Thursday, December 15, 2022

9 dead, 6 wounded in Cotabato gunfights

 From the Philippine Star (Dec 10, 2022): 9 dead, 6 wounded in Cotabato gunfights (By John Unson)

Soldiers are now guarding the areas where Friday’s deadly incident is likely to spill over. / John Unson

ALEOSAN, North Cotabato — Nine got killed, five of them members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, in a series of related encounters Friday in an interior barangay here.

In a statement Saturday, the Aleosan Municipal Police Station identified the CAFGU members killed in the hostilities in Sitio Mantawak in Barangay Tapudoc as Ramel Santillan, Jomar Roben, Jesry Galo, Melvin Cabrera and Johnrey Cabrera.

The gunfights in Barangay Tapudoc reportedly started with the fatal ambush at past 2:00 p.m. Friday of Santillan by gunmen while on his way to their detachment in the area riding a motorcycle.

The local police said the four responding companions of Santillan --- Roben, Galo and the Cabrera siblings --- were killed in an ensuing shootout with his killer, armed with assault rifles.

Community leaders here, among them traditional Moro elders, told reporters Saturday the protagonists in Friday’s gunfights in Barangay Tapudoc were the slain militiamen versus a barangay councilor named Odin Khalil and a group identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The rival groups have been locked since 2016 in a deadly “rido,” a generic term for clan war in most southern vernaculars, and joint attempts by local officials, the police and the military to reconcile them were fruitless.

Three followers of Khalil, Abdul Khaeer Odin, Zulfikar Taya and Sammy Palao and a still unidentified villager were killed in Friday’s clashes, according to the local police.

Two others in Khalil’s group, Alameen Piang and Mohamad Kanakan, and three CAFGU members, Ariel Wacan, Gibel Galo and Harison Galo and a volunteer community watchman, Dante Boboy, were hurt in the ensuing encounters, now in different hospitals.

Barangay Tapudoc is one of the 63 Barangays in different Cotabato towns grouped together as Special Geographic Area of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

There are also members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the area.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, tagged in deadly bomb attacks in recent years, is not covered by the peace overture between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Opinion: The politics of peace

Opinion piece posted to COMMONSENSE column in the Philippine Star (Dec 12, 2022): The politics of peace (By Marichu A. Villanueva)

At this early, the Philippines started way ahead the preparations for the country’s bid to become a voting member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. No less than President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) himself officially declared the Philippine bid to be elected into the 15-member-states of the Security Council in 2027 to 2028.

Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting held in New York last October, PBBM highlighted the peace efforts of the Philippines that “can (help) enrich the work of the Security Council.”

The Philippines and other UN member states may be elected to the Security Council but must be able to secure votes from two-thirds of those present at the General Assembly. The Philippines has been elected as a non-permanent member in 1957, 1963, 1980-1981, and in 2004-2005.

To bolster the Philippine candidature, PBBM cited the recent success in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as a “showcase” of the country’s peace efforts. These peace efforts created the BARMM in 2019 after more than four decades of peace negotiations.

It has come into full circles when the namesake father of PBBM produced the 1976 Tripoli Agreement on Dec. 23, 1976 signed by the Philippine government with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by Nur Misuari.

Todate, more than 23 countries around the world have become inter-governmental partners of the Philippine government in implementing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), according to Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Galvez noted such global support to the Philippine government’s peace efforts should augur well for the country’s goal to become member of the UN Security Council. As the country’s “peace czar,” Galvez echoed the concern of PBBM on the global impact of the continuing war between Russia and Ukraine that hurts smaller countries like Philippines. A five-star General when he retired four years ago as Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, Galvez has been the leading advocate for “non-lethal” initiatives to win peace around the country.

“We have to break the cycle of violence,” Galvez vowed as the country’s peace czar.

Galvez is only too glad to report that the country’s peace process remains on track and is “moving at an accelerated pace.” Galvez enumerated the latest “tremendous gains” chalked up by the OPAPRU in implementing the FAB since this was forged in Oct. 2012.

Just recently, Galvez recalled, the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB) and its mechanisms have been convened. This included the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum that the Senate approved last week in Concurrent Resolution No. 5, he added. This Forum will act as an inter-governmental body of Congress and the BARMM.

But in October, two Mindanao Congressmen have filed separate bills before the 19th Congress seeking another extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). Consequently, this would mean postponement anew of the BARMM elections. Originally, it was scheduled to be held during the last May 9 national and local elections this year.

In 2021 though, then-President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 11593 that approved the postponement of the BARMM elections. RA 11593 again synchronized the holding of the BARMM polls to be held in the coming May 2025 mid-term elections in our country.

The BTA serves as the interim government of the BARMM during the transition period, “with legislative and executive powers and functions.” As provided under RA No. 11054, this Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) further specified that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) shall lead the BTA, “without prejudice to the participation of the MNLF.

On Aug. 12 this year, PBBM swore in at Malacañang Palace the new members of the BTA. Led by former MILF chieftain Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim as the BARMM chief minister and the 80 other new members of the BTA took their oaths. Of the 80 members of the BTA, 41 are from the MILF while the remaining 39 will come from the MNLF and Government of the Philippines (GPH).

Lanao del Norte Rep. Sittie Aminah Dimaporo, in House Bill 4213, wanted to reschedule anew the BARMM elections in 2028 while Lanao del Norte Rep. Khalid Dimaporo wanted it to be reset to 2031. In their respective bills, the two Dimaporo’s cited the need to give ample time for the BTA to legislate the needed Codes and fulfill their promises to the Bangsamoro People.

Todate, the OPAPRU cited three out of the seven “basic laws” to govern the BARMM have already been approved and ratified by the BTA. These are, namely, the Administrative Code, the Education Code, and the Development Planning Code. The BTA is currently taking up in various stages the four remaining “basic laws” they will pass upon yet. These include, he enumerated, the proposed Election Code; the Local Government Code; the Revenue Code; and, the Indigenous People’s Management Code.

PBBM himself declared during the oath-taking of newly appointed members of the BTA that they must perform well in their respective jobs. By rendering good public service, the President pointed out, the people will remember them well should they run in the scheduled May 2025 BARMM elections.

When the Chief Executive subsequently visited the Bangsamoro Parliament holding its first session earlier, he encouraged them to create laws on taxations and the 2025 elections, as well as prioritize healthcare and communication. Methinks, these are clear signals the President is not inclined to postpone for the nth time the BARMM polls.

Galvez conceded politics remains the single biggest threat and challenge to the government’s peace efforts. “The political divisions and political interests undermine the peace process,” he rued.

The people of BARMM should not allow such vested political interests to spoil the peace and prosperity that they have all been working hard to achieve in Mindanao.

Army seize mines, high-powered firearm in La Paz, Leyte

 From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 14, 2022): Army seize mines, high-powered firearm in La Paz, Leyte (By Marie Tonette Marticio)

LA PAZ, Leyte — Troops belonging to the 14th Infantry (Avenger) Battalion seized two anti-personnel mines, a high-powered firearm, and medical kits during an encounter against suspected members of the Communist New People’s Army terrorists (CNTs) here on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The armed rebels were reported members of Platoon 1, Sub-Region Committee-LEVOX in Brgy. Luneta here, the boundary between La Paz and Macarthur town.

Luneta is about 10 kilometers away from the town proper.

“This security operation is aimed to secure the communities and ensure a peaceful Christmas celebration of the constituents of the Province of Leyte and Southern Leyte,” said Lieutenant Col. Ernesto Dela Rosa, Battalion Commander of the 14 IB.

He said their presence in the said area is an anticipation of the celebration of the 54th anniversary of the Communist Party of Philippines on Dec. 26, where notably before the celebration, the CNTs would conduct an attack against the police and army.

“The recovery of anti-personnel mines and its components is a clear indication of their terroristic plans not only against the security forces but also against innocent civilians in the area,” he added.

According to Colonel Noel A. Vestuir, Commander of the 802nd Infantry (Peerless) Brigade, the timely information provided by the residents in the area foiled the CPP-NPA-NDF terroristic plans against the people and the community.

“It is a notable manifestation that the CTGs are no longer welcome and/or acceptable to communities,” he said, referring to the La Paz town that has not experienced NPA atrocities in over 10 years.

Groups press for removal of Luis Jalandoni’s terror tag

 Posted to ABS_CBN (Dec 10, 2022): Groups press for removal of Luis Jalandoni’s terror tag (By Mike Navallo)

National Democratic Front (NDF) senior adviser Luis Jalandoni (left) and founder of the Filipino Communist Party and NDF's chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison take part in a meeting as part of the peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the NDF organized by the Dutch government on April 2, 2017 in the Dutch town of Noordwijk aan Zee. Mignon, AFP/File

MANILA — Various groups on Friday gathered in front of the Department of Justice in Manila to call for the delisting of former National Democratic Front (NDF) chief peace negotiator Luis “Louie” Jalandoni.

Jalandoni, 87, was among 6 alleged communist leaders and 6 alleged Abu Sayyaf members designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) in May.ATC tags peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, some ASG members as terrorists

He was identified as a supposed member of the Communist Party of the Philippines Central Committee and the National Democratic Front as well as the founder of the Christians for National Liberation, all of which were earlier designated by the ATC as terrorist groups.

Anti-terror council tags 16 'groups' allegedly linked to communists as terrorist
Anti-Terrorism Council tags CPP-NPA, Islamic State East Asia, Maute and associated groups as 'terrorists'

The designation is a controversial process provided under the Anti-Terrorism Act that allows the ATC to unilaterally tag individuals and groups as terrorists even before they could present evidence to refute the claim.

The delisting was only included in the implementing rules and regulations of the law.

It was upheld by the Supreme Court last year.SC ruling on Anti-Terrorism Act: Important win or fraught with deadly consequences?

Former lawmaker Liza Masa, now the general secretary of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), led progressive groups in a dialogue with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.

The Justice Secretary sits as a member of the ATC.

The purpose of the dialogue was to hand over a letter from the International Committee Defend Louie Jalandoni for President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., coursed through Remulla, where they call for the revocation of the Jalandoni’s designation.

“Louie is a man of peace! He is not a terrorist,” the letter said, denouncing the ATC’s designation of Jalandoni as a terrorist for being “arbitrary” and done without due process, prior notice or any semblance of transparency.

“This denouncement comes as we gather mounting support from the international community. The International Committee Defend launched a petition signing campaign which gathered over 1,500 signatories from the Philippines and across the world in defense of Louie Jalandoni and the Filipino people, rightfully calling for the revocation of ATC’s baseless and malicious claims,” it added.

A former Catholic priest who later on served for almost 15 years as chair of the NDFP negotiating panel, Jalandoni has worked tirelessly for peace, according to Masa.

Although he stepped down as chief negotiator in 2016, he stayed on as a senior adviser.

“Matagal na pong inalay niya ang kanyang buhay para sa usaping pangkapayapaan at hindi magkakaroon ng tunay na kapayapaan sa bansa hangga’t ang mga nagsusulong nito ay tinataguriang terorista,” Masa told the media ahead of the dialogue Friday afternoon.

She distinguished rebels from terrorists, sayings terrorists do not advocate for a cause while the NDF has sought to uplift the lives of ordinary Filipinos.

Rebellion is not terrorism: Court junks PH govt’s plea to tag CPP-NPA as terrorists

“Hindi sila terrorist. Sila po ay matagal nang nakikipaglaban para magkaroon ng matagalan at sustinable na kapayapaan dito sa ating bayan,” she said.

“Iwaksi na natin ang pag-iisip na porke humawak ng armas ay sasabihin nating terrorist. Ang tradisyon po ng paglaban nang armado nagsimula pa sa panahon ni Andres Bonifacio. At ito ay may katuturan at merong dahilan,” she added.

Terror-tagging, she said, is a big obstacle to peace talks.

She urged the government to instead focus on addressing the root causes of armed struggle by first coming to the negotiating table.

After having good relations with the Left at the start of his term, former President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace talks with communist rebel groups and instead created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a group accused of red-tagging activists and progressive group members.

Duterte announces 'permanent termination' of peace talks with Reds

President Marcos, Jr. did not mention the communist insurgency in his first State of the Nation Address in July but his peace adviser said the Philippine government is engaged in local peace talks and is waiting for the right time for a final settlement with the Reds.

PH gov’t looking for ‘right time’ for final settlement with Reds: peace adviser

Masa declined to speak on the record after the dialogue if Remulla made any commitments with respect to their plea.

Among the groups who called for Jalandoni’s delisting are the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Asia Pacific Research Network, and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty.

54 PNP officials promoted to next higher rank

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12, 2022): 54 PNP officials promoted to next higher rank (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan

MANILA – Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Monday announced that 54 senior police officials and mid-level police officers got their promotions to higher ranks.

Abalos, along with PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officials, made the announcement after National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Jonnel Estomo presented NCRPO's accomplishments in a press briefing at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

The promoted officers were led by Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Armamento, commander of the Area Police Command-Southern Luzon, who was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Eight brigadier generals were promoted to the rank of major general, including Estomo, and Bernard Banac, PNP director for plans.

Meanwhile, the six other new major generals were Jon Arnaldo (PNP director for human resource and doctrine development), Mario Reyes (PNP director for police-community relations), Eric Noble (PNP Academy director), Ritchie Posadas (deputy commander of the Area Police Command-Southern Luzon), Emmanuel Peralta (PNP director for operations) and Edgar Alan Okubo (Special Action Force director).

Abalos urged the newly-promoted officers to help in the government’s intensified war against illegal drugs.

Azurin thanked Abalos, chairman of the National Police Commission, for the promotion of the police officers.

“This is a very good Christmas present to our policemen, that finally, their promotion came out,” he said.

Twenty-one colonels were promoted to the rank of brigadier general and 24 lieutenant colonels were promoted to colonel.

One of the colonels promoted to Brigadier General was Mark Pespes, commander of the PNP Headquarters Support Service at Camp Crame.

Pespes was among those who responded to the botched escape of Abu Sayyaf leader Idang Susukan and Daulah Islamiyah members Arnel Cabintoy and Feliciano Sulayao Jr. from the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame on Oct. 9.

Susukan and Cabintoy were shot by a sniper after they stabbed and wounded a police officer, who was delivering food for the detainees, during their planned escape.

Sulayao ran to the cell of former senator Leila de Lima and tied, blindfolded and took her hostage.

Pespes negotiated for the release of de Lima for about 10 to 15 minutes before shooting Sumayao dead while giving drinking water to Sulayao who threatened to kill the former senator.

De Lima, who has been detained at the PNP jail facility since 2017 on drug-related charges, was not hurt during the hostage-taking incident.

DND chief shows support to ‘AUKUS’ alliance

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 14, 2022): DND chief shows support to ‘AUKUS’ alliance (By Martin Sadongdong)

Department of National Defense (DND) Officer in Charge Jose Faustino Jr. has expressed support to a trilateral security cooperation between Australia, United Kingdom, and United States (AUKUS) which is seen to help maintain peace in the Indo-Pacific region.

Australian Amb. Hae Kyong Yu (left) shakes hands with Department of National Defense (DND) OIC Jose Faustino Jr. during a courtesy visit at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Dec. 12, 2022. (Photo by DND)

Faustino made the gesture during the courtesy visit of Australian Ambassador Hae Kyong Yu at the DND Building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Tuesday, Dec. 12, where he also thanked Australia for backing a 2016 tribunal ruling that favored the Philippines’ territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea against China.

“The OIC, DND reiterated the Philippines’ support for the Australia – UK – US (AUKUS) security arrangement and expressed appreciation for Australia’s ardent support for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) award,” Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

Faustino and Yu also discussed the “robust” bilateral defense cooperation of the two countries even during the Covid-19 pandemic, and committed to “deepen existing lines of efforts while exploring new areas of potential partnerships.”

The two officials also agreed on the importance of adhering to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, according to Andolong, even as China continues to operate hundreds of maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

“We are proud of Australia-Philippines’ steadfast and enduring defence partnership. It is grounded in our shared history and values of truest, respect and friendship, and is our bedrock as we face ongoing and emerging security challenges together,” Yu said.

Faustino and Yu’s meeting was part of a series of engagements by the DND with diplomats and ranking defense officials from allied nations during the past week.

Water technology deal with Hungary

In a separate courtesy call, Faustino also hosted Hungarian Ambassador Titanilla Toth on Tuesday.

Hungarian Amb. Titanilla Toth (left) shakes hands with Department of National Defense (DND) OIC Jose Faustino Jr. during a courtesy visit at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Dec. 12, 2022. (Photo by DND)

During their meeting, Faustino and Toth talked about the cooperation between the Philippines and Hungary as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties in 2023.

Faustino and Toth exchanged updates on the planned acquisition of 16 mobile water treatment units from Hungary through the Office of Civil Defense. The water purification systems will be used to support the provision of potable water to communities in need during or in the aftermath of disasters or other emergencies.

They also exchanged views on the Russian-Ukraine war and the South China Sea issue, Andolong said.

Engagements with Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia

Meanwhile, DND executives also met with top-ranking defense officials of Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia to boost the Philippines’ defense and security cooperation with its neighboring countries.

Delegates from the Philippines and Japan meet during the Philippines-Japan Vice Ministers’ Defense Dialogue in Makati City on Dec. 7, 2022. (Photo by DND)

Undersecretary Franco Nemesio Gacal met with Japan’s Vice Minister of Defense for International Affairs Masami Okada during the Philippines-Japan Vice Ministers’ Defense Dialogue last Dec. 7 in Makati City.

Gacal and Vice Minister Oka committed to work together on crafting frameworks that will further develop the two countries’ defense cooperation.

Recently, the Senate expressed support to the proposal that would establish a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Japan. This will enable the conduct of military exercises between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Japanese armed forces in Manila, a level up to the usual humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) drills held in the past years.

They also raised possibility of an “enhanced trilateral cooperation” with the United States, Andolong noted.

On the other hand, the DND held back-to-back bilateral and trilateral security meetings with Indonesia and Malaysia last Dec. 6 in Bandung, Indonesia.

Delegates from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia meet during the 20th Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines (INDOMAPHIL) Meeting on the Trilatetal Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) in Badung, Indonesia on Dec. 6, 2022. (Photo by DND) Philippines-Japan Vice Ministers’ Defense Dialogue in Makati City on Dec. 7, 2022.

The three nations discussed their maritime cooperation that help secure their borders during the 20th Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines (INDOMAPHIL) Meeting on the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA).

The trilateral cooperation contributed to the significant decline and zero incidence of kidnap for ransom incidents by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in their maritime borders since 2020, according to the three countries.

Bombmaker sorry for Bali attack

Posted to The Star (Dec 15, 2022): Bombmaker sorry for Bali attack

Related News: 

Bali bombmaker apologises to angry survivors, families

Convicted Bali bomb maker apologises to victims' families

Bali bombmaker released

A changed man: Umar (right) walking with Ali who set up a foundation to help former prisoners rejoin society in Tenggulun. — AFP

A militant who was paroled last week after serving about half of his original 20-year prison sentence for making the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings apologised to victims’ families.

Hisyam Alizein, better known by his nom de guerre Umar Patek, was a leading member of the al-Qaeda-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, which was blamed for the blasts at two nightclubs in Kuta Beach that killed 202 people – mostly foreign tourists – including 88 Australians.

“I apologise not only to the people in Bali in particular, but I also apologise to all Indonesian people,” Umar told reporters while visiting former militant Ali Fauzi, a long-time friend who runs a programme aimed at deradicalising militants in East Java’s Tenggulun village.

“I also sincerely apologise especially to the Australians who also experienced a very great impact from the Bali bombing crime,” Umar said. “I also apologise to the victims and their families both at home and abroad, whatever their nationality, whatever their ethnicity, whatever their religion, I sincerely apologise to all of them.”

Wearing a grey shirt and a Javanese traditional headgear, Umar received a warm welcome from his old friends, some of whom were former convicts who joined the deradicalisation programme headed by Fauzi.

Indonesian authorities have said Umar was successfully reformed in prison and they will use him to influence other militants to turn away from terrorism. Umar is still being monitored and will have to participate in a mentoring programme until his parole ends on April 29, 2030.

News in August of Umar’s impending early release sparked outrage in Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described him as “abhorrent” and said his freedom would cause further distress to Australians who endured the trauma of the bombings. Australia’s objection prompted President Joko Widodo’s administration to delay Umar’s release while Indonesia hosted the Group of 20 summit last month.

Umar left Bali just before the attacks and spent nine years on the run that took him from Indonesia to the Philippines to Pakistan.

In the southern Philippines, officials said he had joined forces with the local extremist group Abu Sayyaf, spending several years training militants and plotting attacks, including against US troops in the country.

He was finally caught in January 2011 in the same Pakistani town where US Navy Seals would kill Osama bin Laden just a few months later. Umar was hiding out in a second-floor room of a house in Abbottabad, a US$1mil bounty on his head, when Pakistani security forces, acting on a tip from the CIA, burst in.

He was then extradited to Indonesia. It was there that the kindness of police officers who helped get him medical treatment apparently began to chip away at his convictions about people he had long seen as the enemy.

He expressed remorse at his trial, saying he helped make the bombs but did not know how they would be used. He also issued broad apologies, including to the victims’ families, at that time.

Umar is the son of a goat meat trader. He went to computer school and learned English before being recruited into Jemaah Islamiyah by Dulmatin, a fellow militant who was gunned down by Indonesian police in March 2010.

After his arrest, Umar told interrogators that he learned to make bombs during a 1991-1994 stint in Pakistan, and later in Afghanistan.

Umar said in August he was committed to helping the government with deradicalisation programmes “so that they can fully understand the dangers of terrorism and the dangers of radicalism”.

Ali said he could appreciate the pain caused by Umar’s early release, but hopes the victims’ families and Australian friends were “willing to forgive him”.

Ali’s brothers were also convicted in the attack. Amrozi and Mukhlas, along with a third bomber, Imam Samudra, were executed in 2008. They never expressed remorse, saying the bombings were meant to punish the US and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The Bali bombing remains JI’s most spectacular attack. Though there have been several others since, but none as deadly. Analysts credit a crackdown that has netted more than 2,500 militants between 2000 and 2021, including the death of several key leaders in police action. — AP

Bombs found, defused at churches in the Philippines

From UCA News (Dec 15, 2022): Bombs found, defused at churches in the Philippines

Government not sure if explosive devices planted to detonate or ‘merely frighten Christians’ during Christmas season

Policemen and soldiers are seen in front of a Catholic Church, where the bombing took place in Jolo, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao, on Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Philippine military experts have disposed of three homemade bombs found on the premises of two Catholic churches in Jolo town, Sulu province in Mindanao region.

The bombs, suspected to have been planted by the terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, were spotted on Dec. 15 on the patio of San Roque and San Isidro parishes in Jolo town, which has been the target of suicide bombings in recent years.

The military experts were informed by policemen on patrol duty after an alert was sounded by the locals.

“Two of our ground policemen were informed of some cartons lying near the church door. We isolated the area and called bomb experts,” Police Colonel Raymond Durado told UCA News.

Durado said the bombs were packed in an identical manner inside cigarette cartons.

“They looked almost the same, the same tape was used, the same packaging, so it was obvious that they all came from the same source,” Durado added.

Bomb experts who defused the bombs said they carried the imprint of Abu Sayyaf operatives who have been behind several suicide bombings in the region.

The Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Council pointed a finger at Mundi Sawadjaan as the primary suspect.

“Sawadjaan is a unit leader and bomb maker of the Abu Sayyaf group operating in the Sulu province of southern Philippines. He was trained by the IS [Islamic State] and trains others in the Philippines,” Justice Secretary Jose Crispin Remulla told reporters on Dec. 15.

Remulla wasn’t sure though if the bombs were planted at the churches to detonate or “merely frighten Christians” who were about to celebrate the novena masses.

“Nevertheless, whoever made them will face the criminal consequences of their actions,” the justice secretary added.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo thanked the military and police for their prompt response.

“We thank our authorities for their swift action to make our people safe. Muslim or Christians, Christmas or Ramadan, violence and terrorism have no place in a civilized society… We are all brothers and sisters, we are all Filipinos,” Jolo Bishop Charlie Inzon told UCA News.

The prelate urged Catholics to serve as agents of peace, not just during the Christmas season but in their everyday lives.

Local Catholics were reminded of the two bombs that exploded at the Cathedral of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the same province killing 20 people and injuring 102 others on Jan. 27, 2019.

Later, in 2020, a male suicide bomber in a woman's attire had blown up near a police station killing seven civilians and injuring 22 others.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis: BHB, nakasagupa ang AFP sa Kalinga

Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis propaganda article posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Web site (Dec 14, 2022): BHB, nakasagupa ang AFP sa Kalinga (NPA, AFP clash in Kalinga)

December 14, 2022

Kinumpirma ngayong araw ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB)-Kalinga na nagkaroon ng engkwentro sa pagitan ng isa nitong yunit at ng 54th IB noong Disyembre 8 alas-2 ng hapon sa Sityo Balay, Barangay Tulgao West, Tinglayan. Ayon sa ulat, ligtas na nakaatras ang yunit ng hukbong bayan.

Matapos ang insidente, hibang at walang-target na nagpaulan ng bala ang mga sundalo sa pinangyarihan ng engkwentro. Tumagal ng dalawang oras ang pagpapaputok kahit malaon nang nakamaniobra ang yunit ng BHB na nakasagupa ng mga ito. Nagmalaki at gumawa ng kwento si Lt. Col. Emmanuel Diasen, kumander ng 54th IB na diumano’y napinsalaan ang BHB.

Ang tropa ng 54th IB na nakaengkwentro ng hukbong bayan ay ilang araw nang nag-ooperasyon sa naturang kulumpon ng mga barangay. Tatlong araw itong nagpalipad ng mga helikopter at reconnaissance plane.

Nagdudulot ng lubhang takot ang mga operasyon ng AFP dahil sa panggigipit at pandarahas ng mga sundalo sa masa sa lugar. Kabilang sa mga kaso ang kamakailang pagreyd ng mga ito sa mga kalapaw (imbakan ng ani) at uma ng masa na ninakawan nila at sinira. Sa paunang ulat, dalawang residente ang iligal na hinuli at idinetine ng mga sundalo nang halos tatlong araw. Kinumpiska rin ang isang .22 kalibre na riple na gamit nila sa pangangaso.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Maramihang pangingibang-bansa ng mga nars, pinangangambahan

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Dec 15, 2022): Maramihang pangingibang-bansa ng mga nars, pinangangambahan (Mass emigration of nurses, feared)

December 15, 2022

Nangangamba ang Filipino Nurses United na maramihang aalis ang mga may karanasang nars matapos ang alok ng New Zealand ng “residency” (permanenteng paninirahan) at mas mataas na sahod sa sinumang nars na handang magtrabado doon. Gayundin ang pahayag ng Philippine Nurses Association na nagsabing posibleng maapektuhan ang operasyon laluna ng mga pribadong ospital kung mangyari ang maramihang pangingibang-bansa ng mga nars.

“Ilang dekada na nating nakikita ang maramihang migrasyon ng mga nars sa ibang mga bansa na nag-aalok sa kanila ng mas maiinam na oportunidad sa trabaho,” pahayag ng FNU noong Disyembre 14. Sa datos mismo ng Department of Health, 316,405 sa 617,898 rehistradong Pilipinong nars o mahigit kalahati (51%) ay nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa. Sa kabuuang rehistrado, 28% lamang o 172,589 ang may lokal na trabaho. Ang mga nars na ito, laluna yaong may karanasan sa malalaking ospital, ang madalas na hinahanap ng ibang bansa.

“Matindi ang pangangailangan ng bansa natin para sa mga serbisyo na ginagampanan ng mga nars at iba pang serbisyong pangkalusugan,” ayon sa FNU. Napakaraming nars sa Pilipinas, anito, pero hindi sila ipinapaloob sa sistema ng pampublikong kalusugan para tugunan ang pangangailangan ng bansa. Sa isang pagdinig sa Kongreso noong Nobyembre 21, napag-alaman ng grupo na 27,777 lamang na pusisyon ang ibinukas ng pambansang gubyerno at hindi pa ito lahat napupunan.

Para lutasin ang maramihang pangingibang-bayan ng mga nars, giit ng FNU na itaas ang batayang sweldo nila tungong ₱50,000 kada buwan, kasabay ng pag-empleyo ng dagdag na 52,000 nars sa mga pampublikong ospital at pagregularisa ng lahat ng mga kontraktwal na nars. “May sapat na mga nars ang Pilipinas kung iprayoritisa lamang ng gubyerno ang kalusugan sa pambansang badyet,” ayon sa grupo.

Sa ngayon, pinakamataas na ang ₱570 arawang sahod ng mga nars na nasa pribadong sektor. Ang minimum sa sweldo naman sa mga pampublikong ospital ay umaabot sa ₱35,000 kada buwan. Bagamat relatibong mas mataas ito kumpara sa pribadong sektor, dumaranas ang mga nars sa pampublikong sektor ng sobra-sobrang pagtatrabaho at patient overload (labis na dami ng pasyente).

“Hanggang patuloy na pinababayaan at inaabuso ang mga mangggawang pangkalusugan… sa napakababang sweldo, pinagtitiis sa palagian at matinding understaffing (kakulangan sa tao) na nagreresulta sa mas mahahabang oras ng duty nang walang karampatang kumpensasyon at overtime pay, overload sa trabaho at mga pasyente, mas marami pang mga Pilipinong nars ang matutulak na magtrabaho sa ibang bansa,” ayon sa FNU.

Samantala, hindi ineenganyo ng World Health Organization ang pagkuha ng mayayamang bansa ng mga manggagawang pangkalusugan sa mga bansang mahirap ang kalagayan ng sistemang pangkalusugan. Bagamat hindi kasama ang Pilipinas sa 47 bansang “restricted” o bawal bawasan ng mga manggagawang kalusugan, hinihikayat sa Code of Practice ng WHO na gabayan ng “etika” ang mga bansang nag-eempleyo ng mga dayuhang nars. Isa ang United Kingdom na pinupuna ng sariling mga nars sa pagiging “overreliant” sa mga nars mula sa mga bansang may kritikal na kakulangan ng mga manggagawang pangkalusugan.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Pagratsada sa bagong ‘baryant’ ng mandatory ROTC, tinutulan

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Dec 15, 2022): Pagratsada sa bagong ‘baryant’ ng mandatory ROTC, tinutulan (Pushing the new 'variant' of mandatory ROTC, opposed)

December 15, 2022

Magkakasunod na mga protesta at pagtitipon ang inilunsad ng mga grupo ng kabataan simula Disyembre 12 para tutulan at pigilan ang pagraratsada sa bagong panukalang magbabalik ng mandatory ROTC o Reserve Officers’ Training Corps sa bansa. Ayon sa mga grupo, anumang ‘baryant’ o ipangalan sa pasistang programa, sisingaw pa rin ang baho at kabulukan nito.

Isinusulong ngayon sa House of Representatives ang bagong panukalang National Citizens Service Training Program (NCSTP) o House Bill 6486 na nabuo matapos konsolidahin ang 27 mga panukala para ibalik ang mandatory ROTC. Sa ulat ng Kabataan Party List, minamadali ito para mailusot bago magsara ang sesyon ng Kongreso ngayong taon.

Unang naglunsad ng protesta sa Mendiola ang mga grupo ng kabataan sa pamumuno ng ‘No to Mandatory ROTC Network’ noong Disyembre 12 ng umaga sa Mendiola, Manila. Humiga sila sa kalsada bilang simbolikong protesta laban sa programa na magdudulot ng pagkamatay ng demokratikong karapatan ng mga kabataan. Sinundan ito ng isang press conference ng mga grupo ng kabataan sa University of the Philippines-Diliman sa araw ding iyon.

Nagpiket naman sa harap ng House of Reprensentatives sa Quezon City ang mga kabataan noong Disyembre 14 kasabay ng pagdinig sa naturang panukala. Ipinalalaganap ng network ang isang petisyon para tutulan ang panibagong pakanang ito ng gubyerno.

Ani Jandeil Roperos, tagapangulo ng National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), “Alam nilang [gubyerno] mabaho ang Mandatory ROTC kaya pinalitan nila ng pangalan. Pero tulad ng Covid-19, kahit anong variant, peste pa rin ito sa mamamayan.”

Isiniwalat naman ni Lance Avery Alo, convenor ng No to Mandatory ROTC Network, na sa panukalang ito, “AFP ang magsusupervise, ROTC cadets ang magtuturo at ang magtatapos nito ay automatic na bahagi ka ng AFP Reserved Force. Wala ring exemptions dito.”

“Malinaw po na ang NCSTP ay Mandatory ROTC sa ibang pangalan at parehong abuso at pasakit din ang hatid nito sa kabataan. Di kami papayag na isagasa ito ng Kongreso!” pagdidiin pa niya.

Binatikos din ng PUP Central Student Council ang dagdag gastos na ipapataw nito sa mga estudyante at kanilang magulang. “Panigurado magkakaroon ng dagdag na mga tuition at miscellaneous fee dahil sa NCSTP na ito. Dagdag pa rito yung mga dapat bilhin na mga uniporme, equipment, at pamasahe, panigurado bubutas lang ng bulsa ng mga ordinaryong estudyante,” ayon kay Benhur Quequeggan ng PUP Central Student Council.

Kinastigo naman ng La Salle for Human Rights and Democracy ang dagdag pahirap na workload o asikasuhin sa eskwela kung maipatutupad ito. Nangangamba rin sila at ang iba pang mga grupo sa pang-aabuso, diskriminasyon at karahasang idudulot nito sa loob ng mga eskwelahan. Papatayin din umano nito ang akademikong kalayaan ng mga estudyante dahil tuturuan lamang silang maging kimi, sumunod sa utos at huwag kwestyunin ang atas sa kanila.

Naipatigil ang mandatory ROTC noong Enero 2002 kasunod ng mga protestang sumiklab matapos ang pagkamatay ni Mark Welson Chua, 19 anyos na estudyante ng University of Sto. Tomas, noong Marso 2001 sa kamay ng kapwa upisyal sa ROTC ng pamantasan. Isiniwalat noon ni Chua ang mga anomalya, korapsyon at pang-aabuso sa loob ng UST ROTC, dahilan para pag-initan at gantihan siya ng mga upisyal nito na sinipa at inalis sa pusisyon.

CPP/NPA-Ilocos-Cordillera ROC: Hinggil sa engkwentro ng BHB at AFP sa Tinglayan, Kalinga

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Dec 14, 2022): Hinggil sa engkwentro ng BHB at AFP sa Tinglayan, Kalinga (Regarding the NPA and AFP encounter in Tinglayan, Kalinga)

Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Operational Command (Chadli Molintas Command)
New People's Army

December 14, 2022

Disyembre 08, 2022, bandang alas-dos ng hapon naganap ang engkwentro sa pagitan ng isang tim ng mga Pulang Mandirigma ng Lejo Cawilan Command (LCC-NPA Kalinga) at isang yunit ng Philippine Army (PA) sa Sitio Balay, Barangay Tulgao West, Tinglayan, Kalinga. Hindi pa kumpirmado ang bilang ng kaswalti sa bahagi ng kaaway habang walang natamong anumang pinsala ang BHB.

Pagkatapos ng ilang segundong labanan, halos dalawang oras pang nagpaulan ng bala at pasabog ang PA kahit pa wala naman ng BHB sa nasabing lugar ng engkwentro. Bago pa nito dalawang magkakasunod na araw na nagpapalipad ng mga helicopter ang kaaway sa magkakanugnog na baryo ng Tulgao at Colayo. Disyembre 09, halos anim na oras na nagpalipad ng reconnaissance plane ang kaaway sa paligid ng nasabing mga baryo.

Ang nasabing engkwentro ay nangyari sa kasagsagan ng operasyon ng PA sa lugar kontra di-umano sa iligal na pagtatanim ng marijuana. Malaking kabalintunaan na silang mga nag-ooperasyon ang mismong pasimuno rin ng paglaganap ng mga taniman ng iligal na marijuana sa lugar. Panahon na naman ng pag-aani ng PA ng marijuana na pinsala at perwisyo naman ang dulot sa masa. Sa aktwal, maraming kalapaw at uma ng masa ang kanilang ni-reyd, ninakawan at sinira. Dalawang masa ang iligal na hinuli at idinetine ng kaaway ng halos tatlong araw at kinumpiska ang isang .22 calibre na riple na gamit ng mga ito sa pangangaso.

Ang lahat ng kalabisan at kalapastanganang ito ay nagdulot sa masa ng matinding takot hindi lang sa kanilang buhay ngunit maging sa kabuhayan nila. Hindi sila makapunta sa kanilang mga taniman upang magproduksyon, takot silang mangaso sa kagubatan dahil baka hulihin sila at gawing giya ng mga nag-ooperasyong kaaway. Labag din sa kanilang karapatan ang pagkakampo ng mga militar sa kanilang barangay hall, eskwelahan at simbahan.

Kalinaw News: Influx of BIFF surrenders in Central Mindanao continues

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 15, 2022): Influx of BIFF surrenders in Central Mindanao continues (By Western Mindanao Command)

Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City – December 15, 2022

Seven more members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) surrendered to the military in Barangay Zapakan, Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao del Sur, on December 14, 2022.

The former violent extremists handed over to Lt. Col. Benjamin Cadiente, Jr., Commanding Officer of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, their firearms, including two M14 rifles, one M16A1 rifle, one M79 Grenade Launcher, and one 60mm mortar.

Lt. Col. Cadiente said that among the surrendered personalities is Bendal Kalim Alim, a.k.a. Miranda, the leader of a sub-group of the BIFF-Karialan Faction. “The surrender of Alim and his followers was made possible through the intensified intelligence and civil-military operations launched by our team.”

Maj. Gen. Roy Galido, Commander of Joint Task Force Central, commended the 33IB troopers for sustaining the momentum. He also expressed his appreciation to the local chief executives of Maguindanao del Sur for their unwavering support of the military’s campaign against terrorism and insurgency that led to the snowball of BIFF surrenders, especially during the last quarter of 2022.

It can be recalled that on December 9, 2022, 44 BIFF personalities yielded to the armed forces in Kabacan, Cotabato. Among those who surrendered is the Battalion Commander of the group, Esmael Aman; the Secretary, Joel Pasco; three junior officers; seven bombers; and other members.

“The influx of BIFF surrenders in Central Mindanao exemplifies the positive result of the employment of the whole-of-nation approach in the peace campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Marine Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, Acting Commander of Western Mindanao Command stated.

Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Kalinaw News: Firearm and Anti-Personnel Mines captured from Communist NPA Terrorists in Leyte

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 14, 2022): Firearm and Anti-Personnel Mines captured from Communist NPA Terrorists in Leyte (By Jonathan Blanco)

Camp Jorge Downes, Ormoc City, Leyte–On December 13, 2022, at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, troops of the 14th Infantry (Avenger) Battalion, while responding to a report from concerned civilians regarding the presence of Communist NPA terrorists (CNTs) under Platoon 1, SRC-LEVOX, in Brgy. Luneta, Lapaz, Leyte, encountered more or less three (3) CNTs.

Recovered in he encounter site are one (1) loaded Shotgun, two (2) Anti-Personnel Mines, estimated 50-meters electric wire with switch, Battery Pack with 5 pcs size D batteries, two (2) Backpacks, one (1) Hammock and one (1) Medical Kit with acupuncture needle set, assorted antibiotics, cotton balls, alcohol, betadine and scissors.

“This security operations conducted is aimed to secure the communities and ensure a peaceful Christmas celebrations of the constituents of the Province of Leyte and Southern Leyte”. Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto R Dela Rosa, Battalion Commander, 14th Infantry Battalion said.

“Likewise, this is in anticipation of the celebration of the 54th Anniversary of the Communist Party of Philippines on December 26, 2022 where notably prior the celebration, the CNTs would conduct attack against AFP and PNP. The recovery of anti-personnel mines and its components is a clear indication of their terroristic plans not only against the security forces but also against innocent civilians in the area.” Lieutenant Colonel Dela Rosa added.

According to Colonel Noel A. Vestuir, Commander, 802nd Infantry (Peerless) Brigade, 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army, “The timely information provided by the residents in the area foiled the CPP-NPA-NDF terroristic plans against our people and the communities. It is a notable manifestation that the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs) are no longer welcome and/or acceptable to communities”. “The use of Anti-Personnel Mines is a violation of the Ottawa Convention, the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and Republic Act 9851, An Act on Crimes Against IHL, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity”, Colonel Vestuir added.

Col Vestuir reiterated his call to the remaining NPA terrorists in the island of Leyte to lay down their arms. “The people in the area are no longer supporting you, they are now telling your presence in the communities and the locations of your hideouts even in the hinterlands.

You could not hide and evade forever, and as we celebrate Christmas season, we welcome you to the mainstream of our society, we will treat you as victims that should be helped and rescued. The government has a program intended for you, the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP). Grab this opportunity and join your families, friends and loved one this Christmas Season.” Colonel Vestuir ended.

Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Kalinaw News: Ex-NPA rebels receive cash, hygiene kit in Aurora

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 14, 2022): Ex-NPA rebels receive cash, hygiene kit in Aurora (By Jonathan Blanco)

BALER, Aurora—Two former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) terrorists in Aurora province have received at least PHP5K each and hygiene kits from the local government unit (LGU) of Dingalan on Monday, December 12, 2022.

Lt. Col. Julito B. Recto, Jr., commander of the Philippine Army’s 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion said on Tuesday in an interview that one (1) Squad of Alpha Company led by 1st Lieutenant Jevie J. Sagragao together with PNP, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Mayor Shierwin H. Taay facilitated the awarding of financial assistance and hygiene kit to Ka Yoga and Ka Lando held at Maedup Hall Building, Dingalan, Aurora.

The two surrendered to Sagragao in Gabaldon town in Nueva Ecija and retrieved the two M16 in a hiding place in General Nakar, Quezon.

Mayor Taay expressed his sincerest thanks to the 91st IB for bringing peace and order in the province.

He said that the LGU Dingalan is doing its best efforts to deliver the basic services in the remote areas together with the Sinagtala troopers.

“We work together towards our common goal in ending local communist armed conflict, to maintain peace and harmony in our villagers,” Taay said.

Ka Yoga and Ka Lando expressed their happiness for the continuous assistance that they are receiving from the government.

“We are very much thankful to Mayor Taay and 91st IB for the assistance they have given us as we return to the folds of the law. To our sinagtala troopers, thank you for taking care of us since our surrender. We are now sure that our dream of living a better and peaceful life with our family will come true specially that Christmas is fast approaching,” the surrenderers said.

Back to Recto, he said that the government and other concerned agencies will work hard in order to finally end insurgency problem.

“Rest assured that more assistance will be given to the former rebels. We also urged the remaining dismantled Komiteng Larangang Guerilla Sierra Madre (KLG-SM) to surrender and embrace peace because there’s no future in continuing the armed struggle,” Recto said.

Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

'Balikatan' 2023 to include live-fire drills in urban terrain

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14, 2022): 'Balikatan' 2023 to include live-fire drills in urban terrain (By Priam Nepomuceno) 

BALIKATAN 2023. Planners from the Armed Forces of the Philippines finalize details of the 2023 iteration of Balikatan Exercises during the planning conference held at the AFP Education, Training and Doctrine Command, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Dec. 12, 2022. (Photo from PA)

MANILA – The 2023 iteration of the annual "Balikatan" joint exercises between American and Filipino troops will have a segment dedicated to operations in urban terrain.

"The 2023 iteration of 'Balikatan' is projected to include field training exercises composed of combined and live-fire exercises and military operations in urban terrain," Philippine Army (PA) spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement Tuesday night.

No other details were provided for security reasons. Urban terrain refers to heavily populated areas like towns or cities or locations densely packed with buildings and other infrastructure.

Trinidad made the statement after the PA joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and US Armed Forces’ Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom) planners in threshing out the final details of next year's "Balikatan".

"The final planning conference (was held) at the AFP Education, Training and Doctrine Command, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on December 12, 2022," he added.

"Balikatan" is an annual exercise between the AFP and Indopacom geared at enhancing both forces' interoperability. "The annual bilateral activity is also aimed at strengthening the capacity and competencies of both forces in a spectrum of military operations such as counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster response," Trinidad said.

In this year's "Balikatan" exercises, around 3,800 members of the AFP and 5,100 US military personnel -- the largest number of combined personnel of the two militaries in the annual exercise since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in 2020.

The Philippines and US exercise forces employed more than 50 aircraft, four ships, 10 amphibious craft, four high mobility artillery rocket system launchers, and four Patriot missile systems during "Balikatan" 2022.

This year’s exercise also included approximately 40 personnel from the Australian Defense Force.

No security threats detected for Yuletide: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14, 2022): No security threats detected for Yuletide: AFP (By Priam Nepomuceno)

PNA file photo

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) does not see any security threats for the Yuletide Season as insurgent rebels have been greatly weakened.

"We have not seen any threat yet so far and I think even the capability of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), a local terrorist group, (has) weakened that they are incapable of mounting large scale or shall we say a terrorist act that will disturb the peace," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said when asked during an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

Aguilar said the AFP will just provide support to the Philippine National Police (PNP) as it is the lead agency when it comes to security operations and preparations for the Yuletide Season.

"Now, in the conduct of security operations, what we will do is to provide our support to PNP because they are the lead effort when it comes to security operation and preparation during Yuletide Season," he said.

He also said a ceasefire with insurgents is out of the question as the government does not know on whom to talk to as there is now a leadership vacuum existing in the rebel ranks.

"The ceasefire is out of question now because we do not know who to talk to, their leaders are, have gone into hiding, some are neutralized and number two is that there is a leadership vacuum, a leadership crisis within the underground organization so how can they enforce a ceasefire to make sure the compliance of all its force," he said.

What the AFP can offer for now is the "suspension of military operation" which will allow them to shift to active defense, he added.

Aguilar said this measure will allow troops to be with their families and hopefully, the CPP will also do the same for its New People's Army (NPA) fighters or members.

"Hopefully the CPP will allow its members, its fighters, the NPA members to visit their families, to go home and by the time that they are supposed to go back, they will realize that armed struggle is no longer relevant, it will be a futile exercise because reforms can be achieved without resorting to violence," he added.

Aguilar also reiterated that the AFP has been successful in internal security operations as out of the 89 guerilla fronts reported in 2016, only 24 are left with only five active to date.

"So what we are trying to do now is to intensify more, double up our (efforts), so that we can give the people the gift that they've been longing for so long and that is to have a free and democratic country," he added.

Army advisory board cited for transparency initiatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): Army advisory board cited for transparency initiatives (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – Members of the Philippine Army Multi-Sector Advisory Board (PA MSAB) were lauded for their efforts in promoting and ensuring transparency in the military organization during their last meeting for the year Wednesday at the PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement Thursday.

The final PA MSAB meeting held Wednesday via virtual and face-to-face was presided by PA acting vice commander Brig. Gen. Yegor Rey P. Barroquillo where different committees reported their latest updates and accomplishments for the year.

"Brig. Gen. Barroquillo, during the meeting, expressed his appreciation to the MSAB members who advocated for good governance and promoted transparency and accountability in the organization. He also expressed his anticipation for future projects and partnerships for Army transformation," Trinidad said.

The PA MSAB was established with the goal of promoting the continuity and sustainability of the Army Transformation Roadmap and to encourage responsibility in its success.

AFP congratulates 54 senior officers confirmed by CA

Also on Thursday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) congratulated the 54 senior officers whose ad-interim appointments were approved by the Commission on Appointments (CA) at the Senate Hall in Pasay City.

Philippine Military Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Rowen Tolentino, led the contingent of AFP officers whom Rep. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo, the chairperson of the Committee on National Defense, recommended for confirmation.

The CA also okayed the appointments of Brig. Gen. Jovencio Gonzales, commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade; Brig. Gen. Dennis Estrella, commander of Tactical Operations Wing Western Mindanao; Brig. Gen. Fatima Claire Navarro, the AFP Surgeon General; and Brig.Gen. Moises Nayve Jr., commander of the Army Headquarters and Headquarters Support Group.

Also confirmed by the CA were 16 colonels from the Philippine Army, 10 colonels from the Philippine Air Force, eight captains from the Philippine Navy, two colonels from the Philippine Navy-Marines, and 13 colonels from the Technical and Administrative Service of the AFP.

Troops arrest 2 ASG bandits, seize firearms in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): Troops arrest 2 ASG bandits, seize firearms in Sulu (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits allegedly involved in kidnappings and killings were arrested while five others escaped in an operation by police and military forces in Sulu, a police official said Thursday.

Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said Musaram Muharam Amil, 70, and Aljabir Musaram, 30, were arrested in an operation around 1:30 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Tayungan, Panamao, Sulu.

Those who escaped were identified as Warkin Ukoh Adu, Bakri Ukoh Adu, Osminya Ukoh Adu, Alnadzmer Ukoh Adu and Jesmer Ukoh Adu.

Verceles said the troops recovered firearms that included an M16 rifle, a Garand rifle, magazines, ammunition and a bandolier.

He said the subjects of the search warrant were members of the ASG and relatives of slain ASG leader Jennor Lahab, formerly based in Basilan province.

Lahab transferred to the second district of Sulu and was affiliated with the group of the late ASG sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya, who is involved in kidnapping for ransom, the beheading of a Malaysian engineer in 2015 and kidnapping of 10 Indonesian sailors in 2016.

They were also involved in armed encounters with government forces and killings of civilians in Basilan and Sulu.

The ASG members were placed under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for proper filing of charges in court.

73 ex-rebels get P1.4-M livelihood aid in Surigao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): 73 ex-rebels get P1.4-M livelihood aid in Surigao Sur (By Alexander Lopez)

SUPPORT TO EX-REBELS. The Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Caraga Region releases a total of PHP1.4 million in livelihood assistance to 73 former New People’s Army rebels on Dec. 14, 2022 in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur. Each beneficiary received PHP20,000 cash. (Photo courtesy of DSWD-13)

BUTUAN CITY – At least 73 former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Surigao del Sur received livelihood assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Caraga Region (DSWD-13).

In a statement Thursday, DSWD-13 said the PHP1.4 million aid was released through the Livelihood Settlement Grant of the agency’s Sustainable Livelihood Program.

“The distribution of the livelihood assistance to the 73 former rebels was facilitated in Tandag City on Wednesday,” DSWD-13 said, adding that each beneficiary received PHP20,000 cash.

“The former rebels can utilize the assistance as seed capital fund to start a livelihood activity in their respective communities,” it said.

Among those who benefited from the livelihood distribution on Wednesday was “Ardo,” who spent more than five years in the communist movement.

“I decided to surrender after seeing the lives of those who returned to mainstream society. I realized that there’s no future in the armed struggle, only hardships not only on my part but also to the people in communities,” Ardo said in a local dialect during a phone interview on Thursday.

He said he would use the assistance in developing his farm.

7 NPA rebels yield in Zambo Peninsula

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): 7 NPA rebels yield in Zambo Peninsula (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

Google map of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Seven New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have pledged allegiance to the government as they withdrew support to the NPA and surrendered to authorities here in Zamboanga Peninsula, a police official said Thursday.

The police identified the NPA surrenderers as Bebet Tigib, 25; George Tinaypan, 30; Jovin Randis, 22; Julito Bolagao, 37; Rolando Rule, 55; Nicanor Tumindog, 41; and Pilamer Hernando Sr., 61.

Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said Tigib surrendered around 1:40 p.m. Thursday in Sergio Osmeña town, Zamboanga del Norte.

Tigib was a member of the Section Committee of the Guerrilla Front Big Beautiful Country of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC).

Verceles said Tinaypan, Randis, Bolagao and Rule surrendered around 2 p.m. in Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The four were recruited into the NPA in 2017 and served as couriers of food and medical supplies of the NPA’s WMRPC in Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte.

Tumindog, meanwhile, surrendered in San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur.

Verceles said Tumindog served as spy and courier of the NPA in San Miguel town and was released to the custody of Janito Tomino, village chief of Concepcion, San Miguel for community reintegration.

He said Hernando surrendered to the police in Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay. He was recruited in 2003 and served as the food and medical courier of the NPA’s WMRPC in Zamboanga Sibugay.