Friday, December 2, 2022

Invisible scars remain in conflict areas: ICRC

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 2, 2022): Invisible scars remain in conflict areas: ICRC

TWO SENIOR leaders of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have expressed alarm over the suffering of civilians due to violent conflicts.

ICRC Vice President Gilles Carbonnier and Regional Director for Asia-Pacific Christine Cipolla who were recently in Marawi City said they witnessed the long-lasting impact of urban warfare and engaged authorities in steps to reduce civilian harm. They also addressed relevant International Humanitarian Laws and humanitarian issues in conjunction with geopolitical dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region and reaffirmed the organization’s neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian action in the country, in strong partnership with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

“War in cities inflicts deep scars, both visible and invisible. In Marawi, the most affected area has been reduced to rubble, and livelihoods were destroyed. Families continue to search for their loved ones who have gone missing for more than five years,” Carbonnier said.

“Complying with IHL in the midst of conflict, particularly in densely populated areas, reduces civilian harm and ensuing grievances. This in turn helps create an enabling environment for peace and reconciliation, as a former commander of a non-state armed group shared with me based on his experience in Mindanao,” he added.

Carbonnier and Cipolla also had the opportunity to better understand the causes and consequences of massive overcrowding in Philippine detention facilities, seeing first-hand the situation in Quezon City Jail. The ICRC supports the Philippine authorities’ efforts to decongest places of detention and improve the treatment and conditions of detention.

“Overcrowding increases the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, scabies, and tuberculosis in places of detention. We will continue to engage detaining authorities in confidential and bilateral dialogues to pursue a collective and sustainable response,” Cipolla said.

The two leaders appreciated the humanitarian response of the PRC in Mindanao, including in areas that were recently hit by Tropical Storm Nalgae (Paeng). The ICRC has been supporting the PRC and the government’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts in remote and conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

With PRC Chairman Richard Gordon and Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang, they visited a PRC Bakuna Bus (“vaccine bus”) in General Santos City.

Gordon said the ICRC has always been supportive of the PRC’s COVID-19 interventions. “They donated buses equipped with a vaccine administration area and supplies, while we provided a cadre of volunteers to perform the task. In the PRC, we cannot deny opportunities to help because it’s our aim to uplift people… we do not give dole-outs, we uplift people,” he said.

During their visit, the ICRC leadership also discussed humanitarian priorities at national and regional levels with the President Marcos’ Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus Domingo, Defense Undersecretary Ignacio Madriaga, the Bangsamoro Minister of the Interior and Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo and the Secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Guiling Mamondiong.

Letters to the Editor: Death of rebel leader is big blow to NPA

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 3, 2022): Letters to the Editor: Death of rebel leader is big blow to NPA

Dear Editor,

The recent death of New People's Army (NPA) leader Ericson Legazpi Acosta and his NPA comrade Joseph Jimenez in a clash with government troops in Kabankalan City on Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2022) is another "huge blow" to the communist-terrorists movement in Visayas Regions and mostly in Negros Island.Acosta, also known as "Raffy" and "Fredo" is the NPA's first deputy secretary for Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor (KR-NCBS) and head of the Political Unified Committee in the Visayas. He is the husband of the late Kerima Tariman, a female NPA leader who died in a legitimate encounter with elements of 79IB in Silay City last August 22, 2021.

Contrary to the propaganda claims of the National Democratic Front (NDF) that Acosta is an NDF consultant, peasant organizer and a poet, he and Jimenez were killed in a legitimate encounter and pursuit operations with ground forces in Makilo, a mountain community in the village of Camansi of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on November 30, 2022.

As expected, the CPP-NPA-NDF have been very quick to exploit the incident- a worn-out ploy to discredit the government troops and win public sympathy as what they always do whenever they suffer major setbacks. As their propaganda aims to glorify Acosta’s death to cover up his involvement in the NPA Terrorists underground activities and atrocities, they must realize that they can no longer manipulate and deceive the peace-loving Filipino people and that violence has no place in a civilized community of the Visayas.

The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Acosta. Unfortunately, the consequences of his atrocities and violence led to a tragic ending. He orchestrated numerous NPA atrocities in Negros Island including other neighbouring provinces particularly the ambush of Binalbagan PNP early this year, countless recruitments of farmers and students, extortion activities, and other NPA violent activities.

Based on the informants and Former Rebels, Acosta also conducted numerous NPA political trainings in different hinterland areas and communities in Negros Island to revitalize both the NPA and their Politico-Military Organizations (Underground Organizations).

With that situation, it is believed that his death is the result of the continuing coordinative effort of the populace who had grown weary of the NPA menace and the unrelenting commitment of your army troops to protect the community from the NPA terrorists.

It is the voice of the people that makes the NPA terrorist irrelevant and likewise, it is the resiliency of the Negrense to recognize the truth that will set Negros Island free from the lies and propaganda of the communist-terrorists that put the lives of Negrense people in danger.

Now, justice has been served for those innocent civilians and their communities that the NPA have victimized for several decades. For these people, Ericson Acosta is not a poet, songwriter or peasant organizer but the leader of a terrorist group that has sowed fear.

His death will greatly affect plans of the communist terrorists to plot violence against the peace-loving people in this side of the country and hopefully could be a blow for the eventual collapse of the communist terrorist group and will usher in eventual peace in the regions.

Likewise, his death will bring the remaining NPAs to their realization to choose the path of peace and lead a normal life. As one, it is nearly time that no more Negrense will close their doors and windows in nightfall and let the evils of communism and terrorism takeover their land.

Sincerely yours,

Group Commander
3rd Civil Relations Group
Civil Relations Service, AFP
Camp Lapu-Lapu, Apas, Cebu City

164 Reds surrender in Mimaropa since January

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3, 2022): 164 Reds surrender in Mimaropa since January (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – A total of 164 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) have surrendered to different police units in Mimaropa from January to December 1 this year, the regional police said Friday.

“We are committed to sustaining the success of this campaign towards a communist terrorist group-free Mimaropa,” Police Regional Office (PRO) 4-B (Mimaropa) chief, Brig. Gen. Sidney Hernia, said in a statement.

The latest to surrender were two members of the NPA in Oriental Mindoro on Thursday.

“Ka Gringo”, 27, and “Ka Jimbo,” 33, both members of Platoon SERNA of Kilusang Larangang Gerilya - Mark Anthony Velasco under the Lucio de Guzman Command of the Sub-Regional Military Area 4D, Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee, voluntarily surrendered after a series of dialogues with the 403rd B Maneuver Company (MC), Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) 4-B, led by Lt. Sherwin Ramirez, in Barangay Cabalwa, in the town of Mansalay.

The successful surrender of the former rebels was made possible with the assistance of the Bulalacao municipal police, 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company, and Provincial Intelligence Unit, all under the Oriental Mindoro provincial police; Regional Intelligence Division; 10th Special Action Battalion, Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force; 4th Infantry Battalion and 23rd Military Intelligence Company, 203rd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army; and Regional Intelligence Unit Mimaropa, PNP Intelligence Group.

Hernia said the surrenderers are now under the custody of the 403rd B MC for debriefing, and assistance for their enrollment in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive and Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

“All those who surrendered can avail of the E-CLIP for their reintegration to the community and will be receiving livelihood program and cash aid from the government,” he said.

Leader of armed group yields in Basilan town

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3, 2022): Leader of armed group yields in Basilan town (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A leader of a clan, listed as a potential private armed group, has surrendered to authorities in the province of Basilan, a top police official said Saturday.

Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said Sabtarul Arasalun, 66, surrendered around 10 a.m. Friday at the town hall of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan province.

Verceles said Arasalun is the leader of the Hamuto clan, listed as a potential private armed group in Barangay Lagayas, Tipo-Tipo.

Arasalun turned over a .38-caliber revolver with tampered serial number and ammunition.

With the surrender of Arasalun, the Hamuto clan will be delisted in the data of potential private armed groups in Basilan as of the fourth quarter of 2022.

Private armed groups are often utilized by politicians during elections.

Verceles said Arasalun will be reintegrated back into his community where he will be closely monitored by the Tipo-Tipo Municipal Police Station to ensure that he will abide by the law.

The surrender of Arasalun was witnessed by Tipo-Tipo Mayor Arcam Istarul and top police and military officials in Basilan province.

Army Support Command gets 21 new facilities from BCDA

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1, 2022): Army Support Command gets 21 new facilities from BCDA (By Priam Nepomuceno)

TURNOVER. BCDA chairperson Delfin Lorenzana (left) and PA acting chief of staff Maj. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra (center) show the document for the turnover of 21 newly completed facilities in simple rites at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City on Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2022). The facilities turned over to the Army Support Command are expected to provide a better logistics, storage and management hub for ASCOM which is tasked to provide firepower, transportation, organizational and maintenance equipment support to PA major units. (Photo courtesy of BCDA)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) announced that the Army Support Command (ASCOM) based in Camp Servillano Aquino, Tarlac City formally received 21 newly completed facilities from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) on Wednesday.

The ASCOM facilities project is part of the 2017 memorandum of agreement signed by BCDA and the Department of National Defense for the relocation of Army facilities from an 11.5-hectare portion of Fort Bonifacio to Camp Servillano Aquino, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command.

In a statement Wednesday night, Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said BCDA chair Delfin Lorenzana and PA acting chief of staff Maj. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, representing Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., signed the document for the turnover of the facilities in a ceremony at Camp Servillano Aquino.

"Maj. Gen. Niembra said relocating and constructing modern ASCOM facilities at a strategic location in Camp Servillano Aquino will bolster the unit’s capability to provide logistical support to ground forces," Trinidad said.

He added that the facilities are expected to provide a better logistics, storage and management hub for ASCOM which is tasked to provide firepower, transportation, organizational, and maintenance equipment support to PA major units.

PH-US 1951 MDT still 'under negotiation, evolution': PBBM

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1, 2022): PH-US 1951 MDT still 'under negotiation, evolution': PBBM (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and US Vice President Kamala Harris (PNA photo by Rey Baniquet)

MANILA – The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States (US) remains under "negotiation and evolution," President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Thursday.

"Well, the Mutual Defense Treaty is continuously under negotiation and under evolution. I always call it as an evolution because things are changing," Marcos said in a media interview on the sidelines of the Kadiwa ng Pasko caravan in Quezon City.

Marcos' statement came after National Security Adviser Secretary Clarita Carlos earlier revealed that the President ordered a scrutiny of MDT.

Marcos said the defense pact between the two countries are under review because the US has "many requests and proposals," particularly in the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

"So all of that is under study now to see what is really feasible and what will be the most useful for the defense of Philippine territory," he said.

Concerns on security and defense cooperation between the two nations were among those tackled during a recent meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris, Marcos said.

"We covered that and many more subjects. But essentially, on the security, ‘yun tinitingnan natin ‘yung kanilang pino-propose, ‘yung mga joint exercises (we are studying their proposal, the joint exercises), and EDCA, the use of our bases, all of these. We are in the middle of that," Marcos said.

During their meeting at Malacañan Palace on Nov. 21, Harris assured Marcos that the US would "always" stand with the Philippines in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the highly-contested South China Sea (SCS).

Harris also stressed that any possible armed attack against Philippine forces in the SCS would prompt the invocation of US mutual defense commitments.

The 1951 MDT, the longest-running defense pact, aims to step up the defense and security cooperation between the Philippine and US troops.

Carlos on Nov. 22 said that the government has already created a group to study and review the MDT.

The group, Carlos said, is composed of officials from the National Security Council, the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Army chief fetes 11th Infantry Division for gains vs. ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 2, 2022): Army chief fetes 11th Infantry Division for gains vs. ASG (By Priam Nepomuceno)

11TH ID ANNIVERSARY. Army commander, Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr. (2nd from left), awards the Commanding General Philippine Army (CGPA) significant accomplishment streamer to the 11th Infantry Division during its fourth founding anniversary celebration at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo town, Sulu province on Thursday (Dec. 1, 2022). The Army chief also recognized the 11ID, also known as the "Alakdan" Division, for the recovery of assorted high- and low-powered firearms, and facilitation of the implementation of developmental projects for the internally displaced persons in collaboration with the provincial and local government units of Patikul and Talipao, Sulu. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – Philippine Army (PA) chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has commended the 11th Infantry Division (11ID) for its efforts in combating the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) via intelligence-driven operations as it marked its fourth founding anniversary on Thursday.

Brawner graced the celebration at the unit's headquarters at the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista, Busbos in Jolo town, Sulu province.

The Army chief also recognized the 11ID, also known as the "Alakdan" Division, for the recovery of assorted high- and low-powered firearms, and facilitation of the implementation of developmental projects for the internally displaced persons through the "Balik Barangay Program" in collaboration with the provincial and local government units of Patikul and Talipao, Sulu.

"(He) lauded the unit's effort in maintaining lasting peace and progress in its areas of responsibility since its inception in 2018," PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement Friday.

During the celebration, Brawner also led the awarding of plaques to the best battalion, officers, enlisted personnel, and stakeholders.

"To the gallant servant-soldiers of the 'Alakdan' Division, continue to focus on your primary objective of defeating and eliminating the remaining elements of local terrorist groups within your area of operations. We shall continue to pursue and promote the Philippine Army's primordial objectives as enshrined in the acronym, S.E.R.V.E. I am certain that together with the steadfast convergence support of our partner-stakeholders, we will restore the old glory and facilitate a prosperous future for the people of Sulu," Brawner said.

3 men slain in shootout with cops in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 2, 2022): 3 men slain in shootout with cops in Sultan Kudarat (By Edwin Fernandez)

TACURONG CITY – Three men died after ignoring a checkpoint inspection and engaged the police in a predawn shootout in Lambayong town, Sultan Kudarat province, on Friday.

Major Jenahmeel Toñacao, Lambayong police chief, said cops manning a checkpoint around 1 a.m. in Barangay Didtaras, Lambayong flagged down three men onboard a motorbike heading toward the town proper.

The men instead sped away and a chase ensued. As the trio fled, their motorbike crashed, and they started firing at the pursuing lawmen.

“This prompted the police to return fire, hitting the armed men who all fell on the ground,” Toñacao said.

Police rushed the three men to the hospital, but all were pronounced dead upon arrival by the attending physician.

Police investigators recovered two .45-caliber pistols, a hand grenade, a sachet of shabu, and a Suzuki motorbike from the slain suspects.

The identities of the suspects are still being verified, Toñacao said.

The recovered firearms and grenade were brought to the police station for examination and cross-matching while the remains of the trio remained in the hospital awaiting claimants, he added.

WWII vets in NegOr honored with US Congressional Gold Medal

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 2, 2022): WWII vets in NegOr honored with US Congressional Gold Medal (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

TRIBUTE. Defense Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. awards World War II veteran, Pvt. Felix A Sechico, the US Congress Gold Medal in the presence of US Embassy and Philippine officials at the Silliman University gymnasium in Dumaguete City on Friday (Dec. 2, 2022). A total of 45 war veterans in Negros Oriental received the award, most of them already deceased and represented by their families. (Photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A total of 45 World War II Filipino veterans in Negros Oriental were given the United States Congressional Gold Medal during ceremonies held at the gymnasium of Silliman University in this capital city on Friday.

Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. of the Department of National Defense (DND) expressed gratitude to the United States government for giving recognition to Filipino war heroes, noting the sacrifices that they made for the sake of the country and the world.

He said this was “long overdue” and it is just but fitting to pay them tribute noting they can set a good example of bravery, courage, and sacrifice to the younger generations.

Of the 45 awardees, only four are still alive.

“This is a very proud moment for the veterans, they are a part of our history and they give us inspiration in that whatever peace we are experiencing right now, whatever we want to hand over to the next generations, we have to backtrack and relive their bravery and heroism,” Faustino said in mixed English and Filipino.

The gold medals were given to the veterans and/or their families by Faustino; Mr. Brett Blackshaw, Political Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines who represented U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson; Acting Director Kevin J. McAllister of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Undersecretary Reynaldo B. Mapagu, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator; and Dr. Henry Sojor, representing Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.

Blackshaw, in his message, said “The United States Gold Medal is the U.S. Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation to distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals and one of the highest civilian awards” in their country.

He said his country is grateful to the Filipino war veterans even though many are no longer around.

Meanwhile, Mapagu told the Philippine News Agency in an interview that there is still a lot of “hard work” to be done for the welfare and benefit of the veterans.

“Right now I can say that we have pension and non-pension benefits for them,” he said, “as actually, veterans do not actually receive a pension.

Mapagu said the monetary benefit has been recently raised from PHP5,000 to PHP20,000 monthly.

Non-pension benefits include hospitalization and educational/scholarship for their children or grandchildren as well as a death benefit, he added.

On the awarding of the US Congressional Gold Medal, Mapagu said “this is very significant because it’s a kind of a late recognition of their heroism and their contribution to our country in terms of attaining our freedom and our independence”.

Many of them were not recognized as part of the US Armed Forces, he said.

The medals handed out to the war veterans here are replicas of the last remaining original gold medal that is now displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in the U.S., he noted.

DND exec lauds Negros military for anti-insurgency gains

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 2, 2022): DND exec lauds Negros military for anti-insurgency gains (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

SALUTE. Military and police commanders honor World War II veterans in Negros Oriental during a recognition ceremony in Dumaguete City on Friday (Dec. 2, 2022). Defense Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr., who attended the activity, commanded the efforts of the uniformed men in Negros Island for the accomplishments in the fight to end the communist insurgency. (PNA photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A ranking official of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Friday commended the Philippine Army for its accomplishments in the government’s fight against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

DND Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr., in an interview, said “at the national level, ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict) will continue and the administration fully supports ELCAC and we know that this is very effective as can be seen by the remarkable accomplishments”.

Faustino particularly mentioned the gains in Negros, having "the best military commanders", saying that together with the Philippine National Police and other uniformed services, “this has become a model for others to replicate, especially in the Visayas region, on how we solve the insurgency problem.”

The DND official also cited the help of the local chief executives, the local government units and agencies, for being key in ending the insurgency.

He also noted that some areas are already “enjoying relative peace” because of the whole-of-nation efforts.

During a courtesy call with Governor Roel Degamo earlier, Faustino said they discussed the insurgency fight now being relegated to the regional or even provincial level “and that is very encouraging”.

Some regions in the country have already been declared insurgency-free, he noted.

Faustino was in this capital city for the awarding of the US Congress Gold Medal to 45 Filipino World War II veterans from Negros Oriental who fought alongside troops of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).