Wednesday, January 25, 2023

PH, US to start preparation for civil nuclear deal negotiations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2023): PH, US to start preparation for civil nuclear deal negotiations (By Kris Crismundo)

MANILA – The Philippines and the United States will begin the preparation to push for civil nuclear cooperation, an offshoot of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s visit to the US in September 2022.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said in an event of Makati Business Club (MBC) Tuesday that the two governments will kick off the first official consultations to prepare for 123 Agreement negotiations “in the coming weeks.”

“Completing a 123 Agreement will allow for greater civil nuclear cooperation –including the export of nuclear technology,” Carlson said.

As of 2022, the US government has 23 civil nuclear agreements including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Vietnam and Taiwan as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).

The 123 Agreements establish a legal framework that only allows the transfer of US-origin special nuclear material as well as the export of nuclear fuel, reactors and equipment for peaceful use.

The civil nuclear cooperation also allows US partners to access sustainable and responsible nuclear programs of the US government.

“This will be the first step in bringing nuclear power online to help address the Philippines’ energy needs,” Carlson added.

In November 2022, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) director Carlo Arcilla said in an interview that the US is a critical partner for the country amid US’ advanced technologies and experience in nuclear energy.

The Marcos administration has built on the executive order issued by former President Rodrigo Duterte that recognizes nuclear power as a reliable, cost-competitive and environment-friendly source of energy, and that nuclear power should be included in the country’s energy mix.

8 AFP senior officers get new posts

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): 8 AFP senior officers get new posts (By Priam Nepomuceno)

NEW CHIEFS. AFP deputy chief of staff, Vice Adm. Rommel Anthony SD Reyes (center), leads the change of chief-of-office rites for eight senior military officers in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday (Jan. 23, 2023). The AFP said these changes are part of the military's commitment to advance professionalism and meritocracy in the military organization. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – At least eight senior Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers were promoted and given new jobs and positions befitting their seniority and experience amid efforts to further professionalize the organization.

AFP deputy chief of staff, Vice Adm. Rommel Anthony SD Reyes, led the joint change of chief-of-office rites in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday.

AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Jorry Baclor, in a statement Tuesday night, said these changes are part of the military's commitment to advance professionalism and meritocracy in the military organization.

Among those who relinquished their posts and were given more assignments was Army Maj. Gen. Alex S. Rillera, AFP deputy chief of staff (DCS) for operations, who was promoted to command the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division.

Rillera's former post was turned over to his assistant, Army Brig. Gen. Glenn Jun C. Calambuhay, who will serve in an acting capacity.

Meanwhile, Marine Brig. Gen. Noel D. Beleran, has taken over as the DCS for education, training, and doctrine (J-8) from Brig. Gen. Fernando M. Reyeg of the Philippine Army who was the acting J-8 since Jan. 12.

Meanwhile, Army Brig. Gen. Proceso S. Rebancos also assumed his post as the military's new chief engineer, replacing Air Force Col. Celso G. Ressureccion Jr. who will continue to serve as his deputy.

"On the other hand, Col. Erwin Victoriano A. Machica II, JAGS (Judge Advocate General Service) took the helm of the Office of The Judge Advocate General, AFP from Col. Julius P. Agdeppa who has been serving as its acting chief," Baclor said.

Meanwhile, Col. Ma. Dolores M. Lim of the Nurse Corps assumed as the chief nurse, replacing Col. Marilyn O. Tolentino, who was appointed in an acting capacity as its deputy chief.

"Lastly, (Army) Col. Geoffrey M. Carandang was designated as the new secretary of the Joint Staff AFP in place of Col. Wilfredo B Manalang III," Baclor said.

New Socom commander appointed

As this developed, the AFP installed Marine Maj. Gen. Arturo G. Rojas as the new commander of the Special Operations Command (Socom) Wednesday.

The change-of-command ceremony was presided by AFP chief Gen. Andres C. Centino in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Rojas takes over Socom from its deputy commander, Army Col. Ranulfo A. Sevilla, who has been serving in an acting capacity after serving as the deputy commander of Western Mindanao Command.

Rojas has held various command positions and was deployed in areas where he saw action such as in Sulu, Bulacan, Cotabato City, Quezon, Basilan, Zamboanga, and Kalinga-Apayao.

Among his previous assignments were commander of the 2nd and 4th Marine Brigades, Marine Special Operations Group, and director of the Center for Naval Leadership and Excellence.

"The AFP is confident in your capability to extend the same brand of excellent leadership and sincere commitment to duty that you have exemplified throughout your service," Centino told Rojas.

PAF training aircraft with 2 pilots crashes in Bataan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): PAF training aircraft with 2 pilots crashes in Bataan (By Priam Nepomuceno)

PLANE CRASH. The wreckage of the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 trainer/light attack turbo-prop aircraft that crashed in a rice paddy in Barangay Del Rosario, Pilar, Bataan on Wednesday (Jan. 25, 2023). The PAF said it is still confirming reports that the two pilots onboard the plane were killed in the crash. (Photo courtesy of Pilar Municipal Police Station)

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday confirmed that one of its SIAI-Marchetti SF-260TP trainer/light attack turboprop aircraft went down in Bataan as its two pilots were conducting "recurrency training."

In a message to reporters, PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said the plane crashed in Barangay Del Rosario in Pilar town at about 10:34 a.m.

"We confirm that it is one of our Air Force aircraft, the SF-260TP aircraft (was) from Sangley (Cavite), it was on a 'recurrency training' and that there were two pilots involved. Unfortunately, we cannot give details more than that, the investigation is ongoing," she said in a message to reporters.

“Recurrency training" refers to the training given to aircrew members or pilots to be proficient in a particular aircraft.

Castillo said the ill-fated aircraft was assigned to the 15th Strike Wing, which is based at the Danilo Atienza Air Base in Sangley Point, Cavite.

All SF-260TP aircraft in PAF service are grounded while the investigation into the crash is ongoing.

"Per our SOP (standard operating procedure), we ground the fleet," she said.

In a later statement, the PAF said the ill-fated SF-260TP aircraft has a tail number 701 and took off from Major Danilo Atienza Air Base in Sangley Point, Cavite City to perform recurrency/training flight around 10 a.m.

"At around 10:40 a.m. the aircraft was reportedly seen to be descending to a field in Sitio Tabon, Barangay Del Rosario, Pilar, Bataan where it eventually crashed. Two PAF pilots perished in the mishap while no civilian casualties were reported. Our aircraft accident investigation team are already at the site for a thorough investigation, while our SF-260TP fleet has been grounded," it added.

The SF260TP is a highly maneuverable and fully aerobatic basic trainer aircraft of the PAF that serves as a light attack combat aircraft.

It was used during the Marawi siege and various combat missions of the PAF.

It is capable of performing close air support, battlefield air interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, persuasion flight, armed escort, maritime patrol, air cover, flare drop, forward air controller, and aerial demonstration.

"The PAF enjoins the public to join us in condoling with the bereaved families as we further request to refrain from spreading unconfirmed/ unofficial news and pictures about the incident. The PAF assures that all necessary aid, assistance, and support will be provided to them," it added.

"Further, inspite of this mishap, the Command assures that we will continue to perform our usual mandate to provide air support for focused military operations and disaster response," the PAF added.

DSWD, OPAPRU to improve social services for KAPATIRAN members

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): DSWD, OPAPRU to improve social services for KAPATIRAN members (By Zaldy De Layola)

DSWD Officer-in-Charge Eduardo M. Punay (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) on Monday conducted a sit-down meeting aimed to support the reintegration of the KAPATIRAN members into the society through the continuous provision and monitoring of social protection programs.

KAPATIRAN is composed of former members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade - Tabara Paduano Group (RPM/P-RPA/ABB-TPG).

In his message, DSWD Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Punay thanked OPAPRU for its continued support and guidance in the implementation of various peace programs of the Department.

Punay said proper coordination between the DSWD and the OPAPRU is necessary to strengthen their partnership for the succeeding implementing years.

Essentially, both agencies, he added, envision a mechanism that will ensure the sustainability and stable progress of the grants and other subsidies being provided to the KAPATIRAN member-beneficiaries. These include psychosocial services conducted by the DSWD-Program Management Bureau, and livelihood settlement and reinforcement grants extended by the DSWD-Sustainable Livelihood Program.

To date, all 727 members of the 12 KAPATIRAN Chapters were provided with livelihood settlement grants.

As the lead agency in social protection, the DSWD recognized the importance of a comprehensive case management program to better address the needs of the beneficiaries and further empower them and their families and communities.

The DSWD, likewise, noted that there are gender-differentiated and peculiar needs of former women rebels that need to be responded to.

The bilateral meeting concluded on Monday with definite steps towards the inclusion of gender and peace-sensitivity dimensions, the prioritization of children in conflict, the development of livelihood programs and the enhancement of psychosocial interventions to further support the KAPATIRAN members.

“Let’s work hand in hand to sustain the government's efforts in attaining just and lasting peace by following through with our commitments in the peace tables,” Punay said.

The DSWD and the OPAPRU committed to serve as instruments of peace and development not only for the KAPATIRAN but also, to the overall peace campaign of the government.

PNP chief: SAF 44's gallantry forever etched in PH history

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): PNP chief: SAF 44's gallantry forever etched in PH history (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

(Photo courtesy of PNP Public Information Office)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday paid tribute to the supreme sacrifice of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were killed in an anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao eight years ago.

Speaking during the National Day of Remembrance for the SAF 44 in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said the fallen commandos' heroism would be forever etched in the books of the country's history.

“Like the generations of warrior heroes before them, our fallen SAF 44 gave everything they had, not for glory or recognition, but for something greater than themselves. The least we can do is to remember them and their ultimate sacrifice,” Azurin said during the occasion which carries the theme "Legacy of Heroes: Inspiration of Future Generation".

Azurin said the legacy of the heroism of SAF 44 is not just a memory but an inspiration for future generations of police officers to continue to serve with valor and integrity.

“We will continue to honor their memory and supreme sacrifice as we make sure that their legacy lives on through our actions and dedication to the service. They will always be remembered as true heroes, who have given their lives for the service of Filipinos", the country’s top cop added.

Azurin was joined by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin who served as guest of honor and speaker.

In his speech, Bersamin said the Mamasapano mission was an "unqualified success" because it led to the confirmed killing of Malaysian terrorist and bomb expert Zulkifli Abdhir, alias Marwan.

“The success was resounding and worthy of celebration by all peace-loving peoples and nations, for every time that a terrorist like Marwan is meted justice, the victims of terrorism- regardless of their nationalities are gloriously vindicated. They fought to their last breath against remarkably superior combination of the hostile forces that surrounded them. They were warriors to the very end,” he added.

Senior PNP officials and the bereaved families of the SAF 44 also joined the observance.

Haslyn Acob, the widow of Master Sgt. Rodrigo Fernandez Acob Jr., who was among the SAF 44, delivered a message during the ceremony.

“Today, we remember the unfathomable pain, but as a wife of a hero, I want to encourage the whole Filipino people, sana ay naging huwaran sila sa ating lahat na gawin ang ating mga tungkulin, maliit man o malaki para makatulong tayo sa pagkamit ng lasting peace and prosperity sa ating bansa (I hope they served as an inspiration for us to fulfill our duties, whether big or small, so that we could all contribute to lasting peace and prosperity in the country)," Acob said.

In a separate event, PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, along with members of the Directorial Staff, led a wreath-laying ceremony at Bantayog ng mga Bayaning Tagapamayapa at Camp Crame on Wednesday morning.

On Jan. 25, 2015, the SAF 44 died during an anti-terrorism operation dubbed as ‘Oplan Exodus’ in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which led to the neutralization of Marwan.

Proclamation 164 signed by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2017 declares Jan. 25 as a national day of remembrance for the SAF 44.

This significant moment in the history of police service serves as a tribute to the sacrifices made by our uniformed men and women in the line of duty and a recognition of their acts of valor.

Palafox named PH Army's Armor Division commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): Palafox named PH Army's Armor Division commander (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) announced the appointment of Maj. Gen. Facundo Palafox IV as the new commander of the Armor Division.

Palafox assumed command of the unit during the assumption ceremony at Camp O'Donnell, Sta. Lucia, Capas, Tarlac on Wednesday.

"Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner, Jr.—who served as the ceremony’s guest of honor and speaker—also donned a second star to Maj. Gen. Palafox who took the helm of the Pambato Division in an acting capacity from Lt. Gen. Efren P. Baluyot on November 2022. Lt. Gen. Baluyot, who has since assumed as commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command, also graced the ceremony," PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

Palafox held key leadership positions throughout his military career.

He served as the assistant division commander of the Armor Division and led various armor units such as the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade; the Civil-Military Operations Regiment; and the Office of the Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, Philippine Army.

Palafox is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1990.

He holds a Master in Public Management Major in Development and Security degree from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Brawner commended Palafox and Baluyot for the changes they had infused in the Armor Division and for their high level of professionalism and exemplary management skills.

He specifically lauded the Armor Division leadership for allocating funds for the much-needed refurbishment of vital armor assets.

RA 7077's full implementation seen to reinforce ROTC bill

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): RA 7077's full implementation seen to reinforce ROTC bill (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

(File photo)

MANILA – Senators see Republic Act (RA) 7077 or the Citizen Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act will ensure all Filipino students will be covered by the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) bill that is currently being pushed in the Senate.

This, after it was raised during a hearing on Wednesday by the Senate Sub-committee on Revitalized ROTC Act that students, who are taking up less than two years vocational courses or those who decided to work immediately after finishing senior high school, will not be able to join the ROTC training.

National ROTC Alumni Association (NARAA) Board Member Virgilio Garcia said they will be covered by RA 7077 which requires all male citizens between the ages 18-25, who are not reservists, to register for military training.

But the officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) Reservist and Retiree Affairs said RA 7077, which was passed in June 1991, have not been properly implemented due to conflicting provisions with the Local Government Code.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian warned that no one should be exempted from ROTC as it will create a divide in the society.

"Pag-isipan po natin yan (Let's think it over) because we'll have two classes of citizens -- one well-trained and one never entered any military training. We cannot just leave them outside the system because they're equally important in terms of human development, national development, and of course what we want to achieve which is boots on the ground, well-trained citizenry in philosophy of military training," Gatchalian said.

"We support that it willl be done in college for logistical and practical purposes. However, not every college-aged person is in college. Malaking (There is a big) population din wala sa (who are not in) college. We estimate about 2 million of that cohort, between 18 to 22, are not in college," he added.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, who chairs the subcommittee, told Senate reporters after the hearing that they will "most likely" excuse from ROTC students studying vocational courses in less than two years and out-of-school-youths.

He, however, said they are still required to undergo military training under RA 7077 which only exempts members of the clergy of any religious order or sect; those in the active service of the AFP and the Philippine National Police; superintendent and uniformed members of the National penitentiary, corrective institutions, and insane asylums; and licensed air and maritime pilots, navigators and merchant marine officers.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa is confident that the ROTC bill will push through with just one hearing left despite some clamor from the AFP regarding manpower.

"Kakayanin talaga dahil meron naman tayong mga pwedeng ma-tap na magagaling na (We can really do it because we can tap good) stand-by reservist, not necessarily coming from the active service, na magagaling na instructors. So, pwede silang ma-mobilize (who can also be good instructors. So, they can be mobilized)," Dela Rosa said, assuring that he understands the point of the AFP and the Department of National Defense.

He also assured that the senators are ready to support the budgetary and logistical requirements of the measure once passed into law.

One of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s priority measures and certified as urgent, the ROTC Bill is to enhance the capacity of Filipino citizens to mobilize and perform their constitutional duty to render military or civil service to the State in times of calamities and disasters, national or local emergencies, rebellion, invasion, or war.

Army cites Calabarzon police's role in fight vs. NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2023): Army cites Calabarzon police's role in fight vs. NPA (By Roselle Aquino)

RECOGNITION. Lt. Col. Agosto Asuncion (left), commander of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion Calabarzon (RMFB 4A), receives a plaque from Brig. Gen. Cerilo Balaoro Jr., 202nd Infantry Brigade commander, in ceremonies at the brigade's headquarters in Cavinti town, Laguna province on Monday (Jan. 23, 2023). The award was given as a testament to their group's remarkable role in the military's successful operations against the communist terrorist group in 2022. (PNA photo by Roselle Aquino)

CAVINTI, Laguna – The Philippine Army has cited the police in Region 4A (Calabarzon) for its successful campaign against the communist terrorist group.

The 202nd Infantry Brigade under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Cerilo Balaoro Jr. conferred a command plaque and individual awards to members of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB 4A) under the Police Regional Office-Calabarzon (PRO4A) during the Brigade’s flag-raising ceremony at its headquarters in Barangay West Talaongan here on Monday.

The activity recognized RMFB 4A's significant contribution to the successful Internal Security Operations (ISO) of its Balaoro Command against the CTG in the region.

The RMFB 4A awardees were represented by Lt. Col. Agosto Asuncion, RMFB 4A commander, who led his men during several successful joint law enforcement operations and ISO last year.

On Dec. 23, 2022, joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) law enforcement operations resulted in the apprehension of Melanie Sumayang alias "Jaya/Hilda/Juday," secretary of the Komiteng Sentrong Bayan (KSB) Rizal under the Sub-Regional Military Area (SRMA) 4A of the New People's Army (NPA) by virtue of a warrant of arrest for two counts of frustrated homicide dated Sept. 5, 2019.

The RMFB 4A was also instrumental in the apprehension of Antonio Cule alias "Dads/Darwin/Banjo/Fury," head of the Finance Staff and Executive Committee SRMA 4-A, during a joint law enforcement operation in serving a warrant of arrest for murder dated Sept. 26, 2021.

In his message, Balaoro extended his appreciation to the PRO4A and RMFB 4A for their commitment and dedication to duty to finally put an end to the local communist armed conflict in the region.

“I want to congratulate all the PNP personnel involved for their bravery, perseverance, hard work, and exemplary performance of their tasks that contributed to the success of these ISO and law enforcement operations,” Balaoro said.

He added that the giving of awards is part of the command’s trust in recognizing the efforts of its partner stakeholders who are continuously supporting the unit’s overall mission.

Negros Oriental reorganizes anti-insurgency task force

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2023): Negros Oriental reorganizes anti-insurgency task force (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

REORGANIZATION. Gov. Roel Degamo (far right) presides over a meeting of the Negros Oriental Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict on Tuesday (Jan. 24, 2023) at the convention center in Dumaguete City. The meeting included the re-organization of the task force and the cluster reporting of accomplishments in 2022 to end communist insurgency. (PNA photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – The provincial government of Negros Oriental on Tuesday formally reorganized its Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) pursuant to the guidelines of Executive Order No. 70 of former President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting at the convention center here.

Governor Roel Degamo, Negros Oriental TF-ELCAC chair, told reporters in an interview on Tuesday that based on EO 70, the Provincial Development Council (PDC) and the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) will be the members of the task force.

"This means that all mayors, civil society organizations, and other members of the PDC and PPOC are now included in the task force", he said.

“So this is now an expanded membership for the Task Force ELCAC,” he added.

During the task force’s first meeting for this year, the 12 different clusters reported on their individual accomplishments for 2022 under whole-of-nation approach for inclusive and sustainable peace.

These included localized peace engagement activities, enrollment of former rebels to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), distribution of basic services, financial and livelihood assistance, technical and skills training, capacity building empowerment and mobilization, legal cooperation, peace, law enforcement, and development support, and local government, among others.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the planning of the upcoming Serbisyo Caravan of the seven additional barangays that are targeted under the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

These are Barangays Milagrosa, Nagbalaye, Nagbinlod and Talalak in Sta. Catalina town; Pula in Canlaon City; and Apoloy and Mantikil in Siaton town.

DILG Provincial Director Farah Diba Gentuya said these areas were cleared by the Philippine Army for inclusion in the RCSP, one of the government’s mechanisms to implement NTF-ELCAC programs in conflict areas.

Degamo said there is a need to strengthen activities that bring the government’s basic services to the people, particularly in the hinterland barangays, to further reduce the insurgency problem in the province.

The budget for TF-ELCAC this year is higher than the previous years, he said, although he did not yet mention a specific number given that the provincial board is still deliberating on the province’s executive budget for 2023.

Degamo called on all the members of the TF-ELCAC to work harder this year to attain the ultimate goal of lasting peace once the communist insurgency has ended.

“We are now about 80 percent towards gearing a zero insurgency so let’s work hard to reach this goal,” the governor said.

More arrest warrants served vs. 2 detained NPA rebels in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): More arrest warrants served vs. 2 detained NPA rebels in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

BUTUAN CITY – Two New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents who are currently detained in various detention cells in the Caraga Region were served with additional arrest warrants for highway robbery and attempted murder.

In a statement, the Surigao del Norte Provincial Police Office said an arrest warrant for highway robbery was served Monday against Gabriel Maca Iligan, 39, who is detained at the Municipal Police Station in Gigaquit town, Surigao del Norte province.

Iligan, an NPA rebel belonging to Guerrilla Front (GF) 16C, was detained at the police station after his arrest for frustrated murder on Dec. 29 last year.

On the same day, the police of Malimono town, Surigao del Norte, also served the arrest warrant for attempted murder against Zanjoe Ybañez, 28, who is detained at the Butuan City Jail here.

Both arrest warrants were issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 29 in Surigao City.

"The serving of arrest warrants to detained Communist Terrorist Group members manifest the strong commitment of Surigao del Norte cops in the aggressive and intensified campaign against insurgency," said Col. Laudemer Laude, Surigao del Norte police director.

Laude vowed the police will continue its campaign against wanted individuals, including NPA insurgents, "to ensure the safety and security of communities in Surigao del Norte."

CPP-NPA suffers leadership vacuum, says VisCom chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): CPP-NPA suffers leadership vacuum, says VisCom chief (By John Rey Saavedra)

Visayas Command chief, Major General Benedict Arevalo. (PNA file photo)

CEBU CITY – The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Visayas Command (Viscom) on Wednesday said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is now suffering a leadership vacuum after losing several key personalities in a series of encounters with government troops.

Major General Benedict Arevalo, Viscom chief, said the communist terrorist groups in the Visayas are losing their hold as their armed capability has “drastically degraded” apart from also losing their leaders.

“These are apart from the increasing number of former CTG supporters and sympathizers in the region who withdrew their support from the terrorist group,” Arevalo said.

The Viscom chief expressed hope the group would totally weaken should more CPP-NPA officials, especially those from Eastern Visayas, fall to the government.

Arevalo cited the latest development involving the withdrawal of support of 93 individuals who were members of the CTG Affiliated Mass Organizations (CAMOs) in Alangalang town, Leyte province.

The mass withdrawal of support was realized through the active partnership between and among security forces, local government units, and other government line agencies through the Provincial Task Forces to end local communist armed conflict.

Prior to the mass withdrawal of support, members of the 87th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army unraveled an arms cache of the communist terrorist at Barangay Sto. Niño in Paranas town, Samar province.

The discovery of an arms cache containing two M653 rifles, an M4 rifle, an M16 rifle, four long magazines, and a short magazine was the result of information provided by a former rebel to the government troops.

On Jan. 12, a mass surrender of the members of the NPA including their leaders occurred in Hinabangan town, Samar wherein 13 communist terrorists under Bugsok Platoon of Sub-regional Committee Sesame (SRC Sesame) of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee (EVRPC) operating in the towns of Calbiga and Basey, also in Samar, return to the folds of the law and yielded 13 firearms along with several other war materiel and medical supplies.

Army general tagged in businesswoman's murder

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): Army general tagged in businesswoman's murder (By Che Palicte)

LINK ANALYSIS. The special investigation task group of the Police Regional Office in Davao Region (PRO-11) presents the investigation flow of the killing of businesswoman Yvonette Plaza, which resulted in the identification of Philippine Army 1001st Infantry Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III as the mastermind. Brig. Gen. Benjamin Silo Jr., PRO-11 chief, said the victim possessed sensitive information that used it to blackmail Durante. (Photo courtesy of PRO-11)

DAVAO CITY – The special investigation task group (SITG) of the Police Regional Office in Davao Region (PRO-11) identified Wednesday a high-ranking official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the mastermind in the killing of businesswoman Yvonette Plaza.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Silo Jr., PRO-11 director, said they have sufficient evidence to charge Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, the Army's 1001st Infantry Brigade (1001IBde) commander, for murder and obstruction of justice in the killing of Plaza.

Plaza was shot at close range by motorcycle riding in tandem gunmen in front of her rented house at Green Meadow Subdivision in Tugbok District here on Dec. 28, 2022.


Based on the testimonies of two witnesses, Silo said Durante masterminded Plaza's killing because the victim was trying to blackmail the Army official with "sensitive information." He did not elaborate.

“These two extrajudicial confessions have interlocked, so I think we have a very strong case against the mastermind,” Silo said in a press briefing here.

Silo was referring to the testimonies of the gunman, Sgt. Delfin Sialsa Jr., and another unnamed witness.

Sialsa and five other soldiers under the 1001Bde have been charged with murder, along with a certain Noel Japitan, who was allegedly instructed to dismantle and change the color of the motorcycle used in Plaza's killing.

Police also charged with murder Col. Michael Licyayo, the deputy brigade commander of 1001IB, who allegedly instructed Sialsa and the other suspects to kill Plaza.

Silo said Licyayo also provided the logistics to carry out the murder.

The other suspects are identified as Staff Sgt. Gilbert Plaza, the alleged team leader, Cpl. Adrian Cachero, the motorcycle driver, Cpl. Rolly Cabal and Cpl. Romart Longakit who allegedly acted as lookouts, Alias Jr., and Alias Master Sergeant who allegedly modified the barrel of the caliber .45 used in the killing.

Crime of passion

Meanwhile, National Bureau of investigation-Davao Region (NBI-11) Director Arcelito Albao, described the killing as "a crime of passion."

“We have witnesses to prove that there is really a relationship between the respondent Durante and the victim (Plaza) of this case,” Albao said.

Albao said as part of the SITG, NBI-11 helped in the gathering of evidence – electronic evidence, cellphones, laptops and witnesses.

Relieved from posts

Brig. Gen. Allan Hambala, assistant commander of the 10th Infantry Division (10ID), said Durante and Licyayo were already relieved from their posts and had reported to the general headquarters of the Philippine Army.

Hambala said Plaza, Cachero, and Sialsa are being held at the 10ID headquarters in Davao de Oro and are fully cooperating with the SITG investigation.

“This is not in line with our profession, this is not service related, so anybody regardless of his rank or designation, if they commit wrongdoings or any crime we will not tolerate it. We will not condone any of our personnel,” Hambala said.

Administrative proceedings are also ongoing against the soldiers involved, he added.

In a statement Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Philippine Army, assured the AFP will not condone any criminal act committed by its personnel.

“The Army ensures the public that this incident is not service related,” Brawner said.

Western Visayas cops remember gallantry of SAF 44

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): Western Visayas cops remember gallantry of SAF 44 (By Perla Lena)

REMEMBERING SAF 44. Jennifer Allaga, the widow of the late PO3 Robert Allaga, one of the SAF 44 who died in the line of duty eight years ago, receives a token from Philippine National Police (PNP) Area Police Command Visayas chief, Lt.Gen. Patrick Villacorte, during the commemoration of the Day of National Remembrance held at the Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City on Wednesday (Jan. 25, 2023). The commemoration was highlighted by the wreath-laying ceremony at the Heroes Wall, a 21-gun salute and the sounding of taps. (PNA photo by PGLena)

ILOILO CITY – The Western Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO6) is one with the nation in remembering the gallantry of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF), an elite force of the Philippine National Police who died in the line of duty on Jan. 25, 2015.

“Today as we remember the sacrifice of the fallen SAF 44 commandos let us take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by these courageous men and the families they left behind. That unfortunate incident which resulted to the tragic loss of our Special Action Force troopers is a powerful reminder of the selflessness and devotion of our police officers to do their duty despite the odds and difficulties,” said PNP Chief, Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., in his message delivered by Area Police Command Visayas commander, Lt.Gen. Patrick Villacorte.

The commemoration in Western Visayas was highlighted by the wreath-laying ceremony at the Heroes Wall at the PRO6 headquarters in Camp Martin T. Delgado, a 21-gun salute and the sounding of taps.

The event was joined by Jennifer Allaga, the widow of the late PO3 Robert Allaga, one of the 44 who perished during the police operation.

Allaga is currently employed as non-uniformed personnel of the Antique Police Provincial Office operations office, a privilege that she received from the PNP following her husband’s death.

The 34-year-old widow from Sibalom town, Antique province shared that she met her husband, who hailed from the town of Banaue, Ifugao province, when she was in Manila.

They were married for two years and PO3 Allaga had just reported back to duty after spending his Christmas break in Antique when the tragedy happened.

During the commemoration, she received a token and gift from PRO6 through Regional Director B/Gen. Leo Francisco.

Francisco said they would like to boost her morale by remembering the heroism of her husband.

Villacorte, in an interview, said the event is an annual commemoration to remind police officers of the heroism of the SAF troopers.

He added that eight years after, the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have already come up with joint resolutions on what to do in case of major operations.

The 44 SAF men died in the line of duty in a botched police operation called "Oplan Exodus” against two high-value targets, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias "Marwan," and terrorist Abdul Basit Usman on Jan. 25, 2015 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province.

The SAF commandos were able to kill Marwan but failed to get Usman, who was later killed in another operation.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the annual commemoration of the heroism of the 44 SAF troopers through Proclamation No. 164 signed on Feb. 21, 2017.

Army tells Nueva Ecija youth: Don't believe NPA lies

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): Army tells Nueva Ecija youth: Don't believe NPA lies (By Jason De Asis)

ANTI-RECRUITMENT DRIVE. Students of the Ricardo Dizon Canlaz Agricultural School in Laur town, Nueva Ecija province attend a youth information awareness campaign forum against the communist terrorist group's recruitment efforts conducted by the Philippine Army's 9th Infantry Battalion (91IB) on Tuesday (Jan. 24, 2023). Lt. Col. Julito Recto Jr., commander of the 91IB, said the New People's Army targets the youth because of their innocence which makes them easy to manipulate. (Photo courtesy of the Army's 91IB)

BALER, Aurora – The 91st Infantry Battalion (91IB) of the Philippine Army on Wednesday urged the youth not to be swayed by the false ideologies of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Lt. Col. Julito Recto Jr., commander of the 91IB, made the call as he noted of the recruitment by the communist terrorist organization among the youth since they are easy targets.

Recto said the communist terrorist organization is taking advantage of the youth’s vulnerability in coaxing them to join their organization.

“The youth are very vulnerable to false ideologies. Their innocence was being utilized by the armed group in the guise of development and reform yet the real agenda is to destroy the image of the government,” Recto said in an interview.

To counter the rebels’ recruitment efforts, Recto said they are continuously conducting school awareness campaigns against the communist terrorist group.

He said some 608 students from Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 at the Ricardo Dizon Canlaz Agricultural School in Barangay Poblacion in Laur town, Nueva Ecija province attended the youth information awareness campaign forum on Tuesday.

Recto said the 91IB will continue to disseminate correct information on the sincerity of the government in promoting sustainable peace and development, especially in geographically isolated areas.

“We will continue to the fullest level to engage the youth in the different schools through campus peace and development fora in our area of responsibilities (AOR),” he added.

Meanwhile, Christina Danipog, president of Barkada Kontra Droga, a student-led organization, thanked the 91IB and the Department of Education for the information imparted to them on the communists’ deceptions.

Likewise, Elizabeth Nalzaro, teacher-adviser of the group, said the campaign is a big help and could save their students from possible recruitment by the communist terrorist group.

“We required our students to attend in order for them to learn and be aware so that they will not be recruited by the terrorist organization,” she said.

Army official wants air-tight cases vs. NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25, 2023): Army official wants air-tight cases vs. NPAs (By Mary Judaline)

LEGAL FIGHT. Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña, commander of the Philippine Army's 302nd Infantry Brigade, appeals to the Negros Oriental Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to strengthen its legal fight against the CPP-NPA. The Army commander is pictured here giving a briefing on the insurgency situation during the task force's meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 24, 2023) in Dumaguete City. (Photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A Philippine Army brigade commander in Negros Oriental on Wednesday called for the strengthening of the provincial anti-insurgency task force’s legal fight against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, made the call after some captured CPP-NPA members were released following the dismissal of their cases due to technicalities.

“Due to lack of legal advice and support, what happens is that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel are the ones carrying the problems in the legal fight. There should be a whole-of-government approach by empowering our legal cooperation cluster,” Peña said in mixed English and Filipino.

The legal cooperation is one of 12 clusters of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC), chaired by Governor Roel Degamo at the provincial level.

The cluster head is the Provincial Prosecutor's Office.

“One of the problems that we have encountered in the ELCAC is that when a CPP-NPA member is arrested, we do not have a strong legal cluster to depend on,” he said.

In a reorganization meeting on Tuesday, the Army commander sought the unwavering support and cooperation of the task force members to sustain the fight against the CPP-NPA.

If this is not achieved, there is always the risk of the rebel fronts regaining their strongholds and getting back their mass base support, he added.

In response, Degamo said he would source funds for lawyers who will assist the TF-ELCAC to ensure air-tight cases against CPP-NPA personalities and to cover legal fees.

The governor also urged the active participation of the provincial prosecutor’s office which heads the legal cluster of the TF-ELCAC.