Edna, in receiving the award.

Also present in the ceremony was his mother, Eustaquia Elola-Arado and some relatives.


(L-R) Philippine Army 302nd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Leonardo Peña, Edna Iturriaga-Sobejana, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, and Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo pose for a photo during the ceremony held May 14, 2021 at the Provincial Convention Center, Dumaguete City. (ral/PIA7-NegOr)

Earlier that day, the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army held arrival honors for the commanding general at the Capitol Forecourt.

In compliance to the protocols prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) on mass gatherings in areas under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), the program was reduced to the actual awarding, delivery of few speeches, and short photo opportunities.

In his speech, Degamo highlighted how the AFP chief is worthy of admiration.

“His story as a boy with humble beginnings from Zamboanguita who rose to become a professional soldier, a competent military leader is truly worthy of our highest recognition and commendation,” Degamo said.

“General Sobejana was a favored son of Negros Oriental, as tuck in his belt the many firsts in military service: the first and only NegOrense soldier who received the highest military honor - the medal of valor, the first Philippine Army commanding general from Negros Oriental, and the first chief of staff of the AFP coming from this province,” Degamo added.

The governor also noted that the young people in the province can get inspiration from the general in achieving excellence in their studies and in embodying dedication, commitment to their aspirations, patriotism, and respect for human rights.

Meanwhile, Sobejana thanked the Provincial Government and the people of Negros Oriental for the said commendation.

This is the second time the provincial government gave recognition to Sobejana.

In 2012, he was given the Most Outstanding NegOrense Award in the field of Public Service.

“Thank you for choosing me as a Negrense awardee — an award of recognition that I will never forget and in fact, it will further motivate me to do more for our country and our people,” Sobejana cited in his speech.

He also gave assurance that the public can continue to trust the AFP.

“You can count on the armed forces in Negros Oriental. I am very glad that the AFP is well represented with the able leadership of Col. Leonardo Peña and with the support of the battalion commanders,” Sobejana said.

Peña is the commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army in Negros Oriental.

Sobejana also took the opportunity to re-echo the call for convergence among government agencies in addressing issues related to insurgency.

“I do believe that security is a shared responsibility. Your armed forces alone cannot put an end to the menace of insurgency and terrorism because, as you see it, there are a lot of factors or reasons why we have these security problem. One of those is the economic reason. Second is the injustice. Third, of course, is illiteracy. Fourth is oppression, and a lot of others. These things are not within the purview of the Armed forces,” he said.

“There’s really a need for us to converge our effort so that we can improve to the best,” he added.

Sobejana said he is personally monitoring the peace and order status in Negros Oriental and has instructed the Philippine Army here to converge their efforts and establish a seamless working relationship with the army’s counterparts in the civil government.

He emphasized that true peace and progress can be achieved if there is strong collaboration with all sectors of the society.

Meanwhile, the provincial government also awarded a plaque of commendation to Sobejana's mother in recognition of her efforts and contribution in raising a son that would bring pride to Negros Oriental. (ral/PIA7-NegOr)

Army official assures ELCAC budget will go directly to communities

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17, 2021): Army official assures ELCAC budget will go directly to communities (By Roi Lomotan) 

Philippine Army 302nd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Leonardo Peña (R) assures that the budget for the BDP program of ELCAC will go directly to affected barangays and not to the military. He made the statement during the NOTF ELCAC Serbisyo Caravan in Brgy. Samac, Mabinay on May 12, 2021. (ral/PIA7-NegOr)

MABINAY, Negros Oriental, May 17 (PIA) -- The commander of the Philippine Army (PA) brigade based in Negros Oriental clarified that the funding which the government allocated for the implementation of Barangay Development Programs (BDP) will not go to the country’s armed forces as it will be given directly to communities affected by insurgency.

“Hindi po iyan papasok sa bulsa ng mga militar o kapulisan kundi ‘yan po ay pupunta sa barangay. Talaga po didiretso ‘yan kasi sa DILG dadaan ang pondo pero kung walang permiso ang ating Kongreso ay baka mawala po. Sama-sama po tayo manawagan na hindi sana siya ma-defund (The funds will not go to the pockets of the military or the police. It will be given directly to the barangay since the budget will be lodged at DILG. However, if the Congress will not allow the release of the budget, then the funding allocation will be lost. Let’s be united in making an appeal to the Congress not to defund the program),”
said Col. Leonardo Peña, commander of the PA's 302nd Infantry Brigade (IB) in the province.

Peña made the statement when he addressed the residents of Brgy. Samac during the Negros Oriental Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NOTF ELCAC) Serbisyo Caravan held on May 12.

The Army official was referring to the P20-M budget for BDP which is intended for barangays that have undergone Community Support Program (CSP), a tool for clearing villages from the influence of insurgents.

Residents of Brgy. Samac, Mabinay town receiving free fertilizers from the Provincial Agriculturist Office during the NOTF ELCAC Serbisyo Caravan held May 12, 2021. (ral/PIA7-NegOr)

To date, there are 822 barangays across the nation that are beneficiaries of the said BDP funds with an accumulated amount of P16-B for 2021.

BDP funds can be used for road concreting projects, construction or rehabilitation of health centers, day centers, and other important structures in the barangay, health and COVID-19 programs, rural electrification systems, livelihood programs, and assistance to individuals in crisis whether burial, transportation, medical, education, or cash for work.

Some legislators in the Upper House have called for the defunding of the said program amid the issue of red-tagging in the National Capital Region (NCR) as they push that the funds be realigned to the country’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG-7) Regional Director Leocadio Trovela, in a separate interview, disclosed that there are 87 barangays in Central Visayas, of which 26 are in Negros Oriental, that were included in the second batch of beneficiaries of the BDP program.

Although they are not part of the recipients of the P20 million BDP funding this year, they are expected to receive the same amount of money in 2022.

Peña, together with NOTF ELCAC Chair Gov. Roel Degamo and Mabinay Task Force on ELCAC Chairperson and Mayor Joeterry Uy appealed to government officials at the national level not to defund the BDP program, citing its importance to the community.

“Huwag sanang ma-defund iyong ating BDP. Kasi iyong pondo na ihahatag sa mga barangay na na-clear na ng ating CSP ay halagang P20 million para sa mga infrastructure projects nung mga barangay (Let us not defund the BDP. The P20 million amount will be used for the infrastructure programs in the barangay that we have cleared using CSP),” Peña said..

Degamo said that the country’s legislators should look at what is good for the people.

“Ako hangyoon ang Senado na dili nila i-defund o bawion ang pondo sa ELCAC kay ang ELCAC mao kini motumbok gyud sa tinouruay na kalinaw ug kahusay sa ato probinsiya. This is the way and the only way nga mosalig ang katawhan namo nga nagserbisyo ninyo (I appeal to the Senate not to defund the ELCAC because this is the key to achieving peace and progress in our province. This is the way and the only way to make people trust the public servants),” Degamo emphasized.

On the other hand, Uy also disclosed that some of the important infrastructure projects intended for Brgy. Samac are also up for funding under the ELCAC budget.

“During sa atong Dagyawan, ato gi-promise na manghatag usa ka P1 million na road concreting for implementation this year sa Lower Polog ug inyohang spillway na P800,000 dire sa Sitio Magbalaon. Naa na diha (We promised during the Dagyawan that the government will allocate P1 million for the road concreting in Lower Polog and P800,000 for the construction of spillway in Sitio Magbalaon for this year),” Uy said.

The three officials encouraged the residents of the barangay to show support to the government and the National Task Force (NTF) on ELCAC and join the call to retain the budget for BDP program of the NTF ELCAC.

Meanwhile, NOTF ELCAC brought several government agencies to extend major services to hundreds of residents of Brgy. Samac during the Serbisyo Caravan.

This is one of the major interventions of the task force to make the people feel that the government is ready to serve its constituents in remote communities.

Rice seeds, vegetable seeds, and fertilizers were distributed to farmers in the village.

Degamo together with Provincial Agriculturist Nestor Villaflores and Provincial Veterinarian Jaime Villaluz turned over 20 pieces of native chicks to Samac Captain Dennis Occay, which will be given to livestock raisers in the said barangay.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation also handed over checks to eight farmers as insurance payment for their damaged crops.

On the other hand, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) gave vouchers good for P8,000 worth of sari-sari store items to four beneficiaries of its “Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay” Program in the barangay.

The said assistance is given to sari-sari store owners who were recommended by their barangay chair and have passed the standards of DTI.

Other services extended during the Serbisyo Caravan include medical consultation, free circumcision, provision of medicines, free haircut and beauty services courtesy of the Philippine National Police, civil registration, and consultancy and advisory services from different agencies.

The Department of Science and Technology also distributed nutrition packs to the residents during the event. (ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental)

Firefight takes place between Army, CNTs in Southern Iloilo

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17, 2021): Firefight takes place between Army, CNTs in Southern Iloilo (By Jemin B. Guillermo)

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ILOILO CITY, May 17 (PIA) -- Government troops that was conducting combat operations encountered more or less 30 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) Southern Front at about 9:46 in the morning, May 15, 2021, at Barangay Alimodias, Miagao, Iloilo.

The 30-minute encounter took place between the operating troops of the 61st Infantry (Hunter) Battalion and members of the Suyak (SDG) Platoon, Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay under Joven Ceralvo, @Lex, said 61IB Civil Military Operations Officer Capt. Ferdinand De Vera in a press report.

He said the elements of the 61IB responded to the information given by the residents on suspicious individuals who were believed to be members of terrorist groups.

One soldier obtained multiple wounds due to a blast of an anti-personnel mine placed by the NPA within their temporary lair.

The wounded personnel was brought to a medical facility in Iloilo for treatment and already in stable condition.

More troops were deployed in the area to continue scouring for enemy casualties and war materiel that they may have been left behind by the NPAs.

Also, possible withdrawal routes were monitored as pursuit operations against fleeing NPA fighters were heightened.

Colonel Joel Benedict G. Batara, the 61IB Commanding Officer, in his statement, said "with the help of the populace to end the local armed conflict, the communist terrorist group has nowhere to hide.”

Batara added that “Our troops can track and find them wherever they are. We will not stop denying their presence in the communities much more allow them to sow fear and terror to the peace-loving Panayanons who, for more than five decades, have suffered much from the CPP NPA presence." (PIA6/61IB/Philippine Army)