Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Activists and anti-terror law petitioner cleared in murder case

From Rappler (Jul 21, 2021): Activists and anti-terror law petitioner cleared in murder case (By LIAN BUAN)

A court in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, has cleared five activists and a businessman of murder charges for the killing of an indigenous leader in 2018

A court in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, has cleared five activists and a businessman of murder charges for the killing of an indigenous leader in 2018.

“The case filed against accused Albert Mandin, Lutgardo Jurcales Jr., Jackie Valencia, Agnes Mesina, Reynaldo Gareng and Windel Bolinget is ordered dismissed for lack of probable cause,” said Tagum City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 30 Judge Sharon Rose Saracin in an order dated July 12, but released to media only on Wednesday, July 21.

The murder charge was over the killing of Garito Tiklonay Malibato, a member of IP group Karadyawan, in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on March 22, 2018.

But the Kapalong police filed the complaint only in March 2020. Provincial prosecutors charged the activists in August that year, a month after President Rodrigo Duterte enacted the anti-terror law.

Of the people cleared, five are activists, including Bolinget, who filed a petition against the anti-terror law.

Bolinget is the chairperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, Jurcales is an officer of Bayan national office, Gaming is a peasant leader, Mesina is with Makabayan, while Valencia is with Karapatan. Mandin is a Davao-based businessman.

It was the prosecution itself which asked the court to drop the cases against the six, which the court granted.

As a result of a reinvestigation, provincial prosecutor Norman Solis found merit in the respondent’s evidence that they were somewhere else when Malibato was killed on March 22, 2018.

Mandin was in Davao City, Jurcales was in Quezon City, while Valencia, Mesina, and Gaming were in their homes in Santiago City, Isabela and Tuguegarao City, respectively. Bolignet was in Benguet.

“The said movants satisfactorily presented the requisites laid down by jurisprudence for the defense of alibi to prosper,” said prosecutor Solis in a pleading to the court on May 24.

Red tagging and anti-terror law

Bolinget had been red-tagged by the government, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) even including him among the 656 people that the Duterte government had wanted to declare as terrorists through a proscription case filed in February 2018.

When arrest orders were issued in September 2020, the former director of the Cordillera police, Brigadier General R'win Pagkalinawan, warned of a shoot-to-kill order if he resisted arrest.

Fearing for his safety, Bolinget sought refuge with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office in Baguio.

Bolinget’s case was among incidents that petitioners brought to the Supreme Court to plead for an injunction against the anti-terror law. The Supreme Court did not issue an injunction.

The 37 petitions against the anti-terror law have been submitted for the decision of justices. Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said they hope to have a draft before the year ends.

Army, NPA wage sporadic gun battles in Candoni

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 21, 2021): Army, NPA wage sporadic gun battles in Candoni (BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Sporadic gunbattles between Army soldiers and suspected New People’s Army rebels ensued in Candoni town, Negros Occidental, yesterday.

P/Maj. Junji Liba, Candoni police chief, said the armed skirmishes started at about 5:30 a.m. yesterday, when 15th Infantry Battalion soldiers encountered about 30 armed rebels in Sitio Guinobatan, Brgy. Caningay, Candoni.

Almost four hours later, pursuing Army soldiers again encountered the fleeing armed rebels, who were reported to have been withdrawing towards Brgy. Payauan, Liba said.

Maj. Cenon Pancito, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said they have yet to validate reports that the NPA suffered a casualty, as pursuit operations were still in progress, as of this writing.

Pancito confirmed that two encounters took place between 15IB soldiers and the fleeing rebels.

Liba said they are now conducting checkpoints in possible exit areas of the rebels, in response to reports that some of them were injured.

Several individuals, who initially fled from Sitio Guinobatan for security reasons, have already returned to their homes, after the firefight transferred to other areas, he added.

The Candoni police surmised that the rebels encountered by the 15IB soldiers were the main force of the NPA South West Front.

The neighboring police stations of Candoni have also been alerted to conduct checkpoints, in support to the operations of the 15IB, that is now under the supervision of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, stationed in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

P120-M funds allotted for NPA-cleared Northern Samar villages

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): P120-M funds allotted for NPA-cleared Northern Samar villages (By Sarwell Meniano)

BDP BENEFICIARIES. Residents of Nagoocan village in Catubig, Northern Samar carry relief goods received during a service caravan this February 17, 2021. The village is one of the recipients of the Barangay Development Program this year. (Photo courtesy of DILG Region 8)

The national government has allocated PHP120 million to implement development projects in six villages in Northern Samar identified as cleared from the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

At least 35 projects will kick off in six communities this year as concerned agencies and local officials have started making detailed engineering designs and programs to carry out the Barangay Development Program (BDP), said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Eastern Visayas (Region 8) information officer Myles Colasito on Wednesday.

These projects include PHP31.93 million farm-to-market roads, PHP17.49 million water and sanitation system, PHP18.5 million health stations, PHP24.8 million school buildings, PHP11 million electrification, PHP10.05 million assistance to poor families, and PHP6.22 million agricultural and livelihood training assistance.

Recipients are the villages of Quezon and Calantiao in Catarman; Hitopian, Nagoocan, and Osang villages in Catubig; and San Miguel village in Las Navas town.

“These six barangays have been prioritized this year since they are already certified as cleared from the influence of the NPA. They will see tangible proof of the government’s desire to bring development to far-flung areas,”
Colasito said in a phone interview.

Funds have been released directly by the Department of Budget and Management to recipient local governments upon completion of required documentation.

The BDP is a flagship program of the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict, which was conceptualized to address insurgency by bringing sustainable solutions and basic services to communities in need.

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.

Ex-Reds informed gov't forces of 26 NPA arms caches: Mapagu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Ex-Reds informed gov't forces of 26 NPA arms caches: Mapagu (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL) chair, Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu (File photo)

Information provided by former New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas led to the recovery of arms caches of communist terrorist groups, an official of the Department of National Defense (DND) said.

"Twenty-six arms caches of the NPA (New People's Army) were revealed by former rebels. And these revelations led to the recovery of 144 assault firearms, such as M-60 multi-purpose machine guns, .30 (caliber machine guns), AK-47 rifles, mortars, M-16 rifles, as well as grenade launchers and pistols,"
Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL) chair, Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, said during the "Tagged: Debunking Lies By Telling the Truth" virtual presser on Monday.

This year alone, Mapagu said, disclosures made by former rebels led to the recovery of 15 assorted anti-personnel mines (APMs), including materials for making explosives.

"And these are banned under the international humanitarian law for these explosives do not distinguish between civilians and combatants similar to the death of Kieth Absalon in Masbate just recently," he added.

Mapagu also reported that Task Force Balik Loob has so far received 2,061 firearms from surrendered former rebels and that these weapons would be compensated under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) created by virtue of Administrative Order 10, series of 2018, issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on April 3, 2018.

The money given in exchange for these firearms will serve as additional start-up capital for the livelihood program for rebel returnees.

The E-CLIP is a government program that aims to help reintegrate former rebels back to the community, be with their families, and start over with new and normal lives.

"And as part of assisting former rebels, a total 6,418 individuals, former rebels have been assisted by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) amounting to PHP485,500,000 so far," Mapagu said.

The assistance extended by the DILG to rebel returnees includes PHP15,000 worth of immediate assistance, livelihood assistance worth PHP50,000, reintegration assistance worth PHP21,000, and firearms remuneration, the valuation of which depends on the type and serviceability of the surrendered firearms.

"On the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we have recorded a total of 623 former rebels that have joined the AFP. And this includes 66 former rebels that have already enlisted in the regular force, while 557 were enlisted as part of the CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit). Worth mentioning here is Pfc. or Private First Class Albert Diaz, a former political instructor of the NPA's GF or Guerilla Front 33 operating in Davao de Oro who graduated as the top or the Number One in his Candidate Soldier Course last 2019, and this is from the 10th Infantry Division," Mapagu said.

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

Sobejana commits AFP support to Pag-asa, Kalayaan Islands dev't

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Sobejana commits AFP support to Pag-asa, Kalayaan Islands dev't (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana (File photo)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, has pledged the military's support for the development of Pag-asa Island and the protection of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

In a virtual meeting with Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez on July 19, Sobejana acknowledged the need to turn Pag-asa Island into a “logistics hub” to protect the KIG’s biodiversity and the livelihood of its fishing communities.

“We are glad that we are on the same page in the future of the province of Palawan, that we view it as a strategic and critical national security frontier, particularly in the interests of ecological balance and sustainable development,”
he said in a statement Wednesday.

Sobejana also hailed the initiatives of Palawan’s provincial government to protect the nation’s interest through its proposal to declare the KIG as a protected area under Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.

“We are at a point when we have to stick together as one nation and we are glad that the provincial government of Palawan is already on board,” he said.

The discussion included further development of the Pag-asa Island as a haven for Filipino fishermen, as well as a possible tourist destination.

These measures would require expansion and construction of facilities that are aimed at sustaining an increase in economic activity on the island.

Terror tag to prevent NDF from taking advantage of law: PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Terror tag to prevent NDF from taking advantage of law: PNP (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

PNP chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar (File photo)

The designation of the National Democratic Front (NDF) as a terrorist group will prevent its members from circumventing the law to evade arrest, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Wednesday.

“Napakarami nang mga miyembro at lider ng CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) na ginagawang dahilan ang pagiging umano’y peace talks consultant kapag sila ay naaresto. Sa pagdeklara ng NDF na isang teroristang grupo, mawawalan na ng palusot ang mga taong ito at lalo lang mapapalakas ang ating mga operasyon upang tuluyan ng wakasan ang mga grupong ito na naghahasik ng karahasan sa mga kanayunan (There are already too many CPP-NPA members and leaders who claim that they are peace talks consultants when they are arrested. With the declaration of the NDF as a terrorist group, these people will no longer have an excuse and our operations will be further strengthened to put an end to these groups that are sowing violence in the country),”
said PNP chief, Gen. Gullermo Eleazar in a statement.

Eleazar said the CPP-NPA-NDF is no longer focused on advocating an ideology but rather pushes for armed conflict through threats, intimidation, extortion, and attacks that included civilians as casualties.

He cited the case of college football player Kieth Absalon and his cousin who died in an NPA ambush in Masbate and the death of watchman Eldrin Daraman who was killed when the communist terrorists attacked a construction site in Surigao del Sur.

“Sinuportahan ng PNP ang deklarasyong ito at patuloy na makakaasa ang ating mga kababayan ng agresibong kampanya upang makamit natin ang tunay na kapayapaan at kaunlaran na hinahadlangan ng mga grupong ito (The PNP supports this declaration and our countrymen can continue to count on an aggressive campaign so that we can achieve the real peace and development that these groups are hindering.),” the PNP chief said.

In Resolution No. 21 dated June 23, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) chaired by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea cited the NDF as an integral part of the CPP-NPA.

“Article IX of the 2016 CPP Constitution shows the command, lead and guidance of the CPP over the NPA, while Article X shows that the NDF (a.k.a. NDF of the Philippines) is the core and the most consolidated group that provides support to the armed and organizational expansion of the CPP-NPA,” the resolution read.

The resolution also said the “direct and indispensable role of the NDF in armed operations“ has been repeatedly confirmed by CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, including the latest when he identified the CPP-NPA as allied organizations of the NDF in his message for the NDF’s 48th anniversary in April.

Sison and his wife, Juliet, who is the interim chairperson of the NDF negotiating panel, were previously designated as terrorists, too.

On Monday, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) also issued a freeze order for all assets of the NDF following its designation as a terrorist organization.

The AMLC's freeze order under Resolution No. TF-42 covers property or funds that are owned or controlled by NDF, which is also known as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP); property or funds that are wholly or jointly owned or controlled, directly or indirectly by the terrorist group; property or funds derived or generated from NDF funds; and property or funds of persons and entities acting in behalf of the NDF.

In a related development, Eleazar welcomed reports on the reduction in the number of communist guerilla fronts and the continuous surrender of communist rebels in Southern Mindanao.

According to Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Ernesto Torres, the number of communist armed groups in southern Mindanao has been reduced from 23 to just six.

Data from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) indicated that a total of 18,433 communist rebels have surrendered to the government since 2016, including 92 “child soldiers”.

Eleazar said this could be attributed to the intensified anti-communist insurgency campaign of the Duterte administration.

“Marami na din ang naitatalang mga rebelde na sumuko na sa gobyerno. Napagtanto na ng mga ito na walang kabuluhan ang ideolohiya na itinuro sa kanila at walang saysay ang isinusulong na armadong pakikipaglaban ng CPP-NPA na ang inaatake ay pawang mga tahimik na komunidad at inosenteng sibilyan (Many rebels have been recorded has already surrendered to the government. They have realized that the ideology taught to them is meaningless and that the armed struggle being waged by the CPP-NPA is meaningless that the attackers are all peaceful communities and innocent civilians),” he explained.

Eleazar said this latest development would motivate the police and the military to strive harder in ending the communist insurgency.

He also urged the remaining rebels to lay down their arms, return to the fold of the law, and avail of reintegration and livelihood programs being offered by the government.

“Hindi pa huli ang lahat. Maaari pa kayong magbalik-loob sa gobyerno at magbagong-buhay (It's not too late. You can still surrender to the government and change your life),” Eleazar said.

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

Andanar helps endorse NegOr’s LGU anti-insurgency projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Andanar helps endorse NegOr’s LGU anti-insurgency projects

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar (Contributed photo)

All agencies of the national government are closely working together to ensure that communities can have programs and services that will usher development and peace, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said on Wednesday.

During the Network Briefing News, Andanar offered to help the local government unit (LGU) of Siaton, Negros Oriental in endorsing to the national government its projects dedicated to conflict-afflicted areas.

Siaton Mayor Cezanne Fritz H. Diaz has sought the help of the PCOO chief, noting that some of its barangays have not received any infrastructure programs, such as farm-to-market roads, which make it difficult for farmers there to have decent incomes.

“Nakita ko naman dun yung mga taga-bundok dito they are very hardworking pero kung mag-ani sila ng mga mais nila at magpa-mill, lugi sila kasi sa transportasyon pa lang ng habal-habal, talo na sila. Kasi around 5 hours ang pagbaba nila (I've seen how hardworking people from the hinterlands are, but come harvest time for corn and they mill their produce, they already lose potential income to costly transportation expenses alone. They have to travel 5 hours in motorcycles),” he said.

Diaz also said creating roads leading to far-flung communities would mean more access to transport goods and products from farms.

“Hoping yung mga tao dito kasi for many years, hindi pa nakatikim ng daan na matino. They are using horses. Kaya ‘pag may doktrina yung NPA doon, eh syempre totoo yung sinasabi ng NPA kasi hindi naman umaabot yung gobyerno doon (The people here are hoping because for many years we do not have concrete roads there They are using horses. That is why there is NPA presence there, and they can say that government presence is not felt there),” he added, noting that the LGU is also trying its best to deliver services to its constituents.

Andanar read a text message by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Marlo Iringan responding to the request of Diaz.

“For 2021, walang beneficiary barangay sa Siaton, Negros Oriental. Actually, there are no beneficiary barangays in all of Region 7. But for 2022 SBDP (Support to Barangay Development Program), there are three proposed barangays in Siaton to be covered namely Barangay Tayak, [Barangay] Apoloy, and Barangay Mantiquil,” the message read.

Andanar offered to lend the local government a hand by following up with other concerned agencies where they can direct their requests.

He also said he would raise their request to be included in the Barangay Development Program (BDP) to National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

War in South China Sea 'unlikely': Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): War in South China Sea 'unlikely': Lorenzana (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Photo courtesy of NTF-WPS

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said he does not see any hostilities breaking out in the South China Sea (SCS) despite intensified exercises between the Philippines and the United States and its partners in the region.

"There is a provision in the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) that an attack to another is considered an attack to the other side. So the other country will come to the aid of the other country. But, even if there are intensifying exercises between the US and its allies in the region, ay hindi naman ako naniniwala na ito ay paghahanda para sa isang giyera dito sa (I do not believe it to be preparation for a coming conflict or war in the) South China Sea. Kasi (because) both countries, both superpowers, the US and China, (have) come out publicly that they do not want any conflict there in the South China Sea,"
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the Pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Forum for the Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster on Wednesday.

He was responding to queries on whether the Philippines will respond to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US should conflict erupt in the region.

Signed in 1951, the MDT is an accord that stipulates that the Philippines and the United States would support each other if either of them were to be attacked by an external party.

Lorenzana said hostilities are unlikely as the SCS is a major trade route for ships coming to China.

"And according to (the) World Bank, more than US$6 trillion worth of goods passes that place, the South China Sea, every year," Lorenzana said.

However, the DND chief said the Philippines can abide by the MDT but emphasized any move to invoke this will be thoroughly scrutinized by lawmakers.

"We will abide by the MDT dahil treaty yun ng bansa natin (because it our country's treaty with the US) and I'm sure any incident there that will require the invocation of (the) MDT will go through the process here in our legislature, our government, before we participate in any conflict in the South China Sea," Lorenzana said.

PH Navy chief promoted to vice admiral

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): PH Navy chief promoted to vice admiral (By Priam Nepomuceno)

PROMOTED. AFP vice chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria (left) leads the donning of ranks ceremony for Navy chief, Vice Adm. Adeluis Bordado (center) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Wednesday (July 21, 2021). Bordado took over the PN last June 8, replacing Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

Philippine Navy (PN) chief Rear Adm. Adeluis Bordado was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral after formally donning his third star on Wednesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vice chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria led the donning ceremony at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bordado then proceeded to the PN headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, Manila where he was accorded customary arrival honors by a battalion-sized contingent of sailors and marines.

"Vice Admiral Bordado's third-star promotion bespeaks the Navy Chief's competence, expertise, and professionalism, the qualities that serve as among the cornerstones of his leadership, and how he is setting the pace of the Navy’s mission accomplishment and fulfillment of mandate to the Filipino people and maritime nation," PN public affairs office chief Commander Benjo Negranza said in a statement.

Bordado took over the PN last June 8, replacing Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo. He hails from Camarines Sur, graduated no. 4 in the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988.

His expertise lies in operations, intelligence, information technology, budget, planning, and education and training.

Among the key positions he held are chief of naval staff and commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Education, Training and Doctrine Command, Naval Installation Command, Naval Forces Southern Luzon, and Sealift Amphibious Force of the Philippine Fleet.

Kieth’s mom grateful for support; appeals for unity vs. CTGs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Kieth’s mom grateful for support; appeals for unity vs. CTGs (By Marita Moaje)

Vilma Absalon with her son Kieth (Photo courtesy of Vilma Absalon Facebook page)

Vilma Absalon, mother of football player Kieth Absalon who was killed by the terrorist New People’s Army (NPA), and the rest of her family thanked the government for its support given to them.

In a text message to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Tuesday, Absalon also called for unity in fighting terrorism and communist terrorist groups (CTGs) in the country.

“Sana magising na ang lahat na maghari ang kapangyarihan ng Panginoon at magtiwala sa magandang hangad ng ating administrasyon, maalis na ang mga gahaman, sakim sa salapi, ang mga kontra administrasyon. Salamat sa kabutihan sa pagsubaybay nyo sa aming pamilya (I hope that everyone wakes up so that the power of the Lord continues to reign, and trust in the good intentions of our administration that greed, greed for money, the anti-administrations will be eliminated. Thank you for your kindness in supporting our family),” Absalon said.

On July 17, several youth organizations held a “Bike for Justice and Peace" for Kieth Absalon, marking the 40th day after Kieth, 21, and his 40-year-old cousin, Nolven, were killed when NPA rebels detonated an anti-personnel mine while they were biking in Masbate City on June 6.

Bikers from different parts of the country joined the event calling for justice for the death of the Absalon cousins as well as for all the victims of the terroristic acts of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Youth group Propelling Our Inherited Nation Through our Youth (Pointy Inc.), one of the event initiators earlier said their group joins the call to end the violence that victimizes the youth.

The group said the youth sector is susceptible to false ideologies propagated by the CPP-NPA, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Absalon family was grateful for the support from the government and the youth sector for making the event a success.

“Taos puso po kaming nagpapasalamat sa walang sawa sa pagpatuloy na pagkakaisa sa pagtugis ng terorista (We sincerely thank the tirelessly continued solidarity in the pursuit of ending terrorism),” Absalon said.

She said she is hoping the CPP-NPA stops victimizing and terrorizing the people most especially the youth.

“Kailangan po nating maging matapang sa katotohanan hangad po ng aming pamilya ang matiwasay na pamumuhay ng sambayanan, kalayaan at pagkakaisa ng tao sa bansang Pilipinas (We need to be brave for the truth. Our family wishes for a peaceful life, freedom, and unity for all Filipinos),” she said.

Next president should continue NTF-ELCAC: Esperon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Next president should continue NTF-ELCAC: Esperon (By Christine Cudis)

NTF-ELCAC SHOULD CONTINUE. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. says the next administration should continue the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict during the online pre-SONA event on Wednesday (July 21, 2021). Esperon, vice chair of the task force, said the elements of the solution against insurgency are found under NTF-ELCAC. (Screengrab)

One of the legacies of President Rodrigo Duterte is his strong stance on putting an end to insurgency, leading to the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said insurgency is a “national problem” that the next administration should address through NTF-ELCAC.

“The problem of insurgency is not the problem of any person. It is the problem of the nation. It has been with us since 1968, at the least. When you say what is the possibility of the next president attending to this, they will have to because it is a national problem,”
he said during the Presidential Communications Operations Office’s Pre-State of the Nation Address virtual presser on Wednesday.

Since its establishment in December 2018, the NTF-ELCAC brought synergy among other government agencies and officials to addressing insurgency and helping the former NPA rebels who opted to return to the fold of the law, he said.

Esperon said aside from the government, the private sector as well as the local community is involved in fighting insurgency under NTF-ELCAC.

Elements of solution vs. insurgency

“As vice chairman, I find the elements of the solution already in the NTF-ELCAC. We work in terms of coordinated and harmonized clusters,” he said.

The work of the NTF-ELCAC, he said, covers sectors in infrastructure, resource management, local government empowerment, local and international peace engagements, among others.

During his time as former Army general, he said fighting local communist insurgencies was difficult. But with the creation of NTF-ELCAC, everyone is involved in realizing shared responsibilities to achieve peace and development.

“Palagay ko, bigyan man ng ibang pangalan ito (I think, this might be renamed but), the idea itself that has been formulated or the national action plan must be continued. Otherwise, you will lose the coordination and the oneness of the whole effort,” Esperon said.

CPP-NPA deception

Esperon said among the laudable achievements of the NTF is reclaiming the indigenous people (IP) community from the arms of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

He said 75 percent of the NPA rebels in Mindanao came from the IP community due to deception and threat to life.

“Ngayon ay nabawi na natin sila (We were able to rescue them). I don’t see a reason why this could be discontinued, it may come in another name but the process, the systems, will stay. Maybe even more reinforced,” he added.

National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) chair Allen Capuyan echoed Esperon’s remark, citing the culture of unification as the most significant achievement under the NTF-ELCAC system.

“There has never been a President that put his name on the line to lead the Task Force. The most significant thing that happened here is the culture of unification of all agencies was created under the framework of whole governance,” Capuyan said. “Nobody wanted to lose this opportunity. This approach is beneficial to government agency workers: municipal, city, and provincial. There is a culture of unity to address problems in society.”

Capuyan said investments will start to come in if the communities are cleared of insurgencies.

“Such as in Mindanao. We now hardly hear of any conflict in the island region. And when investments pour in, the lives of the people in these communities are changed for the better because they now have opportunities to live well,” he added.

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

Comprehensive peace process intensified under Duterte admin

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Comprehensive peace process intensified under Duterte admin (By Lade Jean Kabagani)

Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (File photo)

The pursuit of a comprehensive peace process in the country has been intensified under the Duterte administration, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said on Wednesday.

Galvez reechoed President Rodrigo Duterte's 2016 commitment to the nation to implement the structures of all the signed peace agreements which should stem from the constitutional and legal reforms.

The government's six-point peace and development agenda, he said, has been very crucial in the pursuit of peace in the country, which was effectively implemented under the Duterte administration.

Galvez cited how Duterte has successfully shepherded the passage of the Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law, an Act providing for the Organic Law (BOL) for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

"Being the first Mindanaon President, he had a very deep understanding of the Bangsamoro Peace Process knew what he had to be done to sustain the gains of peace," Galvez said during the pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Forum of the Security, Peace, and Justice Cluster.

"The implementation of political and normalization tracks of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro took a major leap forward during this administration."

New autonomous region

Galvez said the passage of the BOL, which pave the way to the creation of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, has "embodies the dreams and aspirations not only of the Moro people but the entire Filipino nation."

He reported that 12,145 former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have undergone the process of decommissioning with 2,175 weapons and 617 ammunitions have been surrendered to the security forces, through the Bangsamoro normalization track efforts of the government.

These former combatants, he added, are now living as "peace and productive" civilians, following the improvement of the battle camps to more resilient and progressive communities.

"Tinalikuran na po ng ating mga mandirigma ang buhay ng karahasan at ngayon ay tumutulong sa pamahalaan upang isulong ang kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa kanilang mga lugar (Our combatants have given up the life of violence and are now helping the government to promote peace at prosperity in their areas)," he said.

The harmonization of initiatives among national line agencies has also been realized through the creation of the Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization, he said.

"We also demonstrated our sincerity to fulfill our commitments made with the Moro National Liberation (MNLF) Fronts under the 1996 final peace agreement," he added

He noted that the government has established two coordinating peace committees to engage with the two MNLF faction leaders, Nur Misuari and Muslimin Sema, to strengthen the GHP-MNLP peace process agreement.

Galvez cited the MNLF has also become an integral part of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), wherein 10 of them are representing the group.

Currently, the transformation program is being crafted to address the concerns of former combatants and their families.

"It is expected the program will commence in Sulu, this year," he noted.

Gov't efforts vs. communist rebels

Meanwhile, Galvez, also designated as a Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) in Central Luzon, said the creation of the National Task Force to End Local communist Armed Conflict has provided a "safe space" for constructive engagement within communities infiltrated by the communist terrorist groups (CTGs).

The government has pushed localized peace engagements to convince the members of the communist rebels to return to the folds of the law, he added.

Galvez said these peace engagements have paved the way to bring back the normal living conditions of the residents--away from violence and atrocities perpetrated by the CTGs.

"Ang lahat ng ito ay nagpapakita na nais ng administrasyong Duterte na wakasan ang paghahasik ng takot at kaguluhan ng communist terrorist groups sa mga komunidad at tuluyang maingat ang antas ng kabauhayan ng mga residente nito (All of this is a manifestation that the Duterte Administration is committed to ending the sowing fear and chaos of the communist terrorist groups within communities and to finally uplift the living conditions of the residents)," he pointed out.

The dismantling of the Kilusang Guerilla-Sierra Madre of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is among those cited benefits of the creation of the NTF-ELCAC, according to Galvez.

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.

Closure Agreement with RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG

Galvez also said the government is winning the fight against insurgency through the pursuit of the Closure Agreement with Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/ Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG), also known as Kapatiran.

He said the signing of the clarificatory implementing document (CID) under the closure agreement has hastened the transformation process of the 727 Kapatiran members, who also undergone a decommissioning process on Sept. 19, 2019.

Some 724 have received livelihood settlement grants amounting to PHP50,000 each.

While 266 of them underwent to Community Defense Program (CDU), a 45-day training as peacekeepers, in preparation for their deployment to their respective communities in Negros and Panay Islands.

Closure agreement with CBA-CPLA

Galvez said the government has also made sure that the Closure Agreement with the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) would continue to move forward.

The government seized 444 firearms, of which 353 weapons were turned over to the Police Regional Office in Cordillera.

Galvez said 508 CBA-CPLA former members and their next-of-kin have been employed as forest guards in the Cordillera Region.

He said the government is sincere to push the peace process by all means and is willing to help the former rebels to uplift their living conditions, assuring more progressive and developed communities for them.

Social healing, peacebuilding efforts

Apart from implementing peace agreements, the government has also pushed for social healing and peace-building programs in war-torn communities.

The program promotes social cohesion, mutual understanding, and reconciliation across the country, which would provide viable platforms for the participation and involvement of the women, youth, and other vulnerable sectors.

Galvez said the efforts are currently being utilized in Marawi City following the siege in 2017.

The present administration also continued the implementation of the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) program from 2017 to 2021, carrying out over 4,000 developmental and socio-economic interventions worth PHP18 billion, within conflict-affected communities nationwide.

The program supports the building of peace, progressive and conflict-resilient communities, he said.

"Mga kababayan, ang lahat ng programang aking nabanggit ay resulta ng sinseridad at determinasyon ng administrasyong Duterte na isulong ang komprehensibong proseso ng kapayapaan sa bansa (My fellow countrymen, all the things that I have mentioned is a result of the Duterte administration's sincerity and determination to pursue a comprehensive peace in the country)," Galvez said.

"This is a result of our collective efforts and continuing commitment to work together in pursuing a just and lasting peace and sustainable development," he said.

Andanar hails anti-insurgency feats of security Cabinet cluster

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21, 2021): Andanar hails anti-insurgency feats of security Cabinet cluster

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar (Contributed photo)

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Wednesday commended the efforts of the Security, Peace, and Justice Cabinet Cluster (SPJCC) in leading the programs of the government against armed groups and insurgents.

Andanar, who moderated the “Pamana ng Pagbabago: The 2021 Pre-SONA Forum” of the SPJCC at the Armed Forces of Philippines Commissioned Officers Club (AFPCOC) in Quezon City, lauded the fact that despite the pandemic, the cluster remained steadfast in ensuring that the needs of Filipinos everywhere in the country are being addressed.

“The dedication and command of the leaders of every agency under the Security, Peace, and Justice Cluster are truly admirable. The projects established under this administration are testimonies to how the government is a ‘government for the people’, and how ‘Tapang (Courage) is always matched with Malasakit (Compassion)’,” he said

The discussion was led by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who discussed accomplishments in establishing peace and order in conflict-affected areas.

Lorenzana’s report showed that the DND through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and partner agencies have offered social services to encourage rebels to return to the fold of the government.

Over 18,000 former rebels have been reintegrated into the society since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sat in office.

The initiative is under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the Task Force Balik-Loob.

“Kahit abala sa pademya, ginagampanan ng aming kagawaran ang pangunahin nitong tungkulin na tiyakin ang seguridad ng bansa mula sa anumang banta sa labas o loob man nito. Ang diskarte ng ating pamahalaan na labanan ang insurhensya at lokal na terorismo na hindi gumagamit ng bala o solusyong militar ay naging matagumpay (Even though we are busy responding to the pandemic, the department continues to carry out its mandate of ensuring the security of the country from any form of threat, whether external or internal. The strategy of the government to fight insurgency and local terrorism which does not resort to a militaristic approach has been successful),” Lorenzana said.

“By offering social assistance to rebels who returned to the fold of the law, we have greatly reduced threats from armed groups, which have been hampering inclusive economic development and growth for more than 50 years now,” he added.

Of the 18,433 former rebels that were reintegrated, 623 have joined the AFP, 748 were given resettlement and housing assistance, and 21,549 former rebels and their dependents have graduated from skills training.

Because of the success, the government also launched the TUGON Program for former rebels in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“Lahat ng rehiyon ay mabibigyan ng pagkakataong umunlad walang iwanan (All regions will have the opportunity to grow and develop. No one will be left behind),” Lorenzana said.