Wednesday, April 5, 2023

PH Army troops attain professional growth in 'Salaknib' drills

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5, 2023): PH Army troops attain professional growth in 'Salaknib' drills (By Priam Nepomuceno)

'SALAKNIB' 2023 ENDS. Philippine Army and US Army Pacific soldiers salute during the closing ceremony of 2023 "Salaknib" exercises at the 7th Infantry Division Parade Grounds in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday (April 4, 2023). "Salaknib", which means shield in Ilocano, is an annual Army-to-Army exercise geared at strengthening the interoperability of Filipino and American soldiers in various military operations. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – Philippine Army (PA) troops in this year's "Salaknib" exercises have grown professionally after receiving advanced weapons training.

"This year’s iteration of Salaknib featured the live firing of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and the AT4-84 mm anti-tank weapon which provided an opportunity for PA soldiers to receive professional development and training on the use of these advanced weapons systems," Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement Wednesday.

The first phase of "Salaknib" exercises concluded on Tuesday at the 7th Infantry Division parade grounds in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Trinidad said further development will be gained when PA and United States Army Pacific troops meet again for the second phase in the second quarter of this year.

5th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Audrey L. Pasia and Col. Michael A. Van Welie, the USARPAC's 25th Infantry Division deputy commander for interoperability, served as the closing ceremony's guests of honor and speakers.

The two senior leaders commended the 3,000 soldiers from the PA’s 5th Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team, and other enabler units; and USARPAC's 25th Infantry Division who trained side-by-side in a spectrum of military operations.

"To our US friends and counterparts, congratulations and thank you for sharing your time and skills with us during the almost three weeks of our combined training here at Fort Magsaysay. To the members of the PA who participated in Salaknib, congratulations also as we have also shared with our counterparts our skills in our own kind of operational environment," Pasia said.

"Salaknib", which means shield in Ilocano, is an annual Army-to-Army exercise geared at strengthening the interoperability of Filipino and American soldiers in various military operations.

The combined exercise also reinforces the PA's pivot from internal security operations to territorial defense operations.

"With the performance you’ve shown, I am confident that with the combat skills and knowledge we have acquired through this military exercise, we will be able to face the challenges that we may encounter in the future," 7th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Andrew D. Costelo said.

DND committed to promoting Filipino veterans' welfare

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5, 2023): DND committed to promoting Filipino veterans' welfare (By Priam Nepomuceno)

DND chief Carlito Galvez Jr. (left) (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to promoting the welfare and well-being of all Filipino veterans.

This, as the country marks the start of the commemoration of the Philippine Veterans Week (PVW) which runs until April 12.

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) led the celebration with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

In a statement, DND chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said he is profoundly grateful to the veteran leaders and support institutions, partner organizations, as well as the youth sector for their participation in honoring the memory of the Filipino patriots.

“Napakahalaga ng sama-sama nating pagbabalik-tanaw sa mga naiambag ng ating mga beterano sa ating natatanging kasaysayan, kasalukuyan at kinabukasan (It is very important that we together reminisced all the contributions made by our veterans which help shape the country's present and future)," he said.

Galvez said one of the DND's legislative priorities is the bill seeking to create the Philippine Veterans Authority by integrating the functions of agencies mandated to serve veterans such as PVAO, the Philippine Veterans Assistance Commission, and the Board of Trustees of the Veterans of World War II.

He added the DND is pushing for the enactment of House Bill 2490 or "An Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans," which aims to uplift the lives of disabled veterans, who incurred military service-connected disability, sickness and injury.

Under the measure, disability pension rates would be increased to PHP4,500 for the lowest disability rating and up to PHP10,000 for the highest disability rating.

This would translate to a 488 percent increase from the current disability pensions rates ranging from PHP1,000 to PHP1,700 under Republic Act 6948 which was enacted in 1990.

Guided by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vision of a stronger and better Philippines through economic recovery, national unity and nation-building, Galvez assured the stakeholders that the government will always side with the welfare and livelihood of the men and women in uniform.

“Be assured that the One Defense Team always puts importance on the well-being of our veterans, soldiers, and civilian human resource,” the DND chief said.

This year's PVW will run from April 5 to 12 and carries the theme, "Kagitingan ng mga beterano, pundasyon ng nagkakaisang Pilipino," the commemoration calls for unity and solidarity, as Filipinos are reminded of the value of working together and sharing in the burdens of the people.

Meanwhile, Taguig City Mayor Maria Laarni Cayetano welcomed the participants to the city for the celebration of the Araw ng Kagitingan.

She said that while Filipinos are remembering the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure the country's freedom, it is also everyone's duty to live by the lessons and legacies left behind for future generations.

Cadet Girl Scout Olivia Sabado from Tarlac Girl Scout Council, meanwhile, commemorated the gallant work of women veterans who were not limited by their gender and answered the call to serve the country.

She also praised the WWII veterans for their courage and encouraged the public to keep their legacies alive.

On the other hand, Eagle Scout JP Laurenz Caong, a representative from the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, expressed his profound gratitude to the veterans for their contributions to the country's freedom.

Also present in the ceremony were Kevin McAllister, acting director of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and PVAO administrator Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, along with Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and Maj. Gen. Romeo Alamillo (retired), Veterans Federation of the Philippines executive vice president.

OICs of 2 new Maguindanao provinces named

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5, 2023): OICs of 2 new Maguindanao provinces named (By Azer Parrocha)

OICs. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. swears in Abdulraof Macacua as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the newly created Maguindanao del Norte in a ceremony at MalacaƱan Palace on Wednesday (April 5, 2023). Marcos also appointed Bai Mariam Mangudadatu as OIC of Maguindanao del Sur. (Photo courtesy of Presidential Communications Office)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has designated Abdulraof Macacua and Bai Mariam Mangudadatu as officers-in-charge (OICs) of the newly created provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, respectively.

In a press release, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said only Macacua was sworn in as Maguindanao del Norte OIC in a ceremony at MalacaƱan Palace on Wednesday.

Before his appointment, Macacua served as Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Senior Minister.

He is also the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“As OIC, Macacua is tasked by the President to maintain peace and stability in the region, a prerequisite for the development of the area and its people,” according to the PCO release.

The PCO also noted the government's confidence that the province has “an able and competent leader while still under the chief executive’s administration and guidance.”

Apart from Macacua and Mangudadatu’s appointments, the President also named Bai Fatima Ainee Limbona Sinsuat as OIC of the Office of the Vice-Governor of Maguindanao del Norte, and Datu Nathaniel Sangacala Midtimbang as OIC of the Office of the Vice Governor of Manguindanao del Sur.

They have yet to take their oaths.

In February, an organization of local chief executives in Maguindanao del Norte called on Marcos to appoint an OIC in the newly created province to put an end to the ongoing crisis confusing provincial employees and residents.

Northern Kabuntalan Mayor Umbra Dilangalen, president of the United Bangsamoro Development Council (UBDC), said installing an OIC or an acting governor would end the confusion among local leaders and residents who wondered who to take orders from and whom to report to a few months after conducting the plebiscite.

In May 2021, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. (RA) 11550, dividing the province of Maguindanao into two distinct and independent provinces known as Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.

Maguindanao del Norte is composed of the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay.

Maguindanao del Sur is composed of the municipalitites of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdulla Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Sharif Aguak, Sharif Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi.

The capital towns and seats of government of the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur shall be the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Buluan, respectively.

Both provinces will have corporate and general powers that include having a common seal and having the power to create its sources of revenue and to levy taxes and fee, among others.

Maguindanao has a population of 1,173,933, according to the 2015 census.

New EDCA sites to make way for military infra modernization

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6, 2023): New EDCA sites to make way for military infra modernization (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations will provide the military with the needed infrastructure in modernizing its forces.

"EDCA will give us the needed infrastructure to develop our force in line with our acquisition of modern equipment," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a statement Wednesday night.

The Philippines earlier named Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan as additional EDCA locations.

The proposal to add additional EDCA locations was announced by the Philippines and US defense departments last February.

These new locations add to the five EDCA locations earlier picked by Manila and Washington D.C. -- Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

"The new EDCA sites are strategic in the AFP's thrust to strengthen its capacity to protect the people and the state, advance our national interests, and enhance the country's disaster response capability," Aguilar said.

He added that they will closely coordinate with our US counterpart to realize these objectives.

"We also appreciate the US' commitment to prioritize the needs of our local communities and hope to do our share of bringing our alliance closer than ever to the benefit of the Filipino people," Aguilar said.

Military gets R&R flight

Meanwhile, APhilippine Air Force (PAF) C-295 medium transport aircraft on Wednesday ferried 39 military personnel availing of their rest and recreation (R&R) period this Holy Week.

These soldiers were deployed in Jolo and transported to Manila for their R&R, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the same aircraft also transported 13 troops from Isabela to Jolo for deployment. "The C-295 flight for R&R is part of the AFP's initiatives to continue boosting the morale and welfare of military personnel after their long months of deployment to areas away from their homes," Baclor said.

He added R&R privileges will help military personnel, especially those who worked under hazardous operations, to recuperate and be reunited with their families.

"With these privileges, the AFP continues to ensure the safety of its personnel as they continue to perform their mandated task of protecting the Filipino people and securing the state," Baclor said.

DND chief urges youth to uphold freedom, justice, equality

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6, 2023): DND chief urges youth to uphold freedom, justice, equality (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) chief Carlito Galvez Jr. urged the present generation of Filipino to continue upholding the values of freedom, justice and equality.

Galvez made the call ahead of the country's observance of the 81st Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on April 9.

"On this special occasion, let us take a moment to honor and remember the bravery and sacrifices of our Filipino heroes, who fought for our country's freedom," he added in a statement Thursday.

Galvez also said the "courage and selflessness" of these heroes in the face of adversity and oppression serve as a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of the Filipino spirit.

Incidentally, the country is also observing Philippine Veterans Week (PVW) which falls from April 5 to 12 this year.

The PVW's theme for this year is "Kagitingan ng mga Beterano, Pundasyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino."

"As we commemorate this important day and week, let us also renew our commitment to uphold the values of freedom, justice, and equality that our heroes fought so hard to defend. Let us always be proud of our nation's history, and continue to strive towards a brighter and more prosperous future for all Filipinos," Galvez said.

For this year's Philippine Veterans Week, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office has lined up various commemorative and special activities to memorialize the valor and heroic deeds of our Filipino veterans.

"As your Defense Chief, I enjoin everyone to participate in these events and to take inspiration from the courage and sacrifice of our veterans," he added.

April 9 of every year, by virtue of Executive Order 203 signed in 1987, is declared as "Araw ng Kagitingan" to honor the thousands of Filipino and American forces who fought for the country’s liberty and democracy.

On April 9, 1942, or after 93 days of resistance, an estimated 60,000 Filipino and American troops were taken prisoners of war by the Japanese.

This year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. declared April 10, Monday, a regular holiday in observance of "Araw ng Kagitingan.”

3 DI gunmen killed, 7 others nabbed in Lanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2023): 3 DI gunmen killed, 7 others nabbed in Lanao Sur (By Edwin Fernandez)

(Graphics courtesy of PRO-BARMM)

CAMP SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao Norte – Lanao del Sur police killed three alleged members of the Dawlah Islamiya and arrested seven others during a predawn law enforcement operation in Bubong town Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Allan Cruz Nobleza, newly installed director for the Police Regional Office - Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR), said the police were about to serve a search warrant against members of an organized crime group in Barangay Matampay Dimarao when fired at by armed men around 3 a.m.

“As the troops were approaching the gang's safe house they were fired upon, triggering a brief gun battle,” Nobleza said.

Three wounded gang members were taken to the hospital but pronounced dead on arrival by doctors.

The bodies of the three unidentified slain gunmen were claimed by their relatives for immediate burial by Islamic rites, Nobleza said.

A member of the police’s Special Action Force, Cpl. Celso Ninla Tingcang, was injured in the encounter and is already in stable condition.

Nobleza identified the arrested suspects as Sultan Macalawan Macarambon Maulana, Nasrudin Acob, Salik Maulana, Anwar Aragon, Acmali Sarip, Aslani Ripag, and Saynolla Tigunogon.

Police seized from the group four rifles, two handguns, a rifle grenade, ammunition, and 25 sachets of suspected shabu estimated to cost PHP58,000.

Col. Robert Daculan, Lanao del Sur police director, said the suspects were engaged in gunrunning and illegal drug trading in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.

Meanwhile, a commander of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and nine of his followers surrendered to the police in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on Sunday afternoon.

Col. Christopher Bermudez, Sultan Kudarat provincial director, identified the leader as Datu Not, who turned in high-powered firearms, including improvised explosive devices.

“They all belonged to the BIFF Kagi Karialan faction operating in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao del Sur,” Bermudez said Monday.

“They told us of their hardship while in the field fighting government forces and that they are tired of evading police and soldiers,” Bermudez added, quoting the surrenderers.

The group is set to receive livelihood assistance in exchange for the guns they turned over to the government.

Brig. Gen. Jimili L. Macaraeg, Police Regional Office-Soccsksargen director, appealed to the other BIFF fighters still out there in the marshland of Maguindanao to surrender and accept the government’s peace offer.

Since January this year, more than 30 BIFF extremists have surrendered to the police in the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and the cities of Kidapawan, Tacurong, Koronadal, and General Santos City comprise the Soccsksargen region.

NPA rebel killed in Misamis Occidental clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2023): NPA rebel killed in Misamis Occidental clash (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

Google map of Concepcion municipality, Misamis Occidental.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was killed while a high-powered firearm and ammunition were recovered following an encounter in Misamis Occidental, the Army's 1st Infantry Division (ID) said Monday.

The 1ID said the troops of the Army's 10th Infantry Battalion (10IB) were conducting military operations when they clashed against seven NPA rebels on Saturday in Barangay Maligubaan, Concepcion town.

No casualty was recorded during the 10-minute firefight, the 10IB said, adding that the fleeing rebels left behind the remains of their slain comrade.

Aside from the NPA casualty, government troops also recovered an M-16 Armalite rifle and ammunition.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Nafarrete, 1ID commander, vowed to continue the Army's "unwavering commitment and efforts in continuously fighting for peace and development in the province."

On Friday, the 10IB troop recovered an AK-47 assault rifle and a backpack after a 20-minute firefight against 15 NPA rebels in Barangay Dasa, Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental.

The NPA was believed to have suffered casualties.

IP chieftain urges children of slain NPA leader to yield

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2023): IP chieftain urges children of slain NPA leader to yield (By Alexander Lopez)

SLAIN NPA LEADER. Tribal leader Datu Rico Maca visits the wake of New People’s Army leader Manuel Anob in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur on Sunday (April 2, 2023). Maca asked the family to convince Anob's two children, who are still active in the communist movement, to turn themselves in. (Courtesy of Datu Rico Maca)

BUTUAN CITY — The Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, is calling on the children of slain New People’s Army (NPA) ranking leader Manuel Anob to surrender and return to their families peacefully.

In a phone interview on Monday, Datu Rico Maca said Anob has two children who are still active in the NPA movement.

Maca visited the wake of Anob on Saturday in Barangay Caromata, San Miguel.

Anob was the secretary of the NPA's Sub-Regional Committee Westland and one of the leaders of the weakened Guerrilla Front 21 operating in the Caraga Region.

He was killed in an encounter with government forces on March 30 in Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.

NPA's Caraga units also lost ranking leaders – a regional finance officer and a medical staff – in an encounter on March 27 in Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City.

“There’s no more reason for these children to stay in a decaying movement. They need not suffer the fate of their father. It’s better for them to accept the offer of the government now and live peacefully with the families,” Maca said in the local dialect.

He talked to the family members during the wake and asked them to help the government convince Anob's children to turn themselves in.

Maca alleged that Anob was responsible for the killing and abduction of IP leaders and members in the past five years.

“Justice is already served to the IPs who were victimized by the useless revolution being waged by the communist NPA terrorist,” Maca said.

Meanwhile, the Army's 901st Infantry Brigade (901Bde) reported Monday the surrender of two NPA rebels to the Army in Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte on April 2.

The 901Bde identified the surrenderers as Roselyn Sampayan of the Sentro de Grabedad 16 and Juliet Sampaga of the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda, both under the Guerrilla Front 16.

“The surrender of the two rebels was triggered by the loss of mass base support due to the relentless military operations and the surrender of the members of the mass organization members in the area,” the 901Bde said in a statement.

It added that the rebels also want to go home to their families whom they missed for years after joining the communist movement.

Teachers, students affected by NPA attacks get psychosocial aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2023): Teachers, students affected by NPA attacks get psychosocial aid (By Connie Calipay)

TRAUMATIZED. Undated photo shows a woman soldier facilitates a session with children affected by recent NPA attacks in Masbate. Psychosocial first aid has already been provided for them to cope with the trauma they experienced. (Photo courtesy of 9ID)

LEGAZPI CITY – Psychosocial first aid has already been provided to teachers, students, and residents affected by recent encounters between government soldiers and the New People's Army (NPA) in several towns of Masbate province.

This developed as the 9th Infantry Division formed Joint Task Force Sagip that renders psychosocial intervention to students, teachers and residents traumatized by the harassment of NPA rebels that usually ended in encounters with government troopers, said Maj. Frank Roldan, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the 9th ID.

The affected individuals from Barangay Locso-an in the town of Placer; Barangay Gaid in Dimasalang town, and Barangay Villahermosa in the municipality of Cawayan, all in Masbate, underwent stress debriefing and consultation with doctors and psychologists. They were also provided with medicines, Roldan said.

"Due to the fear and trauma left by the attacks, encounters with the students, teachers, and local residents, the Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) formed the Joint Task Force Sagip last March 27, which led the conduct of psychological activities together with other government agencies that provide assistance Barangay Locso-an in Placer, Barangay Gaid in Dimasalang and Barangay Villahermosa, Cawayan, all in Masbate province," Roldan said.

Aside from psychological aid, TF Sagip distributed slippers to the students and relief goods to 500 affected residents.

The Department of National Defense and the Department of Education have earlier criticized the NPA for launching a series of attacks near schools in Masbate, traumatizing children and teachers.

On March 20, an encounter between government troops and communist rebels took place in Barangay Villahermosa in Cawayan, killing one soldier.

Two days after, another clash occurred in Barangay Locson-on in Placer town resulting in the wounding of two soldiers and a minor. The incident also led the nearby school to suspend classes.

Village exec hurt, driver killed in Basilan ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2023): Village exec hurt, driver killed in Basilan ambush (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

AMBUSH. A village chief and his two companions are wounded while his driver was killed in an ambush in Lamitan City, Basilan province, on Monday afternoon (April 3, 2023). The victims were on their way home when ambushed by still-unidentified gunmen. (Courtesy of Ronda del Basilan)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A village official and two others were wounded while the official’s driver was killed in an ambush in a remote area in Basilan province, a top police official said Monday.

Lt. Col. Arlan Delumpines, Lamitan City police chief, said the incident occurred around 3:50 p.m. in Barangay Maloong San Jose.

Delumpines identified the slain driver as Omar Akirin, who died on the spot.

Wounded were Robert Jalal, village chief of Simbangon, and his companions, Akil Nasala and Sali Muslimin.

Delumpines said investigation showed that the victims were on their way home when a group of unidentified gunmen fired at them from an elevated area.

“It is also possible that the incident was related to a dispute involving the family of the village chief,” he added.

‘Halfway’ house for Negros ex-rebels ready for occupancy

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4, 2023): ‘Halfway’ house for Negros ex-rebels ready for occupancy (By Mary Judaline)

HALFWAY HOUSE. The Negros Oriental Halfway House, situated in Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay City, is now ready for occupancy following its turnover on Monday (April 3, 2023). Leading the ceremony are (L-R) Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, VisCom chief; DILG Region 7 director Leocadio Trovela; Vice Gov. Manuel "Chako" Sagarbarria; and Defense Undersecretary Angelito De Leon, Task Force Balik Loob chairman. (Photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A new halfway house for former rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Negros Oriental is ready for occupancy.

Former rebels may stay at the PHP5 million, one-story halfway house, which was officially turned over to the provincial government on Monday, while they are awaiting the benefits from the government.

The halfway house is funded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and located at the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade at Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay City.

It was not immediately known how many former rebels will occupy the house, which is divided into several units.

Undersecretary Angelito De Leon, recently appointed chairman of “Task Force Balik-Loob” of the Department of National Defense (DND), said in his message during the turnover program that the project will ramp up the government’s efforts to end the communist insurgency.

De Leon said the whole-of-nation approach under Executive Order No. 70 in addressing the insurgency has played a vital role in stamping out the decades-old rebellion.

“The inter-agency approach by which the government has addressed the insurgency is now bearing fruits,” he said, noting the collaboration of the provincial government, government agencies, and other partners and stakeholders.

He was hopeful that the project will be replicated in other areas that are still battling communist insurgency as it would encourage more NPA rebels to surrender and return to mainstream society.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command, thanked the provincial government and its partners for the first-of-its- kind halfway house in Regions 6 and 7.

He said this project reflects the government’s sincerity in assisting former rebels who wish start new lives with their families.

DILG Region 7 Director Leocadio Trovela, meanwhile, said the house would provide temporary shelter to former rebels while they are undergoing the enrollment process of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

"This will just serve as a holding area until the they are ready and equipped to find a new home and start their lives anew," he said.

The management and operations of the halfway house will be the responsibility of the provincial government, through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office which will identify would-be occupants with the help of the Philippine Army.

13 ex-rebels in Surigao Norte get training allowances

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4, 2023): 13 ex-rebels in Surigao Norte get training allowances (By Alexander Lopez)

SUPPORT TO FORMER REBELS. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Surigao del Norte facilitates the release of PHP1,600 allowances each to 13 former rebels in Surigao City on April 3, 2023. The Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion said the 13 former rebels are currently undergoing carpentry skills training which is part of the preparations for their reintegration into their families and communities. (Photo courtesy of 30IB)

BUTUAN CITY – Thirteen former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, undergoing carpentry training, each received their PHP1,600 allowance in a distribution activity held in Surigao City on Monday.

The allowances are intended to procure the needed carpentry tools to help the former rebels complete the training facilitated by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Surigao del Norte (TESDA-SDN), the Army's 30th Infantry Battalion (30IB) said in a statement Tuesday.

“The skills and knowledge they will gain from the carpentry training will help them secure decent jobs and sources of income, as they start to rebuild their lives,” it added.

The surrenderers, who are being enrolled in the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, turned themselves in late last year and some in early 2023.

They decided to abandon the communist movement to change their lives and be with their families and communities, the 30IB said.

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4, 2023): 2 NPA rebels surrender in Sorsogon (By Connie Calipay)

LEGAZPI CITY – Two New People's Army (NPA) rebels operating in Sorsogon province have voluntarily surrendered to authorities, a Police Regional Office (PRO) 5 (Bicol) official said Tuesday.

In a phone interview, PRO-5 spokesperson Lt. Col. Malu Calubaquib said the rebels, a certain "Ka Bro" and "Ka Dan," surrendered to joint personnel of the PRO-5 and the Philippine Army in Sitio Lucot in Barangay Fabrica, Barcelona town on Monday.

The two also turned in high-powered firearms and war materiel.

"They are both from Larangan 1, Komite ng Probinsya 3. They also handed over two 5.56 mm. rifles, an M16A1 Elisco rifle, two 5.56 mm. rifles, an AR-15 colt with defaced serial numbers, and assorted war materials," Calubaquib said.

She quoted the surrenderers as saying that they longed to yield to authorities and begin a new chapter of their lives as allies of the community in creating a better and peaceful future for the young generation.

"The two will receive package assistance under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. This is to guide and help them as they begin a new chapter of their lives, as well as to continuously ensure their safety from the risk and danger against the NPA," Calubaquib added.

Viscom chief assures security of witnesses in Degamo killing

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5, 2023): Viscom chief assures security of witnesses in Degamo killing (By John Rey Saavedra)

WITNESSES' SAFETY. Soldiers from an Army battalion in Negros Oriental listen attentively as they were given instructions in this undated photo. Visayas Command chief Lt. General Benedict Arevalo assured the safety of witnesses who would cooperate with government investigation on the series of killings in Negros Oriental. (File photo courtesy of Viscom PIO)

CEBU CITY – The Visayas Command (Viscom) on Wednesday assured the security and safety of witnesses who would cooperate with the government in the investigation of the series of killings in Negros Oriental, particularly in the Pamplona massacre that killed Governor Roel Degamo and eight others.

“We are very much willing to assist the witnesses, both on the violent attack that killed Gov. Degamo as well as on the previous killing incidents in Negros Oriental, to assure them of their safety and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Viscom chief, Lt. General Benedict Arevalo in a statement.

His statement came after the legal counsel of Degamo’s family, Levito Baligod, revealed on Monday that families of the victims and eyewitnesses have come out to express their willingness to cooperate with the authorities should they be assured of their safety.

Viscom also took note of Baligod's earlier statement that before the March 4 attack at Degamo's residential compound in Pamplona town that also wounded several others, there were at least 64 reports of other killings in the province.

Arevalo said that coordination with concerned individuals and appropriate agencies will be made so as not to compromise the security of the witnesses.

“We value the trust and confidence of the people in Negros Oriental in your Armed Forces. Rest assured that our security efforts in the province will never waver. We will never stop until justice is served, and peace and order restored,” he said.

Lt. Colonel Israel Galorio, Viscom’s spokesperson, assured the individual witnesses and their communities that the six Army battalions will continue to conduct foot patrol and checkpoints “to neutralize personalities who are serving as spotters of previous killings.”

“When it comes to witnesses, pag-uusapan naman po yung (we will discuss) coordination with the individual parties, the Degamo family, and Atty. Baligod. We are in constant coordination with other law enforcement agencies in assessing the level of threat of the witnesses,” Galorio told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

NPA supply officer, 2 others yield to Butuan cops, Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5, 2023): NPA supply officer, 2 others yield to Butuan cops, Army (By Alexander Lopez)

TIRED REBELS. Three New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in the hinterlands of Butuan City and parts of Agusan del Norte yield to Butuan City Police Office and the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion on April 4, 2023. Hunger, fatigue, and the longing to return home are the factors that pushed the NPA guerrillas to surrender, officials said. (Photo courtesy of BCPO)

BUTUAN CITY – An alleged New People’s Army (NPA) supply officer and two other rebels have surrendered to personnel of the Butuan City Police Office (BCPO) and troops of the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion on Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement Wednesday, BCPO Director, Col. Marco Archinue, identified the supply officer only as Chao, who was accompanied by two other rebels, named Cheng and JM.

The three belonged to the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA.

“These NPA insurgents voluntarily surrendered due to hunger, fear for their lives, and the longing for their families,” Archinue said, adding that the surrenderers also "realized the false promises" of the rebel movement.

The BCPO is preparing all the needed documents for their possible enrollment in the Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program, he said.

"I commend our operatives, as well as our partner agencies who took the extra mile in the initiation of the surrender of these NPA rebels,” Archinue said.

He also urged the remaining members of the NPA's WGF-4A to surrender to end their difficult lives and consider the offer of the reconciliation and reintegration program of the government.

75 ex-NPA rebels in Davao Oro get P3.9-M ECLIP cash aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5, 2023): 75 ex-NPA rebels in Davao Oro get P3.9-M ECLIP cash aid (By Che Palicte)

CASH AID. A former member of the New People's Army (NPA) shows his PHP65,000 cheque after receiving the assistance at the Davao de Oro Provincial Capitol on Tuesday (April 4, 2023). He was among the 75 former rebels who received a total of PHP3.9 million from the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. (Photo courtesy of 1001IB)

DAVAO CITY – A total of 75 former rebels in Davao de Oro received PHP3.9 million in cash assistance under the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).

In a statement Wednesday, the Army's 1001st Infantry Brigade (1001IB) said the aid was distributed at the Davao de Oro Provincial Capitol on April 4.

Of the 75 former rebels, 57 were regular members of the New People's Army (NPA) while 18 were members of the rebel group's Milisya ng Bayan who surrendered in 2021.

Each rebel received PHP65,000 while each rebel militia got PHP15,000.

The 1001IB said this would help them start a new life as they re-integrate into mainstream society, as well as their respective communities.

Governor Dorothy Gonzaga thanked the former rebels for their decision to surrender.

"Do not hesitate to knock on the doors of the government to ask for help," Gonzaga said.

Axel, the former political instructor of the dismantled NPA Guerrilla Front 2 operating in Davao de Oro, thanked the provincial government and the military for facilitating their benefits.

“To my former comrades, let us ensure that what we received today will be used properly. It's just a small amount, but it is a great help for us to start a new life," she said in the vernacular.