Friday, March 3, 2023

Galvez says EDCA meant to deter threats, not attract war

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 4, 2023): Galvez says EDCA meant to deter threats, not attract war (By Martin Sadongdong)

Developing the country’s defense capabilities through bilateral efforts with allies such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with United States is meant to deter security threats and not to engage war or interfere with the domestic affairs of other nations.

Department of National Defense Officer in Charge (DND-OIC) Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr (File photo)

This was emphasized by Department of National Defense Officer in Charge (DND-OIC) Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. after Senator Imee Marcos questioned the proposed establishment of additional EDCA sites by the DND and US Department of Defense (DoD).

“The geopolitical situation is becoming more precarious by the day. Our projects under EDCA and our other defense partnerships are not intended for aggression. We are not preparing for war, rather we are aiming to develop our defense capabilities against eventualities and threats to our security,” Galvez said.

The DND and US-DoD announced last month that four additional sites will be built within the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to expedite the implementation of EDCA. These would be on top of five locations that were initially established by the two defense establishments.

American troops and assets can be prepositioned on a rotation basis at the EDCA sites for future military trainings with the AFP, as well as to conduct joint humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations during times of disasters or natural calamities.

Although there is no final announcement yet on the location of the additional sites, among the target areas include Cagayan, Palawan, Zambales, and Isabela.

In a Senate event last Wednesday where defense officials briefed lawmakers on the status of EDCA, Marcos pointed out that some of the proposed EDCA sites are situated in Northern Luzon which is facing Taiwan.

Marcos then asked if the establishment of the EDCA locations is a preparation in case tension between US and China escalates over the Taiwan Strait. She noted that some local chief executives from concerned provinces are opposing the establishment of such sites within their jurisdiction since they may be caught in the line of fire in case war breaks between Washington and Beijing.

Galvez wasn’t given a chance to explain as he was quickly cut off by the lawmaker.

But in a statement released to the media, Galvez clarified that the establishment of more EDCA sites is integral to the modernization efforts of the AFP and to speed up its shift from internal security operation to external defense.

“We are shifting our focus towards territorial defense, especially in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became the Commander in Chief last year, the country has gotten closer to the US, a traditional ally, which is a complete opposite from the pro-China foreign policy of the previous Duterte administration.

All of this happens as China continues its aggression in the WPS and Galvez sees the use of EDCA as a means to defend the country “against invasion.”

He explained that the DND aims to achieve an optimal number and locations of EDCA sites “to maximize coverage of the Philippine archipelago.”

“We understand the apprehensions expressed by our local chief executives about EDCA and our bilateral exercises. However, we must consider the volatile situation in which we operate and not view our own country in isolation,” the Defense OIC noted.

“The Philippines straddles a crucial location in the Pacific, and we have seaboards to the north, south, east, and west. All of these must be monitored and protected,” he added.

Governor, five others shot dead in latest attack on Philippine politicians

Posted to Arab News (Mar 4, 2023): Governor, five others shot dead in latest attack on Philippine politicians

MANILA: A provincial governor in the central Philippines and five other people were shot dead by unknown gunmen on Saturday, his widow said, in the latest attack against local officials.

Local police said six suspects carrying rifles and dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by the armed services entered the governor’s home in Pamplona town and opened fire.

Roel Degamo, governor of Negros Oriental province, and five others were killed in the shooting, his widow said.

“Governor Degamo did not deserve that kind of death. He was serving his constituents on a Saturday,” Janice Degamo, who is also the mayor of Pamplona, said in a video posted on Facebook.

President Ferdinand Marcos condemned what he described as the “assassination” of his political ally and warned the perpetrators to “surrender now it will be your best option.”

“My government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice,” Marcos added.

The condition of four other people who were shot in the incident was not disclosed.

The politician was distributing aid to constituents when he was shot, provincial police spokesman Kym Lopez told AFP.

Police said they were searching for 10 suspects, including the six gunmen, who fled the scene in two SUVs and a pickup truck before abandoning the vehicles in a nearby city.

Degamo, 56, is the latest target in the Philippines’ long history of attacks on politicians, and at least the third to be shot since last year’s local elections.

The Supreme Court last month declared him the rightful winner of the contest for the Negros Oriental governorship following a recount that unseated his local rival, who had previously been proclaimed the victor.

Degamo had also campaigned for Marcos in his own candidacy for president last year.

Mamintal Adiong, governor of the southern province of Lanao del Sur, was shot and wounded in February in an attack that killed his driver and three police escorts.

That same month, the vice-mayor of the northern town of Aparri, Rommel Alameda, and five other people who were traveling with him were shot dead in a highway ambush.

In the bloodiest politically motivated ambush on record, the leaders of a powerful southern clan and about two dozen followers were sentenced to life in prison for a 2009 attack on supporters of a gubernatorial election rival in Maguindanao province.

The attack left 58 people dead, including the politician’s wife and relatives, along with 32 journalists and media workers who were covering the race.

Opinion: Nine years later, still no clarity on ‘EDCA sites

Opinion piece posted to the Philippine Star (Mar 3, 2023): Nine years later, still no clarity on ‘EDCA sites (By Satur C. Ocampo)

A news report on Thursday in Business Mirror that headlined “Senate grills defense brass on plans for EDCA expansion, sites” raised much curiosity for its sheer lack of detailed information. I found this unusual for a reportage by veteran newsman Butch Fernandez, whom I have known for decades.

Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. led a team that updated senators on the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the report began, but was confronted with questions from the chair of the foreign relations committee about the selection of new EDCA sites.

The report said Galvez briefed the senators on the following: “The status/completion rate of the five EDCA sites; purpose of each site (both old and new); benefits and risks of the sites and other matters related to EDCA.” But it did not provide a single data or detail on any of these important points of the briefing.

Had the Senate committee, or Galvez’s team, requested the reporters covering the hearing not to disclose the details for “security” or whatever reason? I noted the absence of details also in other newspaper reports about what Galvez reportedly presented to the committee.

Instead, the Business Mirror report shifted to the committee chairperson, Sen. Imee Marcos, who asked for “details of the latest plan to construct four more US military bases in the Philippines as part of EDCA’s implementation.” Note that the term “US military bases” is interchangeably used as “EDCA sites.” Butch Fernandez may have seen no practical difference between the two terms. And he may be correct!

Sen. Marcos echoed the concerns expressed by local government officials (Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba and Isabela Gov. Rodolfo Albano III) whose jurisdictions were reportedly designated as new EDCA sites, the report noted. Moreover, she “wonder[ed] aloud” if the inclusion of one northern province was “meant to provide the US forces a footstool in case of conflict [between China and the US] over Taiwan.” Taiwan is geographically closest to the northernmost tip of Cagayan province.

The point Imee Marcos raised, the report further noted, was “something that deviates from the understanding that the Philippines is expanding ties with treaty ally the US mainly because of a need to boost security in the West Philippine Sea.”

In fact, last Feb. 27, Marcos Jr. called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to defend the country’s territory in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. He told the troops in Cebu: “Even if there is war in Ukraine, the South China Sea is said to be the most difficult and most complicated problem. That is why I said the mission of the AFP has changed. We need to safeguard those that we did not think much about previously.”

Nonetheless, the Business Mirror report said, Sen. Marcos “told the Executive [her younger brother Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] to prioritize the construction of unfinished EDCA bases, noting that only five of the 21 sites previously agreed upon were far from completed.”

Way back on April 26, 2014 (or nine years ago), I wrote in this space regarding the inception of the EDCA:

“The exact provisions of the agreement – the subject of negotiations since 2012 – have been kept under wraps by both the US and the Philippine governments. Once announced as a done deal, the agreement’s provisions should be made public for any concerned party to question and challenge –whether they are equitable, just, legal or constitutional.”

I then cited what the Department of Foreign Affairs had couched as the EDCA objectives “in terms that require definitive clarifications.” For instance:

• Increasing the presence of US troops on a “rotational basis” in Philippine territory (averaging 600 armed personnel since 2002) towards developing a “minimum credible defense posture.”

• Building this minimum defense posture in order to “enhance maritime domain awareness” and to “develop a deterrence capability.”

• Developing “deterrence capability” through “high-impact and high-value” joint military exercises which promote “interoperability and capacity-building” that will also bolster “humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”

“The core issue in the EDCA, however,” I further wrote then, “is military access and facilities. The US would be allowed to build its own military facilities within Philippine bases/camps (foreign bases within national bases?), provided Filipino military (and civilian?) officials would have access to such facilities.” But I pointed out, “The decade-old US facility built within a Philippine base in Zamboanga City has been off-limits to Filipinos.”

At the time, then US president Barack Obama was scheduled to come to Manila. With implicit certainty, the International New York Times reported that Obama was expected to announce the signing of the EDCA that would “give American ships and planes the most extensive access to (Philippine military) bases” since the two huge US bases [Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base] were thrown out in 1992.

The INYT described the EDCA as “the centerpiece” of Obama’s trip which “aims to reassure America’s allies of its treaty commitments, respond to China’s growing assertiveness as a regional economic-military power and promote the US role in the region’s economic growth.”

The EDCA “is a modest step to reassert America’s military presence in Asia,” the INYT emphasized, adding, “But it could nonetheless antagonize China.”

A year later (April 25, 2015), I wrote in this space, one of a number of pieces following up on the EDCA, about what then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a joint press conference with the visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Gazmin announced that the Philippines would establish basing arrangements for the American and Japanese militaries. He declared, “Under a plan to ‘roll back’ China’s aggressive actions in the SCS/WPS, the Philippines would allow the US, Japan and ‘other allies’ access to the country’s military bases.” On what legal basis, he didn’t say.

Today, are we not hearing similar or closely-related proposals from defense and foreign affairs officials, as well as from members of the Senate and the House of Representatives?

Philippine Senator Questions Scope of New US Security Agreement

 From The Diplomat (Mar 3, 2023): Philippine Senator Questions Scope of New US Security Agreement (By Sebastian Strangio)

Comments by Senator Imee Marcos, the sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., raise the question of where the outer limits of U.S.-Philippine cooperation lie.

Philippine Senator Imee Marcos questions defense officials about the scope of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines during a hearing in Manila, March 1, 2023.Credit: Facebook/Senator Imee R. Marcos

Over the past few months, security relations between the Philippines and the United States have developed at a surprisingly rapid clip. The decisive step forward was taken last month, when the two nations agreed to open four more Philippine military bases to a rotational U.S. military presence under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The 2014 agreement allows the U.S. rotational access to a select number of military facilities nominated by the Philippine government, and the expansion brings the number of bases open to U.S. forces to nine.

This was followed by announcements that the United States had allocated $82 million for the development of facilities at the initial five EDCA facilities, and talk of a possible resumption of joint maritime patrols in disputed parts of the South China Sea. All of this has been accompanied by declarations of mutual and undying friendship from Philippine and U.S. officials.

The expansion of the EDCA basing arrangement in particular speaks to how quickly relations have progressed since the departure from office last July of President Rodrigo Duterte. The gruff leader initiated a sharp turn against Washington and steered his government into friendlier relations with Beijing – despite the two nations’ ongoing tensions in the South China Sea.

The EDCA expansion appears to mark a decisive repudiation of Duterte’s foreign policy, and a growing harmonization of interests between the Philippines and its former colonial ruler and long-time security ally. At the same time, with tensions between the United States and China mounting over the future of Taiwan, it remains unclear exactly how far these Philippine pledges of friendship extend.

Some indications seemed to surface during Senate hearings this week, when Senator Imee Marcos, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and sister of the president, confronted officials on the reported location of the four new EDCA sites, which she said would all be located in northern Luzon, close to the Taiwan Strait.

If the Philippines’ main concern is its sovereignty over disputed waters in the South China Sea, she asked, why would all of the new EDCA facilities be located on Luzon?

“Are we talking about the escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait as the number one issue?” Marcos asked Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., according to a local media report. “I just need to understand why are you choosing all these sites in Northern Luzon when in fact if it were West Philippine Sea [South China Sea] deterrence that were uppermost in our minds, the protection of our territorial sovereignty, surely it should be in the western sector not purely in the northern.”

Indeed, if the South China Sea were to be the main focus of the new basing arrangements, one would expect it to involve an expansion of the U.S. presence on Palawan, the country’s westernmost island, which lies adjacent to the Philippine-claimed features in the Spratly Islands and it the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command. (One of the five initial EDCA sites is Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.)ADVERTISEMENT

Similar concerns have also emanated from the provinces. Manuel Mamba, governor of Cagayan province, which hosts one of the facilities U.S. troops might soon have access to, told Bloomberg this week that U.S. troops “are not welcome.” He added, “China has been good to us. I don’t see any threat coming from them and my province is one of the nearest to them.”

While Galvez told Senator Marcos that the four sites are still being negotiated with the United States, and President Marcos has emphasized that the final choice of bases was contingent on consultations with local authorities, these criticisms of the planned basing arrangements offer an interesting insight into Philippine perceptions of the U.S. alliance.

Such criticisms have long been common on the Philippine and international left. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) last month described the expansion of EDCA in terms of the Philippines’ continuing colonial relationship with the United States. “The continued and expanding presence of the U.S. military in the Philippines means continued U.S. support for and participation in the violation of civil and political rights, and violation of the right to sovereignty of the Filipino people,” the ICHRP said in a statement.

Renato Reyes Jr. of the left-wing Bagong Alyansang Makabayan political bloc wrote on Twitter that the basing agreement might well drag the Philippines into conflicts “not of our choosing,” while failing to benefit the Philippine military, which would be reduced to “mere perimeter guards of these U.S. facilities.” He added, “EDCA may lead to an arms race between the U.S. and China, and worsen the conflict between 2 superpowers… U.S. is here only to protect its own interests.”

While the Philippine left has been making similar arguments for years – indeed, such arguments played a prominent role in the successful campaign for the closure of the U.S. bases at Clark and Subic Bay in the early 1990s – it is much more surprising to hear such criticisms emanating from the mainstream of the political establishment. The fact that the sister of the president is asking such questions about his foreign policy suggests that there is a portion of the mainstream that is skeptical of the current turn toward Washington, or at least open to questioning how it will benefit the Philippines.

One need not view the Philippines as a colonial appendage of the United States to acknowledge that for all the areas of strategic overlap and cultural affinity, Manila’s interests are not fully congruent with those of Washington. The U.S. views the South China Sea disputes as a subset of a broader array of concerns about the threat posed by China’s growing power to the U.S.-led international security order, a challenge that is more pressingly manifesting in the growing frictions over Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the Philippines appears focused more on the specific goal of securing its sovereignty over its Exclusive Economic Zone in the face of growing Chinese incursions, while also preserving a productive economic relationship with China, as President Marcos has himself emphasized. How much the nation would be willing to sacrifice for the preservation of the “rules-based international order” is open to question, especially given its proximity to China and likely frontline position in any future conflict over Taiwan.

All this raises the question of where the outer limits of cooperation lie for Manila, and at what point such divergences become apparent – especially as tensions continue to grow over the Taiwan Strait. The dizzying pace of recent security cooperation suggests that the point might still be some way off.
You have read 4 of your 5 free articles this month.

[Sebastian Strangio is Southeast Asia editor at The Diplomat.]

3 NPA rebels killed in clash

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 3, 2023): 3 NPA rebels killed in clash

ZAMBOANGA. Three New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed in a clash with government troops in the province of Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat on Thursday, March 2. A photo handout shows the firearms and personal belongings of the NPA rebels the troops recovered after the clash. (SunStar Zamboanga)

THREE New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed in a clash with government troops in the province of Sultan Kudarat, the military reported Friday, March 3, 2023.

Major General Alex Rillera, Joint Task Force (JTF)-Central commander, said the clash happened Thursday, March 2, in Sitio Isuko in Banali village, Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat.

Rillera said the clash ensued as the troops of the 7th Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Chicote chanced upon 10 NPF rebels while checking on the reported presence of fully armed men conducting foraging activities in Sitio Isuko, Banali village.

He said the NPA rebels led by Eusevio Cranzo Tabunaway alias Ka Ben of the Regional Tax Implementing Group (RTIG) of the Far South Mindanao Region.

Rillera said the firefight resulted in the death of three NPA rebels, whose remains were abandoned by the comrades who fled to the hinterlands.

The remains were turned over to the local police for identification and post-mortem examination.

The troops also recovered at the clash site three M16 rifles, one M653 rifle, 13 long magazines, 330 rounds of 5.56-millimeter ammunition, two hand grenades, five bandoliers, one commercial radio, four backpacks, assorted foodstuff and personal belongings and propaganda materials.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Roy Galido, Western Mindanao Command chief, commended the JTF-Central troopers for the accomplishment.

“Rest assured that we will remain committed to resolving the long-standing aggression in our area of operation,” Galido said.(SunStar Zamboanga)

NPA bomb-maker slain in clash with Army

From the Manila Times (Mar 4, 2023): NPA bomb-maker slain in clash with Army (By Franz R. Sumangil)

AN alleged bomb-maker of the New People's Army (NPA) was killed in a clash with government forces, an official of the Philippine Army announced on Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Michael Santos, commander of the Army's 603rd Infantry Brigade, said that Rosendo Cardiso Jr. was killed in an encounter with personnel of the 37th Infantry Battalion in Sangay village, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat on Sunday.

According to Santos, Cardiso is a henchman and bomb-maker of Joseph Longan, who is an official of the NPA's self-styled Daguma Command-Far South Mindanao Region.

Santos said that a gunfight erupted when Longan and his companions attacked soldiers who were dispatched to the area to verify the presence of armed men, as reported by villagers.

Longan and his followers have been frequenting the hinterland villages in Sultan Kudarat's adjoining Lebak, Kalamansig and Palimbang towns to collect "revolutionary tax" monthly basis from the villagers.

Soldiers, meanwhile, recovered two M14 assault rifles and an M16 rifle from the scene of the encounter, along with the remains of Cardiso.

Units of the Police Regional Office-12 and the Army's 6th Infantry Division (6ID) in Sultan Kudarat and in nearby Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces are guarding against a possible retaliation by Longan's group.

Longan is wanted for 17 criminal cases pending in different courts.

He was tagged for one arson attack after another from 2019 to 2022 of P2 billion worth of heavy equipment from construction firms involved in infrastructure projects in South Cotabato after owners refused to shell out "protection money."

According to the military, six NPA bomb experts have been killed in clashes with government troops in South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat from October 2021 to January this year.

Units of 6ID had also secured during the period the surrender of 14 other NPA members who are experts in producing IEDs and deadly booby traps using ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate as blasting powder.

Reds kill barangay tanod in Surigao Sur: PRO-13

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 4, 2023): Reds kill barangay tanod in Surigao Sur: PRO-13 (By Alexander Lopez)

(Google map of Tandag City, Surigao del Sur)

BUTUAN CITY – Suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels gunned down a barangay tanod (village watchman) in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur on Thursday afternoon.

The victim, identified as Fortunato Jacinto, alias Fortun, 59, was a resident of Purok Pulotan, Barangay Awasian, Tandag City.

In a statement on Saturday, Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 (Caraga) Director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II said Jacinto was actively supporting the government’s call to the remaining NPA rebels in the area to surrender and return to the fold of the law.

Labra also ordered the Tandag City Police Station to conduct a speedy investigation to determine the identities of the perpetrators for their immediate arrest.

Based on the disclosure of the victim’s live-in partner, seven armed NPA rebels suddenly arrived at their residence on Thursday afternoon and immediately hogtied the victim before shooting him to death using high-powered firearms.

“We condemn this brutal killing perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Group who are now desperate as the calls for the surrender of their members are already gaining ground proven by the recent number of surrenders not only in Surigao del Sur but also in other areas in the Caraga Region,” Labra said.

He added that based on the initial investigation, those responsible for the killing of Jacinto were from the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 30, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Authorities also recovered from the crime scene three 5.56 mm. fired cartridges and one fired cartridge from a .45 caliber pistol.

“We are also calling the concerned residents in the area to help the police in the continuing investigation of this incident and the filing of appropriate charges in court,” Labra said.

He added that the PRO-13, with the support of various stakeholders, remains aggressive and determined to end the local communist armed conflict.

10 years on, the scars remain

 From The Star (Mar 4, 2023): 10 years on, the scars remain (By MUGUNTAN VANAR)


Tense situation: A file photo showing Malaysian security forces firing a 81mm mortar during a clash with the armed intruders in Semporna.

KOTA KINABALU: A decade later, the scars of the Lahad Datu intrusion remain etched in the memories of the families of security personnel who lost their lives in the attack.

It all began on Feb 9, 2013, when a group of gunmen led by Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III attempted to “reclaim” their ancestral land and landed in Lahad Datu’s coastal Kampung Tanduo in batches.

By Feb 12, the villagers of Tanduo had fled their homes as news of the landing spread, shocking the nation.

On Feb 14, the government led by then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak initiated negotiations with what had been described as a group of “ragtag elderly gunmen” to avoid bloodshed.

On March 1, the gunmen opened fire at Malaysian commandos, killing two who tried to break through a blockade.

In the ensuing shootout, 12 Royal Sulu Army soldiers were killed.

Sulu gunmen opened up another front when they attacked six Malaysian policemen at Kampung Simunul in Semporna between March 1 and 3.

However, seven of the gunmen were killed in the mop-up operation in the coastal village of Semporna town.

The next day, on March 4, Malaysian security personnel launched an all-out war called Ops Daulat.

They carried out aerial bombing against the Sulu gunmen in Tanduo, killing about 13 militants.

In the ensuing ground mop-up, the intruders fled or were arrested.

In less than a week, Malaysian security forces had taken full control of Tanduo, recovering over 22 bodies of Sulu gunmen by March 11.

Agbimuddin and some of the intruders escaped following the final assault.

Some 30 intruders and their accomplices, including Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, were eventually charged with various offences, including waging war against the King and treason. Some were sentenced to death and life imprisonment.

A Malaysian Special Branch policeman, Kpl Hassan Ali Basari, was also jailed for intentionally refraining from disclosing information on terrorist acts by the Sulu gunmen in Lahad Datu.

By the end of Ops Daulat on June 29, official statistics placed the total deaths from the intrusion at 72 – 56 intruders, 10 Malaysian security force personnel and six civilians.

On June 1 that year, Malaysia launched the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), an integrated security arrangement involving police, the armed forces and other agencies that was put in place to guard Sabah’s eastern borders from northern Kudat to south-eastern Tawau.

Over the last decade, threats from the Sulu groups had diminished althrough cross-border kidnappings by Jolo-based Abu Sayyaf groups continued till 2016.

Manila’s crackdown on the core group in Jolo helped quell the kidnapping gangs.

Malaysian police have also eliminated or captured many groups trying to slip into Sabah for refuge or to kidnap Malaysians or tourists for ransom.

Westmincom chief checks border security

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 3. 2023): Westmincom chief checks border security

ZAMBOANGA. Lieutenant General Roy Galido, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), assures that security is in place at the southern frontier after embarking on a three-day inspection from February 28 to March 1 to boost the troops’ morale along the Philippine-Malaysian border. A photo handout shows Galido (3rd from right) in a posterity photo together with military and social welfare officials in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi. (SunStar Zamboanga)

LIEUTENANT General Roy Galido, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), assured that security is in place at the southern frontier after embarking on a three-day inspection to boost the troops’ morale along the Philippine-Malaysian border.

Among the islands Galido inspected during his three-day security inspection from February 28 to March 1 were the Mardanas and Panguan in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, which are being guarded by Marine troops.

Mardanas, which is uninhabited, is one of the last islands of the Sulu Archipelago nearest to the Philippine-Malaysian border and is next to Panguan Island.

Panguan Island was used as a hideout by the Abu Sayyaf bandits until it was liberated by the Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 troops in April 2017.

“Our soldiers are our vanguard and I salute them for their professionalism and discipline despite the difficult and stressful conditions they live in while sustaining the sovereignty of our beloved country,” Galido said.

An aerial inspection was also conducted along Sitangkai dubbed as “the Venice of the South.”

Galido together with the officials of the Ministry of Social Services and Development in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao distributed hygiene kits, water containers and skippers to the Badjao community in Panguan Island.

“Rest assured that your armed forces will remain steadfast in protecting the people and securing the state with dignity and honor,” Galido said.

“We continue to intensify our operations to curb transnational crimes and other related lawlessness in our borders and all the provinces in our area of operations,” he added.

The local chief executives pledged continued support to the military’s campaigns to sustain peace and stability in their areas of jurisdiction during Galido’s meeting the with municipal mayors of Panglima Sugala, Simunul and Sibutuh, as well as with Tawi-Tawi Governor Yshmael Sali.

Galido also led a wreath-laying ceremony at the 2nd Marine Brigade Heroes Memorial in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

Brigadier General Romeo Racadio, Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, and other military officers and enlisted personnel joined the Galido in honoring the fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace.(SunStar Zamboanga)

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis: Protesta kontra Herrera Law, inilunsad ng mga manggagawa

Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis online propaganda posted to the PRWC Newsroom, the blog site of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau (Mar 2, 2023): Protesta kontra Herrera Law, inilunsad ng mga manggagawa (Protest against Herrera Law, launched by workers)

March 02, 2023

Nagprotesta ang mga manggagawa kanina sa Commission on Human Rights sa Quezon City para igiit ang pagpapabasura sa anti-manggagawa na Herrera Law kasabay ng ika-34 anibersaryo nito. Ayon sa Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), ginawang ligal ng naturang batas ang kontraktwalisasyon na nagbura sa seguridad sa trabaho ng mga manggagawa.

Ang Herrera Law ay isinabatas noong Marso 2, 1989 sa ilalim ng rehimeng Cory Aquino. Ipinangalan ito sa pangunahing nagtulak nito na si Sen. Ernesto Herrera. Si Herrera ay dating tagapangulo ng dilawang Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

Ayon sa KMU, binigyang-awtoridad ng batas ang pulis at militar na sikilin ang mga welga at pigilan ang mga ito sa pamamagitan ng Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ), labag sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa.

“Sa pamamagitan ng AJ, nagpatupad ng mga strike ban, humigpit ang mga rekisito para maglunsad ng welga, at nabigyang-daan ang mga pulis at militar na buwagin ang mga welga at unyon sa pagawaan,” pahayag ng KMU.

Paliwanag pa nito, “bagaman ipinagbawal [ng batas] ang labor-only contracting, binigyang-luwag ang iba pang mga porma ng kontraktwalisasyon. Sa esensya, pinaluwag nito ang kakayahan ng mga kapitalista na tumanggap ng mga empleyadong kontraktwal na kailanman ay hindi makakakuha ng regular na sahod at benepisyo.”

Para sa mga manggagawa at unyon, isang malaking “bangungot” ang Herrera Law magpahanggang ngayon. “Laganap pa rin sa buong bansa ang kontraktwalisasyon na nagpapanatili ng barat na sahod at kawalan ng benepisyo. Tumindi rin ang paglabag sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa na mag-unyon, magwelga, at magpahayag,” ayon sa KMU.

Sa Pilipinas, tinatayang nasa 9.4 milyong Pilipino ang nananatiling kontraktwal na mga manggagawa ayon sa datos ng IBON Foundation noong 2018.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis: Ibasura ang Cha-cha ni Marcos, panawagan ng mga demokratikong organisasyon

Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis online propaganda posted to the PRWC Newsroom, the blog site of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau (Mar 3, 2023): Ibasura ang Cha-cha ni Marcos, panawagan ng mga demokratikong organisasyon (Discard Marcos' Cha-cha, call of democratic organizations)

March 03, 2023

Nakahanda ang mga demokratikong organisasyon na tutulan ang pakanang baguhin ang konstitusyong 1987 na iniraratsada ngayon sa Kongreso. Tinatayang ipapasa na sa Marso 6 sa pangatlo at huling pagdinig ang House Resolution No. 6, na nagtatawag para sa Constitutional Convention para baguhin ang konstitusyon.

“Sagot ba sa problema ng bansa ang Cha-cha?” tanong ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan. “Hindi. Lalong lalala pa nga ang krisis sa pagpasok ng mga dayuhang kumpanya, at sa pagpapalawig sa pwesto ng mga naghaharing-uri. Dayuhan at iilan ang makikinabang sa Cha-cha. Sila ang nagpapahirap sa bansa natin.”

Tinawag ng Bayan ang pakana bilang “Marcos cha-cha” dahil itinutulak ito ng kanyang mga alyado sa Kamara. Sa huling ulat, mahigit 200 nang kongresista ang nakasuporta sa resolusyon. “Nakasunod din ito sa patakaran ni Marcos na ibayong ibukas ang ekonomya sa mga dayuhan,” ayon kay Reyes.

Ang itinutulak nitong pagbabago sa mga probisyon sa ekonomya ay lalong magbibigay pabor sa naghaharing uri at magbibigay ng dagdag na mga bentahe sa mga dayuhang monopolyo kapitalista na naglalayong dambungin at samantalahin ang ekonomya ng bansa, ayon sa Bayan. “Kahit palitan ang Constitution, kung mga political dynasties pa rin ang nakaupo, walang magbabago,” anito.

Tutol din ang Alliance of Concerned Teachers sa pakana. “Pahihintulutan ng ChaCha na lalong magtagal sa pwesto, mangurakot, at magpayaman ang mga pulitikong mula sa mga dinastikong angkan o pamilya ng mga panginoong maylupa at mga may-ari ng malalaking korporasyon,” ayon sa grupo. Kaugnay ito sa balak na pagpapalawig sa termino ng mga pambansa at lokal na mga upisyal mula tatlo tungong limang taon at pagpapahintulot sa muling pagtakbo ng nakaupong presidente at bise presidente.

Kinutya ni Reyes sa Marcos sa pagkukunwari nitong “hindi prayorida” ang Cha-cha gayong “kitang kita sa galawan” ng kanyang mga kaalyado sa Kongreso.

Panawagan niya sa mamamayang Pilipino, huwag payagan ang Marcos cha-cha.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis: Hindi makasasama sa ekonomya ang dagdag-sahod!

Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis online propaganda posted to the PRWC Newsroom, the blog site of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau (Mar 3, 2023): Hindi makasasama sa ekonomya ang dagdag-sahod! (The wage increase will not harm the economy!)

March 03, 2023

Malaking panloloko ang sinabi kamakailan ng kalihim ng National Economic and Development Authority na si Arsenio Balisacan na “makakasama” sa ekonomya ang hiling ng mga manggagawa na dagdagan ang kanilang sahod.

“Kaninong ekonomya?” tanong ni Sonny Africa ng Ibon Foundation. “Napakalaki ng bentahe ng dagdag-sahod sa mga manggagawa,” aniya, at ang tanging kasamaang idudulot nito ay sa sobra-sobrang kita na kinokopo ng mayayaman.

Sa dekada 2012-2021, ayon kay Africa, tumaas ang produktibidad ng mga manggagawa nang 42%, habang 18% lamang ang itinaas sa sahod. Bumagsak pa ang tunay na halaga ng sahod nang 5%. Gayundin, sa loob ng panahong ito, tumaas nang 68% ang kita ng nangungunang 1,000 korporasyon sa bansa, at 89% sa 40 pinakamayayamang Pilipino.

Tinawag ni Jerome Adonis, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Kilusang Mayo Uno, si Balisacan na “sinungaling at manloloko” sa isang video message noong Marso 1.

“Hindi totoo yan,” diin ni Adonis. “Katunayan, makakatulong pa nga sa ekonomya ang dagdag sahod ng mga Pilipino.” Paliwanag niya, kung itataas ang sahod, magkakaroon ng pambili ang mga manggagawang Pilipino, laluna ng pinakabatayang mga pangangailangan. Nasa 70%-80% ng sahod ng mga manggagawa ay napupunta sa pagbili ng pagkain, aniya.

Hamon naman ng mga manggagawa sa Cebu, subukan ni Balisacan na mabuhay sa minimum na sahod ng mga manggagawa.

“Madali lamang kay Secretary Balisacan na sabihin yan kasi di naman minimum ang sahod niya,” ayon kay Jaime Paglinawan, pinuno ng AMA-Sugbo-KMU. “Mas maganda subukan niyang mabuhay sa minimum na ₱435 kada araw sa Central Visayas o kahit ₱570 kada araw na minimum sa NCR.” Iginiit ni Paglinawan na makatarungan ang iginigiit ng mga manggagawa na dagdag-sahod, laluna matapos ianunsyo ng Bangko Sentral na maaring pumalo sa 9.3% ang implasyon noong Pebrero.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis: Sibilyang komunidad, pinagbabaril ng 94th IB; mga bahay nasira

Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis online propaganda posted to the PRWC Newsroom, the blog site of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau (Mar 3, 2023): Sibilyang komunidad, pinagbabaril ng 94th IB; mga bahay nasira (Civilian community, shot by 94th IB; houses destroyed)

March 03, 2023

Nasira ang bahay ng mga magsasakang sina Albascion Onopre at Rhoda Garnica sa Sityo Cabagnaan, Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental matapos paulanan ng bala ng mga sundalo ng 94th IB noong Marso 1. Ayon sa grupong September 21 Movement South Negros, nagpaputok ang mga sundalo matapos ang napaulat na engkwentro sa pagitan ng 94th IB at yunit ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa isang lugar na saklaw ng sityo.

Giit ng grupo, ang pagdamay sa mga sibilyan at sibilyang komunidad ay paglabag sa Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law o CAHRIHL na pinirmahan ng mga kinatawan ng Gubyerno ng Pilipinas at ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Labis na takot at troma ang idinulot ng naturang pamamaril sa mga residente. “Ang mga may-ari ng bahay…nagmadaling magtago para hindi sila matamaan ng bala. Lumikas na sila sa Barangay Carabalan,” ayon sa grupo.

Sa araw na iyon, nasa 100 pamilya ang lumikas tungo sa sentro ng barangay mula sa mga sityo ng Panagbaan, Florete, Cabalungan, at Daat. Kinonkontrol at binabantayan din ng militar ang kilos ng mga nasa sentro ng ebakwasyon. Unti-unti na silang nakababalik sa ngayon.

Iniulat ng mga residente ang patuloy na panggigipit at pananakot ng mga sundalo sa mga sibilyan. Anila sumisigaw ang mga ito ng “Nga kung sin-o ang isog dira, paguwa!” (Kung sino ang matapang diyan, lumabas!) at “Ubuson pamatay ang mga pumuluyo” (Uubusin ang mga tao dito).

Ang ginagawang karahasan ng militar laban mga sibilyan ay labag sa Ika-4 na Bahagi, Artikulo 4, Numero 4 ng CARHRIHL:

“Ang sibilyang populasyon at mga sibilyan ay itatrato bilang sibilyan at ipag-iiba sa mga mandirigma at, kasama ang kanilang ari-arian, ay hindi maaaring atakihin.”

Kalinaw News: Unidentified CTG Member killed in an Encounter

From Kalinaw News (Mar 3, 2023): Unidentified CTG Member killed in an Encounter

In the vicinity of Sitio Lantong, Brgy Sangay, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat last February 26, 2023, the combat soldiers of 37IB came across around 10 CTG militants who were said to be under the command of Joseph Longan alias Michael, Commander of Platoon Beijing, SRC Daguma, FSMR. A CTG member who was not identified was killed in the 30-minute gunfight, and war materiel, including three (3) high-powered weapons—two (2) M14 rifles and one (1) 5.56mm Bushmaster rifle—as well as three bags and other items were also taken.

The government side has not reported any casualties, either. The military is continuing cleaning up the area in question while also looking for the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) members who have escaped.

The 37IB’s commanding officer, LTC John Paul Baldomar INF (GSC) PA, stated that the troops will step up their combat efforts to put additional pressure on the adversaries.

BGEN MICHAEL A SANTOS PA, Brigade Commander, praised the 37IB soldiers for their success. In addition, he exhorted the remaining CTG members to put a stop to their violent resistance and quietly rejoin society.

“I continue to believe that the battle for peace won’t include any more bloodshed. To live and experience a normal life, I implore the CTG’s surviving members to renounce “- BGEN MICHAEL A. SANTOS PA

[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: 3 communist terrorists neutralized; war materials seized in Sultan Kudarat clash

From Kalinaw News (Mar 3, 2023): 3 communist terrorists neutralized; war materials seized in Sultan Kudarat clash

Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City – March 3, 2023

Three communist terrorist group members were neutralized in an encounter with the military in Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat Thursday, March 2, 2023.

Joint Task Force Central Commander, Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera said the troops of the 7th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Frederick Chicote acted on a report of the presence of fully-armed men conducting foraging activities at Sitio Isuko, Barangay Banali, Senator Ninoy Aquino Thursday noon.

Upon arrival at the area, operating troops engaged in an armed confrontation with ten communist terrorist group members led by Eusevio Cranzo Tabunaway, a.k.a. Ben/Brix, a member of the Regional Tax Implementing Group (RTIG) of the Far South Mindanao Region.

The firefight resulted in the deaths of three CTG members and the recovery of three M16 rifles, one M653 rifle, 13 long magazines, 330 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, two hand grenades, five bandoliers, one commercial radio, four backpacks, assorted foodstuff and personal belongings, and propaganda materials.

The recovered cadavers of the slain communist terrorists were turned over to the local police for identification and post-mortem investigation. Operating troops are in pursuit of the fleeing enemies.

Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, Commander of the Western Mindanao Command, commended the JTF Central “Kampilan” troopers for this accomplishment.

“Rest assured that we will remain committed to resolving the long-standing aggression in our area of operation,” Lt. Gen. Galido 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.]

Kalinaw News: 𝐍𝐞𝐰 𝟑𝐈𝐃 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐒𝐥𝐚𝐦𝐬 𝐍𝐏𝐀 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐄𝐱𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐍𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐬

From Kalinaw News (Mar 3, 2023): New 3ID Commander Slams NPA for Continued Extortion in Negros 

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – 3rd Infantry (Spearhead)
Division Commander BGen Marion R Sison condemned the CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) in Negros Occidental for robbing the people’s hard-earned money through theirextortion activities.

“These CPP-NPA Terrorists are desperate robbers who are losing the support of the people; hence, they continued forcing businessmen, including ordinary civilians in Negros, to give in to their extortion demands to sustain their crumpling organization,” BGen Sison said.

BGen Sison made this statement following the recovery of numerous extortion letters from the possession of the slain NPAs in an encounter in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, on Wednesday, March 01, 2023.
The extortion letters contain demands to businesses, especially in rural areas signed by Armando Magbanua, Regional Extortion Group of the NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command.

BGen Sison also slammed the NPAs for blatantly fabricating lies through their extortion letters that their resources, mainly coming from the contributions of workers and peasants, were used to support the social needs of the people.

“They are not helping; they are robbing the meager income of the workers and peasant to fund their terroristic activities. They are using Negrenses’ earnings to cast fear and terror, destroy properties, and ruin innocent lives. Their continued extortion activities manifest their true nature as anti-people, anti-peace, and anti-development communist-terrorist organization,” BGen Sison stressed.

The new 3ID Commander also called on the businessmen and the Negreses to help fight the decades-long terrorism of the CNTs by rejecting the extortion demand of the NPAs and reporting their illegal activities to the government forces.
“Join us in putting the CNT’s terrorism to an end.

We can do it if you help us cease their extortion activities. Continue giving reliable information to your Army and PNP about the NPAs’ movement and activities to prevent them from forcing you to give in to their extortion demands,” he added.

[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.]

Davao remembers deadly airport bombing 20 years later

From Rappler (Mar 4, 2023): Davao remembers deadly airport bombing 20 years later (By FERDINAND ZUASOLA)

Davao officials and the victims' loved ones offer flowers, and light candles at the site of the deadly 2003 bomb attack in Sasa

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – The city government of Davao marked the 20th anniversary of the March 4, 2003 bomb attack on the city’s airport that killed nearly two dozen people and hurt more than 100 others.

A ceremony, attended by top local government officials and the victims’ families, was held on Thursday, March 2, a day before the Davao holiday because of its 86th Charter Day.

The airport bombing, which took place at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport, killed 22 people and injured at least 155 others.

The 2003 attack, blamed on terrorists, particularly the Jemaah Islamiyah, took place amid a controversy over the Arroyo administration’s support for the United States-led “war on terror.”

Local officials and the victims’ loved ones offered flowers, and candles were lit at the bombing site in Sasa.

The city government had continued to provide financial assistance to 127 dependents of those killed and injured in the airport bombing, with 14 beneficiaries having completed tertiary education as of 2023.

A day earlier, Davao Mayor Sebastian Duterte called on residents to be active participants in the “culture of peace and security campaign” of the city government during the opening ceremony for the month-long Araw ng Dabaw celebration at the Rizal Park.

“Our city is getting bigger and bigger. Our population is ballooning fast. We need each other’s understanding and cooperation for our city to grow peacefully and prosperously,” Duterte said.

He also urged residents to take extra care and report any unattended bag found in public places directly to authorities during the month-long Davao celebration.

It was a bomb placed in a backpack that was exploded at a busy waiting area of the airport 20 years ago.

Colonel Alberto Lupaz, the city’s police chief, said authorities have tightened security measures and urged collaborative efforts to ensure a safe and secure Araw ng Dabaw celebration for locals and visitors.

Although Davao traditionally started celebrations of its 1937 cityhood on the first day of March, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. declared Friday, March 3 as a special non-working holiday in Davao City, moving the day to the nearest weekend due to the national government’s policy of “holiday economics.” –

[Ferdinand Zuasola is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.]

NegOcc guv renews appeal to NPA: Surrender now

From Panay News (Mar 4, 2023): NegOcc guv renews appeal to NPA: Surrender now (By DOMINIQUE GABRIEL G. BAÑAGA)

BACOLOD City – Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson renewed his appeal to New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to surrender following this week’s gun battle in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

The clash ended with four NPA rebels dead, according to the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade (303IBde).

Two soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB) were also wounded.

Lacson said the rebels should give up armed struggle.

The provincial government will help rebels reintegrate to society and provide them with livelihood, he added.

Lacson said rebels who surrender automatically benefit from the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Earlier, 303IBde commander, Colonel Orlando Edralin, said wounded NPA rebels who surrender will be sent to the hospital for treatment.

He believe a lot of rebels that clashed with 94IB troops on March 1 were wounded.

Brigadier General Marion Sison, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, said the NPA “suffered a huge debacle” in the recent encounter.

“Expect relentless military operation in the coming days and weeks,” Sison said.

Hungry rebel surrenders

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 3, 2023): Hungry rebel surrenders (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

A rebel combatant who figured in armed clashes with Army soldiers in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, surrenders to Col- Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, and Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, 94IB commander, (right), along with his high-powered firearm.* PA photo

A combatant of the New People’s Army, who figured in renewed armed clashes with Army soldiers on March 1 in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, surrendered yesterday to the 94th Infantry Battalion.

Capt. Eduardo Rarugal, 94IB Civil Military Operations officer, disclosed that the NPA combatant, whose identity is being withheld for security reasons,
also surrendered an M16 assault rifle with several magazines of ammunition.

Rarugal said that the hungry NPA fighter, who have been with the rebel movement for several years, decided to surrender after two days of evading government troops, as he could no longer endure the hardship in the mountains.

The NPA fighter was immediately fed and provided medical attention, and other basic necessities, by the same troops, he and his group engaged in firefights merely two days ago, the 94IB spokesman further said.

Four suspected NPA rebels died during the March 1 encounter.

Rarugal said that the surrendered rebel is also expected to avail of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which provides social, economic, and psychological support to former rebels who have decided to return to the folds of the law.

No link between ROTC and Salilig hazing death: solons

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3, 2023): No link between ROTC and Salilig hazing death: solons (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

ROTC BILL. Senators Ronald Dela Rosa, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on ROTC, with Senator Sherwin Gatchalian listen to inputs and sentiments from resource speakers during the last public hearing on the proposed reinstatement of the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps on Feb. 6, 2023. The two lawmakers said the training program should not be linked to the death of John Matthew Salilig who recently died during a fraternity initiation rite. (Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB)

MANILA - Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday came to the defense of the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps program amid calls to scrap the proposal in view of the death of hazing victim Matthew Salilig.

Dela Rosa and Gatchalian are the principal authors of the Mandatory Basic Reserve Officers' Training Corps bills being heard in the Senate.

In a statement given to reporters, Dela Rosa tagged the call for junking the ROTC bills as a "desperate move" from the groups opposing the training program.

"What a desperate move from anti-ROTC leftist group. What is the connection? The victim died because of fraternity hazing and not of ROTC training," Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa emphasized that the ROTC bill provides for the establishment of local grievance boards and a national grievance and monitoring committee that will conduct investigations motu propio on reported or monitored abuses being committed under the ROTC program.

The senator added that making the ROTC program optional will also push for an “optional defense of the country” against security and sovereignty threat.

"Kung gusto natin na ipagpatuloy na gawing optional ang ROTC, at kapag tayo ay nilusob ng ibang bansa gaya ng China, gagawin na rin nating optional ang pagdepensa ng ating bansa, at isasantabi natin ang ating Constitution na nagsasabing tungkulin ng bawat Pilipino ang pagdepensa ng estado (If we want to continue pushing to make ROTC optional, and when in case we are attacked by other countries like China, then we also make it optional to defend our country and set aside the Constitution which mandates every Filipino to defend our State)," Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa said he is hoping he can deliver his sponsorship speech on the proposed ROTC revival bill before the Senate adjourns its regular session on March 25 and possibly ratify the measure before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian said Salilig's death was due to hazing "perpetrated by individuals who have absolutely no respect for the rule of law," pertaining to the involvement of a fraternity in the incident.

Gatchalian stressed the goal of the ROTC remains the “inculcation of discipline and good citizenship among the youth.”

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go also hit the idea of linking the revival of the ROTC program to the recent hazing incident, emphasizing that people should not be confused because (ROTC) has nothing to do with what happened to Salilig.

“It’s different things, the hazing, and ROTC. We want to teach our youth with proper discipline, love of country, the spirit of 'bayanihan' (cooperation) as well as respect for others,” Go said.

Go assured the military training for ROTC members will never require any violence through hazing.

On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Risa Hontiveros have expressed support for the scrapping of the mandatory ROTC bill following Salilig's hazing death.

Senator Nancy Binay also questioned the need to revive the ROTC program, saying that “a culture of violence has no place in our civilized society."

"The reasons why the ROTC program was suspended were because of corruption, abuse, and hazing? We need to put a stop to the decadent culture and violent tradition which have long been embedded in the system," said Binay.

In response, Gachalian said that “it is precisely incidents like these (hazing deaths) that ROTC intends to eliminate by molding our youth to respect our country and one another."

The Anti-Hazing law, he emphasized, is "airtight and equipped" with safeguards that will prevent abuses from happening.

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe called on the authorities for stricter implementation of the Anti-Hazing Law.

"Fraternity-related deaths have not stopped, and sadly, the implementation of the Anti-Hazing Law has been wanting," she said. "We must see to it that our laws can protect our children who engage in activities that supposedly espouse good citizenship and fellowship."

Poe likewise stressed that hazing victims must get justice “to avert breeding a wider culture of impunity against the youth.”

224 new BARMM cops up for deployment

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3, 2023): 224 new BARMM cops up for deployment (By Edwin Fernandez)

READY TO SERVE. Police officers who completed the Basic Internal Security Operations Course under the Saniblahi Class of 2022 and 2023 stand in attention during graduation rites at Camp S.K. Pendatun in Parang, Maguindanao del Norte on Thursday (March 2, 2023). The batch of 224 new cops will be deployed throughout the region. (Courtesy of PRO-BARMM)

CAMP SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao Norte – At least 224 rookie police officers are ready for deployment to various police units across the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), an official said Friday.

Brig. Gen. John Guyguyon, BARMM police regional director, said the latest batch of police officers will be fielded following their completion of the 60-day training on the Basic Internal Security Operations Course (BISOC) on Thursday.

“They will be involved in anti-insurgency, public safety, and special law enforcement operations,” Goyguyon said.

The batch will be deployed to the BARMM province components of Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and the 63 villages in North Cotabato under the region’s Special Geographic Area.

“Their BISOC training was designed to educate them on the serious complexities of internal security operations,” Guyguyon said, adding that the deployment forms part of the security preparation for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections slated on Oct. 30.

3 NPA fighters slain in Sultan Kudarat operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3, 2023): 3 NPA fighters slain in Sultan Kudarat operations (By Edwin Fernandez)

RECOVERED FIREARMS. The firearms of the three New People’s Army (NPA) rebels killed in an encounter with government forces in Sen. Ninoy Aquino town, Sultan Kudarat province on Thursday (March 2, 2023). The slain rebels belong to the NPA Guerilla Front 73 operating in South Central Mindanao, the military says. (Photo courtesy of 603IBde)

ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat – Three communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed in a clash with government forces in the hinterlands of Sen. Ninoy Aquino town in this province, the military here said Friday.

Lt. Colonel Frederick Chicote, the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion commander, said the remains of three NPA fighters, who all remain unidentified, were turned over to Sen. Ninoy Aquino officials for identification by relatives.

Government forces also recovered four M16 rifles, grenades, ammunition, and personal belongings from the slain rebels
following a brief firefight in Barangay Banali on Thursday.

“No casualty was reported on the government side,” Chicote said.

Brig. Gen. Michael Santos, commander of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade in the province, said the rebels belong to the NPA Guerilla Front 73 operating in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Sarangani.

Military clearing operations are still ongoing, he said.

2 ranking NPA leaders yield in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3, 2023): 2 ranking NPA leaders yield in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

NPA LEADERS YIELD. Two ranking New People's Army (NPA) rebel leaders yielded to police authorities on March 1, 2023, in Bislig City and Cagwait town in Surigao del Sur province. Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II, police director in Caraga Region, says the surrender came some three weeks before the celebration of the NPA anniversary on March 29. (Photo courtesy of PRO-13)

BUTUAN CITY – The communist New People’s Army (NPA) has lost two ranking leaders in the Caraga Region after they surrendered in Surigao del Sur province, a police official here reported Friday.

“The surrender came three weeks before the celebration of its founding anniversary,” Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II, the director of the Police Regional Office in the Caraga Region (PRO-13) said in a statement.

The armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA is set to celebrate its founding anniversary on March 29.

Labra identified the two NPA leaders who turned themselves in on Wednesday only as "Den," 50, and "Gian," 28, both of the NPA North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Den, who yielded to the Bislig City police station, led the NPA's mass organizations in Surigao del Sur province and also served as the medicine courier for Guerrilla Front 20.

Gian, meanwhile surrendered to the 1st Surigao del Sur Provincial Mobile Force Company and the Cagwait municipal police. He served as a leader under GF 19-A.

Labra said the two turned over to authorities a .38-caliber revolver, a rifle grenade launcher, and a .45-caliber pistol.

“Den, who joined the NPA in 2013, was promised by comrades to receive a (share) in every transaction in his area of operation,” Labra said.

He said Den was recruited by the NPA in 2013; Gian in 2014.

“The NPA days are numbered as more of their members have left the armed struggle,” Labra said, adding that the surrenderers have availed of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

Cops recover NPA guns, ammunition in remote Sarangani village

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3, 2023): Cops recover NPA guns, ammunition in remote Sarangani village (By Edwin Fernandez)

NPA FIREARMS. A police officer accounts for the dozen hidden firearms by communist rebels and unearthed in Maitum, Sarangani province, on Thursday (March 2, 2023). A tipster bared to the police the whereabouts location of the guns. (Photo courtesy of PRO-12)

COTABATO CITY – The police have unearthed a dozen assorted firearms kept by communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the hinterlands of Maitum town in Sarangani province, a top official said Friday.

Brigadier Gen. Jimili Macaraeg, Police Regional Office in the Soccsksargen Region (PRO-12) director, said NPA firearms were discovered Thursday in Barangay Batian, Maitum, following a tip from a concerned civilian.

“This success is the result of our unwavering efforts to bring peace and security to the communities through the government initiatives, such as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict,” Macaraeg said.

Recovered were 10 .32-caliber and .22-caliber revolvers, a .45-caliber pistol, a 9mm Uzi machine pistol and various ammunition.

A team of police officers from the PRO-12 and the Maitum municipal police office also recovered containers filled with rice supplies kept by members of the NPA Guerrilla Front 73 operating in the province.

PRO-12’s areas of responsibility include the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani; and the cities of Kidapawan, Tacurong, Koronadal and Gen. Santos.