Tuesday, February 28, 2023

From militancy to PhD: Brother of Bali bombers reaches academic peak

 From BenarNews (Feb 28, 2023): From militancy to PhD: Brother of Bali bombers reaches academic peak (By Eko Widianto)

Ali Fauzi Manzi is interviewed by journalists at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Feb. 21, 2023. [Eko Widianto/BenarNews]

Ali Fauzi Manzi, a former terror convict whose brothers were behind the 2002 Bali bombings, shed tears as he delivered a speech during commencement at a university in Malang last week.

The repentant former bomb-maker for the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah had just received his doctorate in Islamic education for his research subject, “Religious moderation for former terrorism convicts.”

Ali, 51, says meeting with the Bali bombing survivors and the victims’ families made him dedicate his life to helping former militants like himself reintegrate into society.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” he said to loud applause in front of more than 2,000 other graduates at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang.

“I was once a terrorist who was shunned by society. But today I have achieved a high academic degree,” he said, while speaking about the doctorate he achieved after 3½ years of research.

When Ali met the victims of the Bali bombings and their relatives in 2011, some had permanent disabilities or had lost loved ones.

“My heart was torn apart,” Ali told BenarNews, adding he embraced them and apologized.

He then founded Lingkar Perdamaian (Circle of Peace), a foundation focused on aiding former radicals and militants reenter society.

Ali was not directly involved in the Bali bombings. But he is a brother of the trio of militants behind the 2002 attack – Ali Imron, Ali Ghufron and Amrozi.

Ghufron and Amrozi were executed by firing squad in 2008, along with another Bali bomber, Imam Samudra. Imron is serving a life sentence and has cooperated with the police in counter-terrorism efforts.

The Bali bombings of Oct. 12, 2002, killed 202 people and injured hundreds more.

Ali spent three years in the 1990s fighting alongside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines.

He returned to the southern Philippines in 2002 to lead a militant camp, the same year Jemaah Islamiyah militants carried out the bombings in Bali – the country’s worst terrorist attack.

Ali was arrested by the Philippine authorities and was deported to Indonesia in 2004 where he was imprisoned for three years after being convicted for terrorism.

‘Like a disease’

For his PhD dissertation, Ali said he interviewed six former terrorism convicts.

They told him that they joined militant groups after being swayed by teachings about jihad (religious war) from religious leaders in school.

Ali underwent rehabilitation and deradicalization in 2004 at the national police headquarters after arriving in Indonesia from the Philippines.

Back then, he said he was sick and injured.

“I was treated well by the police. I thought I would be tortured and experience violence,” he said.

Still, Ali criticized some deradicalization efforts by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the Densus 88 anti-terrorism police unit for treating each individual the same way.

Ali said his research found that deradicalization programs for former terrorists would not work if authorities did not understand how they became radicalized.

There is no one-size-fits-all model, he said.

“It’s like a disease. The doctor has to diagnose what’s wrong and prescribe the right medicine with the right dose,” he said.

Ali said his foundation approached each individual differently, starting with discussions on a book that deals with different opinions among Islamic scholars on a host of issues.

“The book shows that there is no unanimity among scholars. We should not treat differences with hostility. The early scholars were very tolerant of differences. They did not think they were always right,” he said.

A screen shows Ali Fauzi Manzi delivering a speech at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Feb. 21, 2023. [Eko Widianto/BenarNews]

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said the government’s deradicalization programs are “largely ineffective,” partly because they mostly draw in prisoners who have already decided on their own to disengage.

A 2020 IPAC report said 11% of terror convicts in the country become repeat offenders.

Freed terror convicts reoffend because they are surrounded by a high level of radicalism in prison, or they are in close contact with a militant family member after their release, or there is a powerful ideological movement that looks attractive, the report said.

A 2019 IPAC report said there were about 1,200 convicted terrorists in Indonesia, of whom half were in prison. Only about 10% of the released prisoners had participated in any formal deradicalization program.

‘Education defeats terrorism’

Ali’s academic achievement and deradicalization efforts were praised by a controversial figure, Umar Patek, a convicted Bali bomber who was released on parole in December 2022 after serving two-thirds of his 20-year sentence.

Umar had been wanted by governments of the United States, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia, but Indonesian counterterrorism officials tout him as a deradicalization success.

The news of his early release angered people and officials in Australia – 88 Australians were killed in the Bali bombings.

Umar attended Ali’s graduation ceremony and took a photograph with him.

“Who says terrorists are stupid? It’s not easy to obtain a doctorate degree,” Umar said about Ali.

“Education defeats terrorism. This is a strong message for me and other former terrorists.”


PH Army reserve command gets new chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): PH Army reserve command gets new chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) has named a new head of its Reserve Command (RESCOM).

In a statement Wednesday, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said Maj. Gen. Romulo A. Manuel assumed as the RESCOM commander in relinquishment and assumption of command ceremony in Camp General Mariano Riego de Dios, Tanza, Cavite on Monday.

Manuel is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1990 and holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Xavier University and a Master's degree in Public Management from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Prior to his appointment, Manuel served as the Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for reservist and retiree affairs and deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

He also served as commander of the Army Artillery Regiment and assistant chief of staff for plans of the PA.

Manuel replaced Col. Samuel B. Manzano who served as acting RESCOM commander for three months.

Manzano will assume his new position as RESCOM deputy commander.

"He also served as the deputy regiment commander and chief of the Office of Ethical Standard and Public Accountability (OESPA), all under the Light Reaction Regiment; chief of staff of the First Scout Ranger Regiment; and assistant chief-of-staff for intelligence, G-2, of the Special Operations Command," Trinidad said.

Manzano is a graduate of the Officer Preparatory Course and was commissioned in 1993. He holds a Master's degree in Public Management from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, PA commander Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr. relayed his kind wishes to Maj. Manuel and Manzano on their new assignments.

He also encouraged RESCOM to give the same level of support to both commanders.

“Let us continue to work on making the Army Reserve force even better. Your cooperation with your new commander will enable the entire Philippine Army to better serve the people and secure the land, making the Army become a world-class, multi-mission ready, and a cross-domain capable Army,” Brawner said.

Taking care of aviators' mental health

Meanwhile, Army aviators attended a two-day stress manager seminar as part of the service's efforts to take care of their mental health.
The seminar was conducted by the Army General Hospital (AGH) last February 23 to 24 at the Aviation Hangar, Army Aviation Regiment, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

"The two-day seminar capacitated Army aviators in identifying causes of work-related stress. AGH resource persons also shared insights on practical and effective tools to avoid, reduce and manage stress, both on and off the job," Trinidad added.

He said the first day's activities include written individual and group exercises, group discussions, and group activities to facilitate a highly effective learning experience.

"On the second day, Army aviators participated in a team-building activity aimed at reducing stress and helping improve the ability of team members to respond effectively to workplace stressors and challenges," he added.

Trinidad said the two-day activity is in line with the Army’s leadership’s thrust to ensure the mental health and well-being of soldiers through the implementation of responsive and comprehensive mental health programs.


Following new basing agreement, Berger hosts Philippines Marine Corps chief

 Posted to Breaking Defense Indo-Pacific (Feb 28, 2023): Following new basing agreement, Berger hosts Philippines Marine Corps chief (By JUSTIN KATZ)

Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan will spend several days in the US with Gen. David Berger.

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger receives an honors ceremony from the Philippine Marine Corps Commandant, Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, at Philippine Marine Corps Headquarters, Manila. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kathryn Adams)

WASHINGTON — Off the heels of a bilateral announcement to expand basing access in the Philippines, the commandant of the US Marine Corps is hosting his counterpart, Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, in the US this week.

The US and the Philippines in early February announced plans to “accelerate the full implementation” of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, effectively giving the Pentagon access to four additional bases in the country.

Today, Gen. David Berger began hosting Gaerlan, who became the commandant of the Philippines’ Marine Corps in August, at Marine Barracks Washington for an honors ceremony. The visit comes at a time when both services find themselves in a position of needing to learn from their counterparts.

“They move comfortably between pieces of land and through the water because — this is just natural for them. But for us, the [Marine] Littoral Regiment, this is what they have to learn to do,” said Berger, referencing the new unit type established by Force Design 2030. “So, we’re learning from them. How do you maneuver? How do you move your forces between islands comfortably and it’s something that they are teaching us.”

That kind of island hopping is exactly what Berger has been aiming to prepare his service for through both the formation of the Marine Littoral Regiments as well as the development of a new warship, dubbed the Landing Ship Medium. The US Marines anticipate receiving an experimental ship, dubbed a Stern Landing Vessel, in March with plans to use it to fully develop the requirements for the Landing Ship Medium.

For the Philippines Marine Corps, that service is also establishing a new unit type, a Coastal Defense Regiment. The purpose of the new regiment is to begin shifting the force away from the counterinsurgency operations that have occupied its attention since its inception in the 1950s and move it towards what Gaerlan called “territorial defense.”

“For the Coastal Defense Regiment, it’s very new, and a lot of our equipment are still arriving,” said Gaerlan. “That’s why what we’re doing now is we’re sending our Marines for training, especially with the US Marine Corps, and some of the tactics and procedures are being observed, especially during exercises like Balikatan.”

“Balikatan” refers to one of the most prominent annual military exercises conducted jointly between the US and the Philippines.

In September, shortly after becoming the Philippines Marine Corps’ chief, Gaerlan hosted Berger for a visit in Manila. Gaerlan described that visit as one of “continuing the relationship” in light of other events that had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“And it was also during the [September visit] that a lot of new ideas were presented. And during this year, we had already meetings with Marine Forces Pacific,” he added.


‘Alakdan’ division installs new HHSBn commander

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Feb 27, 2023): ‘Alakdan’ division installs new HHSBn commander

ZAMBOANGA. Army’s 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division (ID) installs a new commander of its Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion (HHSBn) based in Camp Teofulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu. A photo handout shows Lieutenant Colonel Charlotte Jenifer Valdez (left) relinquished her command to Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Abolencia (right) with Major General Ignatius Patrimonio, 11ID commander, presiding the change of command ceremony on Friday, February 24, 2023. (SunStar Zamboanga)

THE Army’s 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division has installed a new commander of its Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion (HHSBn) based in Camp Teofulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.

Installed as the new HHSBn commander is Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Abolencia who replaced Lieutenant Colonel Charlotte Jenifer Valdez.

During the change of commander ceremony on Friday, February 24, Major General Ignatius Patrimonio, 11ID commander, pinned the Military Merit Medal to Valdez for her invaluable services and untiring efforts rendered as the HHSBn commander from February 24, 2021 to February 24, 2023.

Valdez also received the Plaque of Recognition from the 11ID.

Valdez, who served as HHSBn commander for two years, demonstrated exemplary performance as a senior female officer that is worthy of being emulated.

“My assignment here in Sulu was the most unexpected and memorable experience. The milestone in my career is even more special because only a few female officers are given the chance to lead a battalion,” Valdez said.

“The Alakdan Division has given me the opportunity to break barriers of norms and stereotyping in the military. It’s been an honor to lead and serve this diverse unit. To the incoming Commanding Officer, I assure you that you have the finest men and women to carry on the work that remains to be done,” Valdez added.

“As I go forward on performing my new duties and responsibilities, I am thankful for another opportunity, trust and confidence entrusted to me. Rest assured that I will exert all efforts to deliver what you expected of me,” Abolencia said.

“To my predecessor, we will continue what you have started. I assure you that the unit personnel and its resources is on the hands of a noble shepherd,” Abolencia added.

Meanwhile, Patrimonio lauded Valdez for her excellent leadership during her stint and challenged Abolencia for his new position.

“Lieutenant Colonel Valdez your dedication and determination turned the unit with a culture of excellence. Your leadership has influenced the mentality of the personnel. You are not only exemplars of professionalism but you are also instrumental in the accomplishment of this unit,” Patrimonio said.

“To Lieutenant Colonel Abolencia, you are chosen and hand fit to lead this unit. We expect that you will continue what your predecessor has started. We believe that you can transform and improve more and maintain the disciplined of this unit,” Patrimonio added.


CPP: Digmang bayan para sa kalayaan at demokrasya

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Feb 28, 2023): Digmang bayan para sa kalayaan at demokrasya (People's war for freedom and democracy)

Communist Party of the Philippines
March 01, 2023

Simulan nating gunitain ang ika-54 na taon ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB) at ng magiting na pagsusulong ng digmang bayan sa Pilipinas. Sa Marso 29, 2023, ituon nating lahat ang ating tanaw sa landas patungo sa tagumpay habang binabalikat ang mabigat na tungkulin sa pagharap sa pasistang terorismo sa ilalim ng rehimeng US-Marcos-Duterte.

Bakit may digmang bayan sa Pilipinas? Ito’y dahil hangarin ng sambayanang Pilipino na kamtin ang tunay na pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya para sa Inang Bayan: kalayaan mula sa paglukob ng imperyalismong US, at demokrasya mula sa tiraniya ng malalaking komprador, panginoong maylupa at mga burukratang kapitalista.

Ang digmang bayan ay makabayan, rebolusyonaryo, makatarungan at tumatamasa ng malalim na suporta ng masa. Hindi ito kailanman magagapi dahil kinakatawan nito ang hangarin ng bayan. Determinasyon silang bawiin ang yaman ng Pilipinas mula sa mga dayuhang mangangamkam at mga kasabwat ng naghaharing uri, wakasan ang malakolonyal at malapyudal na sistema sa bansa, at likhain ang maunlad at lumalagong bansa para sa mga Pilipino.

Ang tagumpay ng digmang bayan ay nakasalalay sa panlahatang pagpapakilos ng sambayanan, higit sa lahat, ng masang magsasaka. Sa pangkalahatan at esensya, ito’y isang digmang magsasakang pinamumuan ng uring manggagawa sa pamamagitan ng Partido. Lupa ang pangunahing demokratikong kahingian ng mayorya ng sambayanan. Sa digmang bayan, ito ang mapagpasyang usapin.

Higit na malaki at makapangyarihan ang kaaway na imperyalismong US at ang papet nitong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Philippine National Police (PNP). Hawak nito ang malalakas na sandatang eroplano, helikopter, drone, mga bomba at walang kaubusang bala. Katumbas ng lakas ng kaaway ang kanyang pasistang kalupitan. Habang ginagamit ang malalakas na sandata para supilin ang bayan, lalo niyang inihihiwalay ang sarili sa masa at itinutulak silang lumaban.

Kulang man ang sandata, taglay naman ng BHB ang hanay ng mga Pulang mandirigma na mataas ang disiplina at kamulatang pampulitika. Hindi lamang sila mga mandirigma. Sila ri’y mga duktor, titser, artista, at pwersa sa produksyon na pawang nagsisilbi sa interes ng masa. Mahigpit na pinagkakaisa ang mga upisyal at mandirigma ng demokrasya sa ekonomya, pulitika at militar. Beterano o baguhan, anuman ang kasarian o uring pinagmulan, lahat ay magiting na nakikibaka para sa kalayaan ng bayan. Buong-puso ang kanilang kahandaang magsakripisyo para paglingkuran ang masa at kamtin ang tagumpay.

Matagalan ang digmang bayan sa Pilipinas. Kailangan ang mahabang panahon para mag-ipon ng lakas ng BHB hanggang kaya na nitong gapiin ang kaaway at agawin ang kapangyarihan sa buong bayan. Sa pamamagitan ng pakikidigmang gerilya, hakbang-hakbang na inuuk-uk ang lakas ng kaaway, yugtu-yugtong nag-iipon ng lakas ng BHB, at nililikha ang kundisyon para sa tagumpay.

Dahil gutay-gutay ang malawak na kanayunan ng bansa sa maraming nahihiwalay na isla, kailangan ang panahon upang sumulong mula sa pagiging maliit at mahina tungo sa malaki at malakas sa buong kapuluan. Ang lakas ay unang ipinundar sa mas malalaking isla, at paalon na sumulong para tahiin ang mga pwersang gerilya sa maraming isla.

Pira-pirasong ginugupo ng BHB ang mas modernong hukbong inaarmasan at pinopondohan ng pinakamakapangyarihang imperyalista sa mundo. Nag-iipon sila ng pwersa para gupuin ang mahihinang bahagi ng kaaway, puksain ang mga pasista at kunin ang kanyang mga sandata at kagamitang militar. Kapag mas malakas ang kaaway, pleksibleng kumakalat ang mga pwersang gerilya upang maggawaing masa at maglipat upang hindi masubo sa labanang hindi pinaghandaan. Kahit pansamantalang iwan ang naipundar na base, titiyakin nilang yayabong at mababalikan ang nakapunlang mga binhi ng rebolusyon at makapagtatanim sa mas malawak pang masa.

Gagap ng mga Pulang mandirigma na hindi ang lakas ng sandata ang mapagpasya sa gera, kundi ang kapasyahan at hindi magagaping diwa ng mamamayan. Anupamang kakulangan sa materyal na bagay ay pinangingibabawan ng malalim na suporta ng masa, ng malawak na paglahok nila sa digma, katuwang ang kabayanihan ng mababalasik nilang mandirigma. Lahat ng pwedeng gamiting sandata—baril, itak, kahoy o bato—ay gagamitin laban sa kaaway. Ang maliit ay lalaki, at ang dambuhalang kaaway ay magagapi. Susulong at makapananaig ang sambayanang at ang kanilang hukbong bayang armado ng wastong teorya at ideolohiya. Ito ang batas ng kasaysayan ng digmang bayan, anuman ang daanan nitong liko’t ikot, pag-atras at pagsulong.

Ibayong susulong ang armadong pakikibaka kaakibat ang laganap na mga pakikibaka ng masa. Pinakasusi sa pagsulong ng digmang bayan ang mahigpit na pagkakaisa ng masa at kanilang hukbong bayan. Ang naglalagablab na apoy ng mga pakikibakang masa sa kanayunan, kasabay ng lahat ng paraan ng armadong paglaban ng mga milisyang bayan at yunit ng BHB, ang lalamon at tutupok sa pasismo ng papet na estado.

Nasa ilalim ng absolutong pamumuno ng Partido ang BHB. Ang wastong pamumuno ng Partido ang naghulma sa hukbong bayan, at nagpapanatili ditong tapat sa hangarin ng aping bayan para sa kalayaan at demokrasya. Tinuturuan ang mga Pulang mandirigma ng Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoismo upang gamiting gabay sa lahat ng gawain nito. Ang Partido ang bakal na gulugod ng BHB.

Sa paggunita natin ng ika-54 na taon ng BHB, ibayong patatagin natin ang ating kapasyahang lumaban. Magpunyagi sa landas ng matagalang digmang bayan. Isulong ang masaklaw at maigting na pakikidigmang gerilya sa batayan na papalawak at papalalim na baseng masa. Palakasin at palawakin ang mga yunit ng hukbong bayan at mga yunit ng milisyang bayan. Baha-bahaging bigwasan, gapiin ang palalong kaaway. Kamtin ang isanlibo’t isang tagumpay. Puspusang paglingkuran ang masa, at bagtasin ang mahabang landas tungo sa kalayaan at demokrasya!


AFP starts construction of 2-story ambulatory care facility

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): AFP starts construction of 2-story ambulatory care facility (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted the groundbreaking rites for the construction of a two-story ambulatory care building unit at Camp Victoriano K. Luna in Quezon City on Tuesday.

This was made possible through the assistance of the Department of Health (DOH) and AFP Health Service Command (HSC), AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement.

Present during the event was DOH Assistant Secretary Leonita Gorgolon, representing Undersecretary Lilibeth David, and AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino.

"This project would be another manifestation of the robust collaboration between the AFP and other agencies of government in uplifting the morale and welfare of our personnel and their dependents," he said.

Centino also commended the AFPHSC for sustaining excellent services and their steadfast commitment to care for military personnel's health and welfare, contributing to the nation's security and stability.

The project, which aims to provide a more conducive facility for patients and medical personnel, is under the Health Facility Enhancement Program of the DOH under "The Philippine Health Agenda 2016-2022."


Japan mulls maritime cooperation; no plans yet on SCS patrols

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): Japan mulls maritime cooperation; no plans yet on SCS patrols (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

INCURSION. About 30 suspected Chinese vessels are still at the Sabina and Ayungin Shoals within the country's exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, according to the Philippine Coast Guard on Feb. 22, 2023, based on information gathered from the National Task Force - West Philippine Sea. The PCG said it will publicize all reported incursions into Philippine waters to force China to respond. (Courtesy of PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela)

MANILA – The Japanese Embassy in Manila on Tuesday said there is no specific plan yet on a South China Sea (SCS) joint patrol with the Philippines, the United States, and Australia but Tokyo will “explore” possible maritime cooperation to secure the Indo-Pacific region.

As of now, there is no specific discussion about the possibility of joint patrol, the Japanese Embassy in Manila told the Philippine News Agency via a statement.

“Japan will explore the possibility of cooperating with partners to reinforce Maritime Domain Awareness and the maritime law enforcement in the Indo-Pacific,” read the embassy statement.

The statement comes following a report quoting Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez that Manila is in talks to possibly include Tokyo and Canberra in planned joint patrols in the SCS.

The Australian Embassy in Manila, on the other hand, deferred to Australia’s Department of Defence when asked to comment.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Embassy said Tokyo is committed to further enhancing defense exchanges with Manila through the Japan-Philippine-US trilateral dialogues.

“As in the Japan-Philippines Joint Statement of Feb. 9, both leaders welcomed deepening defense engagements through the participation of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in the Philippines-US joint exercises, and committed to further enhancement of defense exchanges through JP-PH-US trilateral dialogues,” it said.

In a news channel interview in January, Romualdez said the possible joint patrols between the Philippines and the US will enhance "interoperability" and is not necessarily directed against any country.

He said Manila has always had an agreement with the US for maritime patrols but it was "never really implemented" formally.

"This has been on the table for quite some time and I'm sure that at some point our defense establishment and the US defense establishment will come out with an operational plan to be able to have these joint patrols," he said, adding such activities can also include other partners like Japan and "possibly Australia."


PNA celebrates 50 years of telling news stories, inspiring change

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): PNA celebrates 50 years of telling news stories, inspiring change (By Ma. Teresa Montemayor)

PNA office in Quezon City

MANILA – The state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) celebrates Wednesday its golden anniversary with monthlong activities starting March 1.

To mark its founding day, an afternoon Mass and a small gathering will be held at PNA's main office in Quezon City.

For four Fridays this month, activities include an exhibition of old published PNA news articles and photos; recent agreements with partner agencies; and citations, and awards received by the agency’s reporters and photographers.

Past and present heads of the agency will be honored via a display of their portraits inside the PNA's office premises.

Moreover, the PNA Style Guidebook cover page will also be launched.

Winners of the essay writing and photo contests by PNA employees, best reporter in the National Capital Region (NCR), best photographer in NCR, best bureau chiefs in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will be awarded on March 24.

Serving as the government's official newswire, the PNA was created in 1973 through a special order by the Department of Public Information (DPI) Secretary and later on Senator Francisco S. Tatad.

It was established as the news division of the DPI's former Bureau of National and Foreign Information.

The first PNA correspondents were chosen from among the former Philippine News Service (PNS) stringers covering the country’s then just 70 provinces and 60 cities.

The PNS is the country's first privately-owned news agency established in October 1950.

Since the news agency does not have its own building, the PNA has transferred at least six times in the past 50 years. The first was from the NPC Building to nearby UPL Building in front of Fort Santiago (1978-1981); to Puyat Building on Solana Street, also in Intramuros (1981-1983); Office of Media Affairs on Bohol Avenue, Quezon City (1983-1987; back to the NPC Building (1988-1996) and finally to its present site at the second floor of the Philippine Information Agency Building at the Media Center along Visayas Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City.

Currently, the PNA is a division of the News and Information Bureau headed by Director Raymond Robert C. Burgos and Assistant Director Lee Ann L. Pattugalan. They are assisted by Executive Editor Demetrio B. Pisco Jr. and Deputy Executive Editor Luis A. Morente.


Embraer bags service contract for PAF's Super Tucano aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): Embraer bags service contract for PAF's Super Tucano aircraft (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(File photo)

MANILA – Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer has bagged a service agreement to provide support for the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) fleet of six A-29 "Super Tucano" attack aircraft.

"Staying close to our customers and supporting them in their missions is core to what we do,” Rinaldo Piubeli Prado, vice president of Worldwide Defense & Security Customer Support & Aftermarket Sales of Embraer Services Support, said in a statement Wednesday.

This agreement will provide support for "more than 200-part numbers" of the Super Tucano aircraft in PAF service.

“Leveraging on our customer support team in Asia Pacific, we are honored to support the PAF as they deploy the A-29 and utilize it to its fullest potential," Prado said.

The PAF's six A-29 attack aircraft were delivered in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

Four of the aircraft arrived on Sept. 19, 2020, and the remaining two on Oct. 1 of the same year.

The "Super Tucano" is a turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counter-insurgency, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments, as well as providing pilot training.

The contract for the PAF's six A-29s was worth PHP4.97 billion and was issued in late 2017.

These aircraft are operated and maintained by the PAF's 15th Strike Wing.

Last year, Embraer’s worldwide fleet of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft reached 500,000 flight hours.

With more than 260 units delivered, the aircraft has been selected by more than 15 air forces worldwide.


PH contingent back from successful Türkiye humanitarian mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): PH contingent back from successful Türkiye humanitarian mission (By Priam Nepomuceno)

HEROES. AFP Chief Gen. Andres Centino welcomes troops of the 82-member Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on Tuesday night (Feb. 28, 2023). The team was deployed to Türkiye on Feb. 8 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations in the aftermath of the Feb. 6 magnitude 7.8 quake that rocked the country. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other government agencies welcomed the 82 members of the Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) who safely returned home Tuesday night after their mission to earthquake-ravaged Türkiye.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair and Department of National Defense officer in charge Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino, and Turkish Ambassador to Manila Niyazi Eyren Akyol were among those who welcomed the contingent upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

"The PIAHC was deployed in Türkiye on Feb. 8 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit the country," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement Wednesday.

The contingent's urban search and rescue (USAR) team conducted retrieval and assessment missions in the southeastern city of Adiyaman for more than two weeks.

The USAR team concluded its activities on Feb. 24 and prepared for demobilization the following day.

"During their deployment, they assessed 36 buildings and retrieved six cadavers for the whole duration of their search and retrieval operations," Baclor said.

The PIAHC consists of 12 personnel from the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force, 21 from the 525th Engineer Combat Battalion, 9 from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, 8 from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, 30 from the Department of Health, and 2 from the OCD.

In addition, the Philippine Emergency Medical Assistance Team, attached to the PIAHC, provided aid to 1,022 ambulatory cases and referrals of cases requiring hospitalization.

Ankara earlier declined a second contingent from Manila to help in operations in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that rocked the country on Feb. 6 as the chances of finding live survivors dim as days go by.

The Turkish government, however, said the Philippines could send or donate non-food items, he added.

Showcase of HADR gear, equipment

As this developed, the Philippine Army (PA) on Feb. 27-28 showcased its HADR gear and equipment that soldiers use to save lives during calamities.

This took place at the "Static Display of Engineering Equipment and HADR Capabilities" at the Philippine Army Officers’ Clubhouse Pavilion in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said Wednesday.

The two-day event was among the series of activities lined up in celebration of the PA’s 126th Founding Anniversary, which falls on March 22 and is anchored on the theme “Army@126: Strong, United and Reliable."

The event highlighted the Army’s non-traditional roles, particularly in Socio-Economic Development and Reserve Force Development.

The 525th Engineer Combat Battalion (525ECBn), 51st Engineer Brigade put on display various equipment used in collapsed structure search and rescue, water search and rescue, mountain forest search and rescue, emergency medical response, K-9 search and rescue, and combat engineer support operations.

The 525ECBn also showcased its heavy equipment, such as a newly acquired vehicle-mounted mine detector, grader, and bulldozers that its troopers use in combat engineer support operations and HADR efforts.

"Moreover, the Reserve Command 1303rd Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion’s search and rescue unit displayed its rescue equipment while the Office of the Army Chief Engineer also highlighted in its booth the PA’s engineering support to national development projects and base development projects," Trinidad said.


Former rebels to receive DOLE’s chicken egg-laying package

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): Former rebels to receive DOLE’s chicken egg-laying package (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

LAYER CHICKEN. Four former rebels of the New People's Army (NPA) in Negros Oriental province become beneficiaries of the chicken egg-laying livelihood assistance program of the Department of Labor and Employment. Each package is worth around PHP30,000, consisting of 24 heads of chicken, feeds, and an egg-laying machine. (PNA file photo by JFP)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Four former rebels (FRs) of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Negros Oriental province are the first recipients of the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) chicken egg-laying project for this year.

DOLE-Negros Oriental provincial officer-in-charge Maria Theresa Tanquiamco told the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday that the FRs were granted livelihood package, valued at around PHP30,000 each.

“Aside from being the first recipients for this year, this is also the first time that the DOLE will be giving out this particular livelihood assistance to FRs, as part of our mandate to support the government’s whole-of-nation approach under the ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict) program,” Tanquiamco said in mixed English and Cebuano.

Each package includes 24 heads of chicken that are ready to lay, chicken feeds, and a mechanized egg-laying machine, she said.

The counterpart from the beneficiaries would be a shed to house these chickens and the equipment, and the maintenance and feeding, she added.

The FRs were identified and endorsed by the Philippine Army and after a thorough review of their application, Tanquiamco said they chose this particular livelihood package over other options as this would bring “immediate results.”

The chickens, when delivered, are ready to lay eggs, and would take just a few weeks before the FRs can start selling them.

The Philippine Army will be their first client, buying the eggs from the FRs at a reasonable price, the DOLE provincial OIC said.

The delivery of the livelihood grants for the FRs, whose identities were withheld for security reasons, is expected this week or early next week.

Meanwhile, records at the DOLE-Negros Oriental office showed that four associations also availed of the livelihood grant during the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

These are the Dauin Vegetable Grower’s Association in Barangay Tunga-tunga, Dauin, with 96 beneficiaries; Cluster Level Association in Barangay Bagtic, Mabinay (73 beneficiaries); (Tolong Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Barangay Villareal, Bayawan City (52 beneficiaries); and Sta. Laguna Mato-bato Livelihood Association in Barangay Matobato, Bindoy (42 beneficiaries).

Some PHP3.5 million worth of the livelihood package was released to these groups between 2020 and 2022.


'Deceived' NPA fighter surrenders in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): 'Deceived' NPA fighter surrenders in Sultan Kudarat (By Edwin Fernandez)

REBEL NO MORE. New People's Army rebel fighter 'Karding' poses with the two rifles that he turned over to the Army's Special Forces Battalion in Palimbang town, Sultan Kudarat province, after his surrender over the weekend. The surrenderer claimed that he was deceived into joining the communist rebel group. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Another New People's Army (NPA) rebel admitted that he was tricked into joining the communist rebel group and surrendered over the weekend to military authorities in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat province.

Lt. Colonel Carlyleo Nagac, commander of the Army's 5th Special Forces Battalion (5SFB), said Tuesday his troops fetched "Karding" from the mountains of Barangay Butril, Palimbang town, on Saturday (Feb. 25, 2023).

Karding turned over an M1 Garand rifle and a homemade M79 grenade launcher during his surrender.

Brig. Gen. Pedro Balisi Jr., commander of the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said Karding was recruited to join the NPA with the promise of a better life ahead.

"The continuous military operations in the hinterlands of Palimbang forced Karding to lay down his guns," Balisi said, adding that the surrenderer wanted to avail of the government's reconciliation program and return to his family.

Meanwhile, Major General Alex Rillera, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, praised Karding for choosing the path to peace.

"The government will always welcome communist rebels like Karding who wish to live normal lives and away from violence," Rillera, also Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) commander, said.

Earlier, two NPA insurgents also surrendered to the 5SFB in T'boli, South Cotabato.

T'boli Mayor Keo Dayle Tuan welcomed them to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, a government program designed to help ex-NPA members get back on their feet and start anew.

Since January this year, five communist rebels have been killed in various military operations within the 6ID area of operation.

Twelve assorted firearms and four explosives were also surrendered by communist rebels. In addition, 11 more firearms and one improvised bomb were recovered by the JTFC during their operations in South-Central Mindanao.


40 NPA rebels yield in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): 40 NPA rebels yield in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

COMMUNITY POLICE WORK. Police Regional Office 13 (Caraga) Director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II reports on Tuesday (Feb. 28, 2023) the surrender of 40 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. They surrendered to various police units in the region from Feb. 19 to 26. (Image courtesy of PRO-13)

BUTUAN CITY – Forty communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered to various field units of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 (Caraga) from Feb. 19 to 26, an official said Tuesday.

PRO-13 Director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II said the series of surrenders came after the intensified implementation of the Revitalized Pulis sa Barangay (R-PSB) program in the region.

“The execution of R-PSB has greatly contributed to the voluntary surrender of our former rebels who have been living for years in deceit,” Labra said in a statement.

Of the total number, 29 NPA rebels surrendered to the Agusan del Norte Police while 11 separately yielded to the police offices of Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 13, and the PRO-13’s Intelligence Division.

The surrenderers also handed over to the government 21 high-powered firearms.

“We would like to put on record that these people voluntarily went to the different police offices to embrace a new beginning and avail (of) the benefits of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program,” Labra said.

Alias Jean, a member of NPA Guerrilla Front 4A (GF-4A), North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC), was among those who surrendered in Agusan del Norte during the week.

“There is no peace in the NPA movement as the revolution they espouse only burdened the communities,” Jean, 34, said in the vernacular during a phone interview Tuesday.

Another surrenderer, only identified as Lito of the NPA Sentro De Grabidad, GF-4A of NCMRC, said he was convinced to abandon the communist movement after he engaged the local officials in his area through the R-PSB program.

“I am tired of running and hiding. All I want now is to go back to my family,” the 31-year-old said.

Meanwhile, Labra cited the implementation of the DADDI program in the different police stations in the region for contributing to the surrender of the 40 rebels.

DADDI stands for "Do observe cleanliness in camps and offices, Adherence to internal discipline, Drug war continues, Develop and strengthen police-community relationship, and Intensified anti-criminality campaign."


MILF vows to decommission, calls for armed groups to disband

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