Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Kalinaw News: Joint Law Enforcement operations led to the apprehension of notorious high-ranking CPP-NDF leader, Dindo alia"Boy" Monsanto in Malabon City

From Kalinaw News (May 9, 2023): Joint Law Enforcement operations led to the apprehension of notorious high-ranking CPP-NDF leader, Dindo alia"Boy" Monsanto in Malabon City

On May 9, 2023, at 2:30 in the morning, a collaborative effort between JTF-NCR, CIDG-NCR, and RMFB-NCRPO led to the arrest of Dindo Monsanto, also known as Boy, the Chief of Operations for the Regional Operational Command (ROC), BRPC, and a member of the CPP-NPA-NDF. The apprehension took place at Javier II Street, Brgy Baritan, Malabon City, and yielded the discovery of firearms, including a loaded M16 rifle, a loaded .45 caliber pistol, and a fragmented hand grenade.

Investigations reveal that as Head of ROC, BRPC, Monsanto played a pivotal role in coordinating and executing several major atrocities. These include the killing of Keith Absalon, a talented football MVP player from Far Eastern University, in June 2021, as well as the vehicular ambush on a PNP vehicle that led to the death of one police officer and left seven wounded in Brgy Daguit, Labo, Camarines Norte. He also orchestrated the arson that burned down 11 heavy equipment pieces used in constructing the Bicol International Airport in Daraga Albay Province in September 2017. Monsanto was also involved in the raid on the Labo PNP Station, where five police officers suffered fatalities in Barangay Dumagmang, Labo, Camarines Norte, on March 24, 2021.

Further investigations show that Monsanto is directly responsible for various atrocities and has standing warrants of arrest for five counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of robbery with homicide, and violation of the anti-terrorism law.

[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: Isa sa teroristang NPA na nasawi sa engwentro sa Cagayan nailibing na habang ang sia naiuwi na ng kanyang pamilya

From Kalinaw News (May 9, 2023): Isa sa teroristang NPA na nasawi sa engwentro sa Cagayan nailibing na habang ang sia naiuwi na ng kanyang pamilya (One of the NPA terrorists who died in the encounter in Cagayan has been buried while his family has returned home)

Hindi man naging maayos ang sinapit ng dalawang teroristang NPA na nasawi sa engkwentro sa Sta Teresita, Cagayan, karapatan nilang maasikaso at mabigyan ng disenteng lamay at libing sa huling pagkakataon.

Kahapon, Mayo 8, 2023 si alyas Aldy ay inilibing na sa Centro West Public Cemetery sa Buguey, Cagayan. Gaya ng karaniwang libing, pinabasbasan ang kanyang mga labi sa isang pari bago tuluyang inilagak sa sementeryo.

Si alyas Aldy na tubong Isabela ay kinilala mismo ng kanyang mga dating kasama sa armadong grupo at hanggang sa ngayon ay sinisikap ng mga otoridad na alamin ang tunay na pagkakakilanlan nito.

Samantala, inuwi na rin ng kanyang pamilya sa kalakhang Maynila ang mga labi ni alyas Morga.

Mismong ang ama nito ang tumanggap sa bangkay nito at nagdesisyong ipacremate na lamang bago iwui.

Bagaman bakas ng hinagpis sa mukha ng ama ni alyas Morga dahil sa mga pangyayari na hindi halos sukat akalain na sa ganitong sitwasyon makakasamang muli ang anak, ipaparamdam nila ang pagmamahal sa huling pagkakataon.

Sa tulong ng Lokal na Pamahalaan at pulisya ng Buguey, naging maayos ang proseso ng libing ni alyas Aldy at pagpapasakamay sa mga magulang at kapatid sa bangkay ni Alyas Morga.

Patuloy pa rin ang panawagan ng PTF-ELCAC sa probinsya ng Cagayan sa mga natitira pang kasapi ng Komunistang Teroristang NPA na huwag nang hintayin na may mabuwis na namang buhay para lamang sa maling pinaglalaban.

[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.]


Japan: No joint patrol talks yet in South China Sea with PH, US

From CNN  Philippines (May 9, 2023): Japan: No joint patrol talks yet in South China Sea with PH, US (By Tristan Nodalo, CNN Philippines)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) — The Japanese Embassy on Tuesday said no official discussions have been made with the Philippines and the United States yet regarding possible joint patrols in the South China Sea.

Japan made the clarification when asked by CNN Philippines on its possible participation in the Philippine-US joint patrols which, according to Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez, could possibly start in the third quarter of 2023.

"There is no specific plan or discussion of 'joint patrols,' but Japan and the Philippines have been closely working together to reinforce Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and maritime law enforcement for the stability of the South China Sea," the embassy said in a statement.

Japan said it is willing to take part in trilateral dialogues with the Philippines and the US, especially on defense policies.

"Japan is committed to further enhancement of defense exchanges through trilateral dialogues like the Japan-Philippines-US Trilateral Defense Policy Dialogue, and participation of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in Philippines-US joint exercises," the embassy said.

In the joint statement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and US President Joe Biden last week, both leaders expressed the importance of working with regional partners.

"They look forward to establishing trilateral modes of cooperation among the Philippines, Japan, and the United States, as well as the Philippines, Australia, and the United States," the statement read.

Australia has yet to issue its statement on possible joint patrols or any progress on the trilateral cooperation with Manila and Washington.

PH-US joint patrols to start in third quarter? US embassy says talks still ongoing

The US Embassy neither confirmed nor denied the possible resumption of PH-US joint patrols in the third quarter of this year but emphasized that talks about combined maritime exercises are still ongoing.

"Our conversations on combined maritime activities with the Philippines are continuing, and our planners are working hard on specific issues such as timing, assets, and logistics," US Embassy spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay told CNN Philippines.

"The goal of any combined maritime activities would be to support the Philippines exercising its lawful sovereign maritime rights under international law," he added.

Expert: Joint patrols 'risky,' need to be transparent to avoid miscalculations, provocations

For international relations experts and president of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies (PSISS) Rommel Banlaoi, the joint patrols between the Philippines and the US could be risky if the scope of the activities are not transparent.

"It will be taken negatively by other parties, especially if it will be conducted in the South China Sea or in the West Philippine Sea. So, it will raise the risk of possible misunderstanding and it can also raise another tension in the South China Sea, but it depends on how the Philippines and the United States will be transparent in the conduct of that during patrols," Banlaoi told CNN Philippines.

Banlaoi also urged Manila and Washington to make sure that maritime patrols would not run contrary to the draft of the South China Sea Code of Conduct which limits the conduct of such activities.

"Doing patrols shall also be consistent with the ongoing negotiations on the code of conduct in the South China Sea," Banlaoi added.


US and Philippine Army Generals visit Corregidor Island, Philippines, to Commemorate Key WWII Battles

From DVIDS (May 9, 2023): US and Philippine Army Generals visit Corregidor Island, Philippines, to Commemorate Key WWII Battles

Courtesy Photo | Gen. Charles Flynn, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific, and Philippine Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner, Jr. lead a U.S.-Philippine Army delegation to visit the ruins of Fort Mills on Corregidor Island during Exercise Balikatan 2023. (U.S. Army photos by CPT Benjamin Myers)

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly 81 years after American and Filipino forces surrendered Corregidor Island – the final holdout against invading Imperial Japanese forces – the U.S. Army Pacific Commander General Charles A. Flynn and Philippine Army Chief Lieutenant General Romeo S. Brawner, Jr. visited the island’s ruins and memorial sites to commemorate the heroic actions and shared sacrifices of those who fought to defend the Philippines.

Corregidor Island (officially named Fort Mills) was a heavily fortified U.S. coastal defense outpost given names such as “Gibraltar of the East” or “the impregnable rock.” The fort guarded the entrance to one of the most strategic locations in Southeast Asia, at the mouth of Manila Bay—the largest natural harbor in the Philippines. Construction was completed in 1910, and a sizeable garrison occupied the position until the Japanese Army seized the island in May 1942.

Preceded weeks before by the Bataan Death March, the defeat at Corregidor is considered one of the worst defeats in U.S. military history. It serves as an example of the importance of military readiness alongside allies and partners in the face of a formidable adversary in the regionregional adversary.

“For me, this trip today is more meaningful because we’re doing it with an ally,” said Brawner. “It’s like reliving the past when both our forces – the American Forces and the Philippine Forces – were actually on this island fighting for the independence of the Philippines. Fighting for our territory.”

The Republic of the Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally dating back to 1951, but shared experiences of American and Filipino forces in war date back to the turn of the twentieth century. Both countries have long assisted each other with military operations, including Philippine participation in the Vietnam War and, more recently U.S. support to counterinsurgency operations across the Philippines during the Global War on Terror.

Philippine The Philippine government recently declared an end to counterinsurgency operations and is shifting focus to territorial defense as U.S. allies across the region contend with an increasing threat posed by the People’s Republic of China. Recent The recent addition of four new sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and uptick in security cooperation activities with the United States point toward the Philippines renewed commitment to mutual defense. The visit to Corregidor was a symbolic reminder about of what that commitment means to those responsible for upholding it.

“We needed each other’s help then and we need each other’s help today,” said Flynn. “Walking around this hallowed ground with Lt. Gen. Brawner, I’m thinking about the sacrifices that were made during World War II by our countries, by our people and by our soldiers. Similar sacrifices have to be made today because preparation is the most important.”

Extensive coastal artillery batteries were constructed on Corregidor from 1904-1910 and the Army later added the Malinta Tunnel complex in 1934 at the heart of the island’s interior to defend the Philippines from invasion. Despite the national focus on WWI in Europe, the U.S. government dedicated substantial resources to improving Corregidor’s fortifications throughout the early twentieth century in preparation for the conflict leading up to WWII.

“It’s really very meaningful as you look back to the 1900s,” said Brawner. “The implication of what we learned today is that as early as the early 1900s, they were already preparing for something which later on came during World War II and today, present time, we’re also doing the same thing.”

Gen. Flynn visited the Philippines to observe activities that are part of the Army’s Operation Pathways including Exercise Balikatan, the largest largest-ever U.S.-Philippine Joint exercise with over 12,000 participants and observers from 10 countries. Following Balikatan, U.S. Army Pacific Soldiers will continue to train with the Philippine Army this summer during a second iteration of Exercise Salaknib, an army-to-army exercise occurring on the front and back ends of the joint exercise.

The fall of Corregidor in 1942 is a lesson in military failure. Poor readiness in the Pacific theater cost thousands of lives during the Battle of Corregidor and brutal three three-year Japanese occupation of the Philippines. While many things have changed since WWII, the Philippines’ strategic geography in the southern first island chain has not changed. Building readiness through training together as a Joint and Multinational force in the Philippines remains a critical expression of collective commitment to protecting sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific.

With most of Fort Mills destroyed and coastal artillery fortifications rendered obsolete by advances in air power, the U.S. government returned Corregidor to the Philippine people achieved their independence in 1946. A Pacific War memorial sits among the ruins on Corregidor’s highest point known as, Topside. It serves as a reminder of the shared sacrifice of the U.S.-Philippine Alliance that was forged in blood and continues to represent a commitment to mutual defense.

“There is a picture in the war memorial of U.S. Soldiers and Philippine Soldiers working on the coastal artillery weapons, and it talked about training together,” said Flynn. “I turned to Lt. Gen. Brawner and said today with exercise Balikatan and exercise Salaknib that’s exactly what we’re doing. We find ourselves 81 years later on similar ground and our forces are still training together.”


Amid defense revamp, Australia keen on helping Philippines with maritime security

From the Philippine Star (May 9, 2023): Amid defense revamp, Australia keen on helping Philippines with maritime security (By Kaycee Valmonte)

Australia Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles and Philippine Secretary of Defense Carlito Galvez Jr shake hands after their joint press conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on February 22, 2023.  AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — As ties between the two countries grow amid an evolving regional landscape, Australia hopes to further capacitate the Philippines by providing opportunities for training in maritime security – either through training exercises or through educational opportunities.

Aside from assisting the Philippines in counterterrorism efforts and in addressing the online sexual abuse of children, among the priority areas Australia sees in improving its bilateral relationship with the country is a program to help protect its sovereignty and territorial rights.


Philippines, Australia explore possibility of South China Sea joint maritime patrols

Philippines, US to explore ‘trilateral modes of cooperation’ with Japan, Australia

“We would like to do more in that area and in particular, through maritime security space,” Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu told Philstar.com in an interview.

“It’s not only just about having guns and tanks or whatever to do joint exercises, it’s also about sharing knowledge, it’s about grappling with really complex issues together,” she added.

March and April were particularly busy months for Australia as it unveiled its plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines through its trilateral security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom. This was then followed by the release of its Defense Strategic Review, which detailed – among Canberra’s priorities – the “deepening of diplomatic and defense partnerships with key partners” in the region.

Chester Cabalza, founder and president of International Development and Security Cooperation (IDSC), said Australia is “redefining its important role today in the Indo-Pacific.”
Knowledge-sharing, joint exercises

Canberra has helped train Manila through its “Law of the Sea” course, which is designed to give Philippine diplomats and other officials from various agencies “practical” skills to deal with issues and on how to apply the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in disputes. At least 440 Filipinos have participated so far, along with some Australian participants who deal with international law and policy.

Through several agreements such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Program, Australia is also able to support the Philippines through scholarships for the AFP, PCG and staff from the Department of National Defense to study in Australia – which DND Officer-in-Charge Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. himself did.

Yu said Australia is also trying to engage more with Philippine defense and security establishments, from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to working with the Philippine Coast Guard.

“Canberra has been a benevolent partner to Manila in people-to-people engagements and elevating security partnerships accorded by the SOVFA (Status of Philippine-Australia Visiting Forces Agreement),” Cabalza told Philstar.com.

The recently-concluded Balikatan exercises, which was the largest by far in terms of scope and participation with over 17,000 personnel training together, saw the participation of over 100 Australian soldiers training with American and Filipino troops.

“We would like to continue to do large exercises like these and have more personnel involved,” Yu said.
Goal to become a ‘capable defense partner’

In March, Australia announced that it is acquiring a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine through its trilateral pact with the US and the UK. Yu said Canberra “seeks to become a more capable defense partner in the region” by boosting its defense capabilities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said then that Australia’s plans for submarine acquisition risks nuclear proliferation and may violate international treaties against nuclear weapons, but a White House fact sheet states “Australia does not – and will not – seek to acquire nuclear weapons.”

“China actually operates nuclear-powered submarines with both conventional and nuclear weapons,” Yu told Philstar.com. “Now, Australia does not care about what other countries do in terms of their own defense capabilities.”

“In fact, we know it’s in every country’s national interest to look after their own defense capabilities but when there is lack of transparency about exactly how it’s evolving then that can actually lead to insecurity [in] the region,” she added.

The nuclear fuel that will power the submarines also cannot be used for weapons unless they are processed further, “which would require facilities that Australia does not have and will not seek,” the fact sheet said. The nuclear-powered submarines will replace Australia’s diesel-powered ones, which would allow their submarines to be submerged longer and further underwater.

The Philippines has expressed support for AUKUS, noting that it helps ensure regional security and international rules-based order. Julio Amador III, interim president of the Foundation for the National Interest, said Australia’s move to acquire the nuclear-powered submarines will help with countering China’s aggressiveness over the maritime space in the region.

Amador added that this gives the Philippines “increased security confidence” against China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea. Beijing continues its aggression against Manila over the waters, despite a 2016 ruling at the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated China’s nine-dash line and provided that these are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

RELATED: US backs Philippines on WPS incident; Australia calls for peace, stability

“However, the trilateral pact’s envisioned security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region will still be dependent on its members’ management in the long run, particularly in terms of the adherence to the committed aim of strengthening the region’s security and stability,” Amador told Philstar.com in a separate interview.

‘Australia’s most important partner’

Australia’s Defense Strategic Review detailed plans to improve its deterrence capabilities through AUKUS, a longer-range military power, and by growing its workforce. IDSC’s Cabalza said it “sets a high bar and [is] quite ambitious.”

Among priorities is to also work with regional blocs such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. However, Cabalza pointed out that Australia’s defense diplomacy with ASEAN is “a double-edge standard” that may also shake up the region, leading to a potential security dilemma.

“If not properly handled, Indonesia as the de facto leader of ASEAN will misconstrue Australia’s interventionist action in the region,” Cabalza said.

“Hence, it also has to deal with China’s active meddling in ASEAN. The complexity of ASEAN’s defense and security forum could be a tough diplomatic effort for Canberra to begin with.”

READ: Marcos off to second Indonesia trip for 42nd ASEAN Summit

Australia’s new defense strategy notes that the “intense China-United States competition is the defining feature of our region and our time.” Sydney-based think-tank Lowy Institute’s 2023 Asia Power Index ranked Washington and Beijing as the two top powers in the region, with China trailing behind the US partly because of neighboring countries’ distrust.

The power struggle between “two great powers” is also one that Manila found itself in between. Amador said that the Philippines will be “Australia’s most important partner” in achieving its newly-set security goals.

“A secondary country like Australia cannot make the Philippines beg for its attention anymore, given how the US and China are competing for its alignment,” Amador said.

“Australia must make the case to the Philippines that it deserves to be among the Philippines’ most trusted bilateral relationship.”


Army, PNP arrest CPP regional operations chief in Malabon

From the Manila Bulletin (May 9, 2023): Army, PNP arrest CPP regional operations chief in Malabon (By MARTIN SADONGDONG)

  • The alleged head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) regional unit in Bicol was arrested by the Philippine Army (PA) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in Malabon City on Tuesday, May 9.
  • The Army identified the arrested suspect as Dindo Monsanto alias “Boy,” the alleged chief of operations for the Regional Operational Command (ROC) of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC).
  • Monsanto was nabbed along Javier II Street in Brgy. Baritan, Malabon City around 2:30 a.m. due to alleged illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosive.
The alleged head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) regional command in Bicol was arrested by joint elements of the Philippine Army (PA) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in a pre-dawn operation in Malabon City on Tuesday, May 9.

(Photo: Philippine Army / Kalinaw News)

The PA identified the arrested suspect as Dindo Monsanto alias “Boy,” the alleged chief of operations for the Regional Operational Command (ROC) of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC).

According to the Army, Monsanto was nabbed along Javier II Street in Brgy. Baritan, Malabon City around 2:30 a.m. due to alleged illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosive.

The targeted operation was carried out by operatives from Joint Task Force – National Capital Region (NCR), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) – NCR, and Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

The Army said that a loaded M16 rifle, a loaded .45 caliber pistol, and a fragmented hand grenade were seized from Monsanto.

(Photo: Philippine Army / Kalinaw News)

Monsanto “played a pivotal role in coordinating and executing" several major operations of the CPP-NPA in the country including the killing of Far Eastern University (FEU) football star Keith Absalon in Masbate in 2021, and an ambush on police officers in Camarines Norte in 2017, the Army said.

Absalon died along with his cousin, Nolven, when they hit and accidentally triggered an explosive planted by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels while the victims were cycling along Purok 4, Barangay Anas, Masbate City on June 6, 2021.

Meanwhile, PO2 Richard Abad, of the Camarines Norte Police Mobile Force, died while seven other cops were injured when suspected NPA rebels ambushed a police mobile in Brgy. Daguit, Labo, Camarines Norte on Dec. 2, 2017.

Monsanto also "orchestrated" an arson where 11 heavy equipment pieces used in constructing the Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay were burned down in September 2017, the Army said.

He was also allegedly involved in a raid on the Labo PNP Station in Barangay Dumagmang, Labo, Camarines Norte on March 24, 2021 where five police officers died.

Monsanto was detained at the CIDG-NCR in Quezon City as he faces charges for alleged violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and RA 9516 for alleged illegal possession of explosive.

According to the military, Monsanto also has multiple standing warrants of arrest for five counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of robbery with homicide, and violation of the Anti-Terrorism Law.


Neutralized NPA tip-off location of firearm in Occidental Mindoro

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9, 2023): Neutralized NPA tip-off location of firearm in Occidental Mindoro (By 2nd Infantry Jungle Fighter Division)

CALAPAN CITY, Oriental Mindoro (PIA) -- A New People’s Army (NPA) member provided information on the location of firearm to the government forces in Occidental Mindoro on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

Troops from the 68th Infantry "Kaagapay" Battalion acted on an information revealed by alias "Samjay," a former SPARU member on the location of a high-powered firearm.

Samjay disclosed that the firearm was left to him by a certain alias "Paulo" who was among the reported armed group on-board two motorized pump-boats that docked in the vicinity of Sitio Wawa, Brgy. San Nicolas, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, that further moved along Mompong River towards Brgy Batong-buhay.

Samjay’s revelation enabled the troops to recover one M16 rifle, two short magazines, and one long magazine with 63 live ammunitions at vicinity Sitio New Island, Malisbong, Sablayan.

"We take this progress as a result of the trust and confidence of our kababayans to the government’s peace effort through the collaboration of our LGUs and key stakeholders. We will further intensify our operations across Mindoro to secure our communities and preempt any atrocities that will be perpetrated by the armed rebels," 2nd Infantry "Jungle Fighter" Division Commander Maj. General Roberto S. Capulong said in a statement. (Press Release from 2ID/GATS/PIA MIMAROPA)


Top NPA official falls in Malabon

From the Philippine Star (May 9, 2023): Top NPA official falls in Malabon (By Michael Punongbayan, Emmanuel Tupas)

Police officers and soldiers serve arrest warrants on Dindo Monsanto in Malabon City before dawn yesterday.   Image posted on social media by Kalinaw News.

MANILA, Philippines — A team of police and military operatives arrested a man alleged to be a top official of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Malabon before dawn yesterday.

Dindo Monsanto, said to be the chief of operations of the NPA Bicol Regional Party Committee’s Regional Operational Command, was apprehended along Javier II street in Barangay Baritan at around 2:30 a.m.

The operation was conducted by personnel from the military’s Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division, police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) and the Regional Mobile Force Battalion of the National Capital Region Police Office, according to Army spokesman Col. Xerxes Trinidad.

Monsanto is the subject of five standing arrest warrants for murder, attempted murder, frustrated murder, robbery with homicide and violation of the anti-terrorism law issued by various courts, Trinidad said.

An M16 rifle and a .45-caliber pistol, both loaded, and a fragmentation grenade were confiscated from Monsanto, Trinidad added.

As an alleged official of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing, Monsanto was reportedly involved in the death of Far Eastern University football player Keith Absalon from landmines in Masbate in 2021.

The Army said Monsanto was also involved in an ambush on a police vehicle that left a police officer dead and seven others wounded in Barangay Daguit, Labo, Camarines Norte.

Monsanto also reportedly masterminded the torching of heavy equipment used to construct the Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay in September 2017.

He is also believed to be involved in a raid on the Labo police station in Camarines Norte that left five police officers dead on March 24, 2021.

Monsanto was brought to the CIDG-NCR field unit at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Opinion: A long and winding road to peace in Bangsamoro

Opinion piece posted to Rappler (May 7, 2023): [OPINION] A long and winding road to peace in Bangsamoro (By GEORGI ENGELBRECHT)

'Although the MILF and local governments across the Bangsamoro started off on a non-adversarial footing, many of these relationships have slowly soured'

The guns fell silent on the Monday after Eid in Maguindanao del Sur province. But for hundreds of displaced families, the ceasefire between the two warring camps in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town came late. Forced to evacuate following clashes between armed men linked to rivaling MILF commanders that broke out right after the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitri, local families concluded the fasting month of Ramadan on a somber note. The reasons for the fighting were as mundane as they were complex: a cycle of vengeance pitting families against one another in clan feuds or rido, competition over resources, and the ever-present specter of local politics. The result was disquieting: at least eight fighters were killed, and several houses, burnt.

This was unfortunately not an isolated case. During the past year, similar clashes have regularly affected Bangsamoro communities, particularly in Central Mindanao, casting a shadow over the peace process in Mindanao. Almost 10 years after the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) put an end to decades of bloody conflict in Mindanao, these violent incidents could still threaten the Bangsamoro peace process. The agreement, which covers a variety of issues ranging from the newly created entity’s fiscal autonomy to transitional justice and women’s rights, has been lauded as one of the most comprehensive peace pacts in the world. Ten years on, the process is largely on-track, but there are still significant hurdles on the path to durable peace.

The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), in 2019, was a historic milestone. Since then, the interim government of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) has made progress: it has passed four of the seven legislative codes required as part of the transition period, built hospitals and village centers, and managed to keep the economy afloat despite the pandemic and its aftershocks. Meanwhile, more than half of the MILF guerrillas have been demobilized, while former bastions of Moro insurgents and militants, such as Sulu province, are now largely stable.

Yet, as other peace processes around the world have demonstrated, it takes time for durable peace to take hold. Naturally, the MILF leaders have realized that governing through bureaucratic means is far more challenging than waging guerilla warfare. In the meantime, interlocking issues are piling up and threaten to throw peace off-track, namely contentious politics, local violence, and the uneven implementation of the peace agreement.

Although the MILF and local governments across the Bangsamoro started off on a non-adversarial footing, many of these relationships have slowly soured. This is particularly true in Central Mindanao, where the political elites and ex-rebels are most openly at loggerheads. But even in Lanao and the Sulu Archipelago, interactions between the regional administration and local governments oscillate between cautious cooperation and discord. With the barangay elections approaching later this year, these interests are expected to collide during the campaign, which could lead to political violence.

In various parts of the region, pockets of violence are also on the rise, and stand to threaten the peace process. Although the ceasefire between the MILF and the Philippine military has largely held, irritants between the two sides continue, occasionally resulting in clashes. Last year, a fierce two-day battle led to the death of several soldiers and guerillas. Upwards trends in violence triggered by clan feuds, political competition, and disputes over land also pose a challenge to peace. In the absence of sanction mechanisms and firm foundations for the rule of law, violence remains a risk-free gambit for local elites, criminal elements, and frustrated MILF combatants. This extends to rebel commanders, who are increasingly embroiled in local struggles. Some, feeling neglected by the MILF leadership, look for other ways to thrive and get support, while others are more unambiguous in their quest for power.

Bangsamoro women: No more consultations in English, please

The normalization process, as the broader war-to-peace transition is known, is also running behind schedule. Despite incongruencies on the exact number of MILF guns to be handed over, rebel demobilization is largely on-track, but progress on other normalization elements is less encouraging: the disarmament of private armed groups and militias is behind schedule, the transformation of MILF camps into “peaceful and productive communities” is lagging, and the delay in delivering compensation packages to decommissioned combatants is creating frustrations among the MILF’s rank and file, leading to tensions.

What can be done to ensure greater stability before the 2025 elections that will mark the official end of the transition period? There are no simple solutions at this critical stage of the peace process. But with less than two years before the 2025 poll season kicks off, time is of essence for the region’s interim government and Manila to demonstrate a sense of urgency in fulfilling the promises of the peace agreement.

First, tackling the risk of political violence requires a stronger intra-Moro consensus. It is not too late for the MILF and Bangsamoro’s political clans to work on a modus vivendi that could preserve a minimum level of stability. One of the major achievements of the peace process is the granting of autonomy to the Bangsamoro people to take care of their own affairs. Managing differences in such a fractured entity is difficult, but it is a must for long-term stability. In that regard, it is somewhat puzzling that, four years after the creation of the BARMM, the interim government has still not convened the Council of Leaders provided for by the Bangsamoro Organic Law. This consultative body, which would bring together Moro leaders and representatives from across the region, could be a useful venue for ironing out political differences.

Second, the interim regional government needs to work harder to curb local violence. In pockets of the region, apathy and disillusionment at the interim government’s capacity to tackle the issue appear to be gaining ground – a contrast to the optimism witnessed at the outset of the Bangsamoro transition. To counteract these perceptions and stabilize the region, the interim government should make better use of existing dispute settlement bodies at the municipal level to spearhead local conflict resolution. To minimize occasional tensions between government and MILF forces, both sides could also consider reviving local monitoring and peacekeeping networks, and strengthening the mandate of the hybrid security teams deployed in conflict-prone areas. The regional government should also leverage the interplay between the Bangsamoro ministries and the MILF commanders on the ground: ex-rebels, no matter their rank or clout, should not be allowed to act as representatives of special interest groups or their families. In other words, the MILF leadership should discipline and sanction commanders who continue to resort to violence.

Finally, Manila needs to move faster in implementing the government’s wider commitments to the peace process, particularly when it comes to the normalization track. While the Philippine government’s focus on securing the rebels’ weapons is understandable, it risks eclipsing other steps that are just as crucial for achieving durable peace. In particular, Manila needs to deliver on the promised packages for demobilized guerrillas, and get more serious about disarming the private armed groups that operate in the Bangsamoro. The Marcos administration should also follow through on the peace agreement’s amnesty provisions for ex-rebels, and fast-track the rehabilitation of MILF camps – in a conflict-sensitive manner, in order to not alienate non-Moro groups. Combatants and their communities need to sense that promises made in the peace agreement have not been broken and that the peace process is bringing benefits to their daily lives, including the right to live without fear of violence.

A successful Bangsamoro peace process is within reach. But with the decisive 2025 elections looming, all parties involved need to redouble their efforts, work together in the spirit of trust and cooperation enshrined in the peace agreement, and summon the political will to overcome the current challenges.


Political clans pose big threat to BARMM peace – Crisis Group

Posted to Rappler (May 9, 2023): Political clans pose big threat to BARMM peace – Crisis Group (By HERBIE GOMEZ)

The International Crisis Group says political schisms between the group of Bangsamoro interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and some local political clans continue to fuel violence in the region

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The upcoming 2023 barangay elections will serve as a test for the Bangsamoro region’s stability, according to the International Crisis Group, which expressed concern that violence could escalate even before its first regional elections in two years.

Powerful clans in the Bangsamoro pose a major stumbling block to achieving long-term peace in the Muslim-majority region, and tensions between them and the interim officials of the regional government may result in election-related violence, the group said in a report released on May 1.

The Brussels-based nonprofit organization is an independent entity dedicated to preventing deadly conflicts and shaping policies that foster peace in various countries. Since the 1990s, the group has been sounding the alarm on potential conflicts and offers research-based recommendations on good governance and inclusive politics.

In its report, the group said the political clans have a stronghold on the politics and economy in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and often have private armies involved in violence.

“A big obstacle to enduring peace in the Bangsamoro is clan politics: powerful families dominate the region politically and economically. They hold most of the region’s seats in the national congress and control many of its provinces and municipalities,” read part of the report.
Transition risk

Many of these clans are political dynasties that have ruled in the Mindanao provinces for generations. The Crisis Group’s report cited the power of these clans, particularly the unsuccessful efforts to dismantle the private armed groups that are often associated with them.

The report said tensions between political families and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the group that now calls the shots in the regional government – have been blamed for previous incidents of violence.

“Almost ten years after the parties signed the peace deal, several issues are putting the transition it envisaged at risk. For one, violence is flaring up in the region. Some of these skirmishes, especially in central Mindanao, can be traced to conflicts over land and politics between and among MILF members and militias controlled by powerful clans,” the Crisis Group said in its report.

Bangsamoro Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said the BARMM peace process was being “sabotaged” from within by some of the predominantly Muslim region’s traditional politicians to make it look like the regional government was being led by a divided MILF.

Sinarimbo said, “We have achieved new relations between the central government and the Bangsamoro. The struggle now is changing the status quo within Moro politics. The traditional politicians, the greedy ones, are threatened.”

He said some of the region’s old political groups have resorted to manipulation to “instigate violence [and] to portray to the national government and the international community that no significant gain in terms of peace and security has been achieved” after the MILF assumed leadership of the interim regional government.

“Some kumanders (MILF commanders) are too enterprising. Some are promised key positions if they succeed…. It is also a way of projecting that the MILF leadership is no longer in control of its forces,” Sinarimbo said.

A case in point was the emergence of the so-called MILF-Salamat wing in 2022, shortly before MILF leader Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim was reappointed as BARMM’s interim minister.

The “Salamat wing,” led by Abdulfatah Delna, an MILF commander who served in the security group of the late MILF founding chairman Salamat Hashim, has accused Ebrahim’s group of deviating from the ideals of their founder.

The group’s political affairs chief, former MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu, told Rappler in August that they wanted a full accounting of BARMM funds and lifestyle checks on those running the regional government.

But Sinarimbo said the “Salamat wing” was the handiwork of some of BARMM’s traditional politicians.

“Sabotage is, perhaps, more accurate. These politicians want a power grab,” Sinarimbo told Rappler.

He said the BARMM was still hoping that things would change for the better “but we are old enough to see they’re scheming.”

Political schisms

The May 1 report noted that clans continued to control the region’s various provincial governments, such as in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and the Maguindanao provinces.

The Crisis Group also said political schisms between the Ebrahim-led MILF and some of the political clans continue to fuel violence in the region.

Despite relative peace in the BARMM during the first three years of the transitional period, tensions and conflicts have hindered the process, particularly in the two Maguindanao territories, and the neighboring special geographic area (SGA) in Cotabato province.

The SGA in Cotabato province was where the majority voted to be under the BARMM instead of administratively remaining under the Soccsksargen region.

The Crisis Group said the 2022 local and presidential elections showed the powerful families consolidating their influence in local governance in territories under the BARMM, leading to tensions with former MILF rebels.


Private armies often employed by political families are involved in violence in the region, which can be traced to tussles between them and former rebels, and the Crisis Group said the government needs to take action to dismantle these militias.

Friction between former rebels and various clans became more pronounced in the lead-up to the May 2022 elections in the Bangsamoro region.

The MILF, through its political arm, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), had fielded candidates to challenge traditional politicians in the provinces of Maguindanao and Basilan, and the regional capital, Cotabato City.

These were the first elections in which former rebels or MILF-backed politicians ran as candidates, with mixed outcomes, and with the UBJP winning only a few positions in most areas but securing the mayoral seat in Cotabato City.

The interim government in the Bangsamoro has been criticized for uneven development and the continued control of the economy by local elites and clans, who often undermine the interim government’s efforts, the Crisis Group said.

As a result, the security situation in the region remains uncertain, discouraging potential investors, according to the report.

The Crisis Group recommended identifying armed groups, particularly those involved in political rivalries, evaluating their firepower and connections to traditional politicians and rebel factions, and dismantling the strongest ones between 2023 and 2024.

The report said there was a need for the MILF and political clans, especially those with power in Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, and Sulu, to engage in dialogue and reach compromises on local government codes, law and order, electoral districting, and other pressing concerns.

It recommended that Ebrahim form and mobilize a special body that would facilitate dialogues among officials at the regional, provincial, and town levels to resolve conflicts during this sensitive period in the peace process before tensions escalate.

But resolving the conflicts through mere dialogues, however, is going to be a tall order in the BARMM given the way local politicians view politics and how they ensure their continued stay in power, and pursue their ambitions to climb up the ladder and expand their family dynasties.

From a former Mindanao secessionist and revolutionary group, the MILF is now seen as a political group – and partisan at that – by some of the region’s well-entrenched political dynasties. They consider Ebrahim’s group as a threat to the existing power structure and status quo. (To be continued)


Army elite unit chosen to joint UN peace keeping duty

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (May 9, 2023): Army elite unit chosen to join UN peace keeping duty

ZAMBOANGA. The Philippines sends the battle-tested 4th Special Forces Company (4SFC) to serve as component of the peace keeping contingent of the United Nations. A photo handout shows the 4SFC troops in formation during the send-off ceremony at the headquarters of the 1101st Infantry Brigade at Bud Bayug in Samak village, Talipao, Sulu on Monday, May 8, 2023. (SunStar Zamboanga)

THE Philippines is sending a battle-tested special forces troopers to serve as component of the peace keeping contingent of the United Nations.

Selected to become part of the Philippine Army United National Infantry Battalion (PA-UNLIB) (+) in the United Nations Peace Support Operations is the 4th Special Forces Company (4SFC) of the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion.

Prior to the selection as part of PA-UNLIB, the company have been instrumental in battling the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and spearheaded developmental efforts in six island towns in Sulu, namely, Parang, Siasi, Pandami, Tapul, Lugus, and Pata.

The 4SFC is currently headed by Captain Joemar Bongcac, who effectively led the company in maintaining the peace and order and capacitating the Municipal Task Force to End Local Armed conflict (MTF ELAC) of the five island municipalities under its operational area.

The MTF-ELAC is Sulu’s version of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Brigadier General Eugenio Boquio, 1101st Infantry Brigade commander, emphasized the needed character and discipline that they must develop and maintain for them to accomplish their future missions as part of the PA UNLIB (+).

“Always look after your health. Specially that you will be deployed to an environment completely different from ours,” Boquio told the troops during the send-off ceremony on Monday, May 8, 2023.

“It will be your foundation moving forward,” he added.

The send-off ceremony was held at the headquarters of the 1101st Infantry Brigade at Bud Bayug in Samak village, Talipao, Sulu.

The 4SFC troops will go through various trainings, seminars and workshops to increase their readiness prior to being deployed as part of the PA-UNLIB (+).


BRP Antonio Luna joins ASEAN-India drills at-sea-phase in SCS

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): BRP Antonio Luna joins ASEAN-India drills at-sea-phase in SCS (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of the Indian Navy)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy's missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) participated in the at-sea-phase of the inaugural ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise (AIME) at the South China Sea (SCS) from May 7 to 8.

"The participation of BRP Antonio Luna in AIME 2023 underscores the PN's commitment to building bridges of friendship, as well as promoting regional cooperation for peace and security in the ASEAN region," Ensign Menoel R. Orpilla, the PN public affairs office chief aboard the ship, said in a statement Tuesday.

He added that the at-sea-phase "comprises numerous events involving ships, conducted with ASEAN member-states' navies and Indian Navy counterparts."

Orpilla said BRP Antonio Luna left Changi Naval Base in Singapore May 5 for the exercise.

This year's AIME will run from May 2 to 8. The BRP Antonio Luna arrived in Singapore last May 1.

"While entering Changi Naval Base, the Naval Task Group 80.5 and the ship’s crew manned the rail to honor Singapore, the host of this year’s maiden exercise," Navy spokesperson Capt. Benjo Negranza earlier said.

Navy Capt. Sherwin Respeto, the Defense and Armed Forces Attaché, welcomed the 140-strong PN contingent to AIME 2023, he added.

Aside from AIME, the Philippine contingent will also attend the International Maritime Defense Exhibition Asia 2023, which provides an avenue to foster engagements and showcase the latest innovations in naval technology.

"As the PN enjoys the influx of modern assets, its participation in this international exercise will sharpen the skills of its personnel. Likewise, it reiterates the PN's steadfast commitment to promoting regional peace and stability with its counterparts from the ASEAN and Indian navies," Negranza added.


Promotion of 8 PNP senior officials gets PBBM nod

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): Promotion of 8 PNP senior officials gets PBBM nod (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

(PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – Eight senior officials were formally inducted as major generals and brigadier generals at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Tuesday.

PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. led the donning of ranks for Major Generals Harold Tuzon, Victor Wanchakan, and Rudolph Dimas and Brigadier Generals Lex Ephraim Gurat, Victor Arevalo, Alfredo Dangani, Roderick Mariano, and Redrico Maranan.

Maranan is currently the PNP chief information officer.

“I wish to inform you that, per the endorsement of the chairperson of the Civil Service Commission and as recommended by the National Police Commission (Napolcom)… the promotion of Police Colonel Redrico Atienza Maranan to the next higher rank of Police Brigadier General is hereby approved,” President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. stated in a letter dated April 28 to Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr.

Tuzon and Wanchakan are from the Area Police Command Eastern Mindanao and Western Mindanao, respectively, while Dimas is from the Special Action Force (SAF).

Mariano is the No. 2 man of the Police Regional Office 13 (Caraga).

Arevalo, on the other hand, is the head of the Center for Police Strategy Management, which is in charge of directing the PNP to good performance management down to the lowest units.

Gurat is the chief directorial staff of the National Capital Region Police Office.

The approval of the officials' promotion was delayed due to the evaluation and assessment of all senior officers as part of the internal cleansing to eliminate ranking officials with drug links.


PH, Malaysia navies see increased interoperability

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): PH, Malaysia navies see increased interoperability (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. (left) and Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Datuk Abdul Rahman Bin Ayob (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

MANILA – The modernizing Philippine Navy (PN) will be seeing more interoperability and coordination with its Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) counterparts in the future.

This came after RMN chief Admiral Datuk Abdul Rahman Bin Ayob paid a visit to PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. at the Navy headquarters Manila on Monday.

"Along with their respective staff, the two Navy leaders had productive discussions about the long-standing ties between the two ASEAN countries, as well as future engagements to strengthen cooperation and interoperability between the two Navies," PN spokesperson Capt. Benjo Negranza said in a statement Tuesday.

He added that Rahman was grateful for another opportunity to visit the Philippines and expressed his appreciation of interactions and exercises that mutually benefit both naval forces while helping solidify their relationship.

"Vice Admiral Adaci also conveyed his appreciation to the RMN and emphasized to pursue further engagements and opportunities that contribute to the enhancement of respective capabilities," Negranza said.

Buy local

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero called on the Philippine Navy to prioritize the acquisition of locally made ships to be used as floating hospitals and rescue boats during calamities.

In a news release, he said he supports the Navy modernization plan and is all for a stronger Navy.

“I am (a) great fan of our sailors. But the reality is we cannot realize our submarine dreams if what we have is a salbabida (floater) budget," Escudero said. "Perhaps when our finances improve, then we can give the Navy the ships it deserves. With economic buoyancy comes the ability to buy more Navy ships.”

For now, Escudero said the government should increase its inventory of boats that can be used for disaster response and relief.

The Department of National Defense (DND) reiterated last year that the procurement of submarines is not a priority.

"Although submarines are on our wish list, the Department is prioritizing the implementation of contracts signed during the previous administration, cognizant of the limitations in the resources available to the government,” the DND said in a statement, adding that it was recalibrating proposed projects under the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program.


Ranking NPA leader in Bicol falls in Malabon

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): Ranking NPA leader in Bicol falls in Malabon (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – A ranking member of the communist New People's Army (NPA) in the Bicol Region was arrested in a joint military and police operation early Tuesday morning.

"It is confirmed that we have received the report that Army troops of 9th Infantry Division orchestrated a joint law enforcement operation with JTF-NCR (Joint Task Force-National Capital Region) CIDG-NCR (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region) and RMFB-NCRPO (Regional Mobile Force Battalion-National Capital Region Police Office) that led to the arrest of a certain Dindo Monsanto also known as 'Boy' at Barangay Baritan, Malabon City on May 9, 2023 at around 02:30 a.m.," Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

Monsanto is the leader of the NPA Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC)'s Regional Operational Command.

He is wanted for five counts of murder and other charges such as attempted murder, frustrated murder, robbery with homicide and violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

"The arrested CTG leader played an important role in major atrocities in the Bicol Region including the killing of Keith Absalon, a promising collegiate footballer and MVP (Most Valuable Player) of Far Eastern University, and his cousin Nolven Absalon during an explosion of anti-personnel mine (APM) planted by the NPAs (New People's Army in June 2021)," Trinidad said.

He added that the Army leadership lauds the collaborative efforts of 9th Infantry Division troops, JTF-NCR and other law enforcement agencies resulting in Monsanto's arrest.

Trinidad said Monsanto's apprehension will allow him "to face justice for his heinous crimes."

Initial reports said the military and police teams arrested Monsanto at Javier II Street, Barangay Baritan, Malabon City. Recovered from the suspect were a loaded M-16 automatic rifle and .45-caliber pistol and one fragmentation grenade.

Aside from these atrocities, the suspect also orchestrated the arson that burned down 11 heavy equipment pieces used in constructing the Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay province in September 2017.

Monsanto is also implicated in the ambush of a Philippine National Police (PNP) vehicle that left one police officer dead and seven others wounded in Barangay Daguit, Labo, Camarines Norte in December 2017.

He was also involved in the raid on the Labo PNP Station where five police officers were killed on March 22, 2021.


Marcos to push for speedy issuance of 'new' COC in SCS

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): Marcos to push for speedy issuance of 'new' COC in SCS (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

(Screengrab from PTV)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. bared Tuesday that he would urge his fellow Southeast Asian leaders to find a way to ensure the immediate issuance of a "new" Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea (SCS).

On the eve of his participation in the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Indonesia, Marcos hoped that the regional bloc would be able to address the issues hindering the conclusion of negotiations for the COC in the SCS.

"What is the problem? What is the bottleneck? Where are we having a hard time? How can we fix that problem? That's what these meetings should be for. And I think we'll get to that point because everybody wants this to work. Everybody wants to have a Code of Conduct. So, what's getting in the way? Let's talk about it," Marcos said in a media interview.

"I'll bring it up again because when we talked about the issues on the West Philippine Sea [or] South China Sea, hindi magkakalma iyan hanggang meron na tayong Code of Conduct. Kasi may code of conduct, lahat susunod (tensions will not ease until we have the Code of Conduct. If we have the Code of Conduct, everybody will follow)," he added.

Marcos said the long-standing disputes in the SCS would not be resolved, unless there is a COC that would "make things clearer" between the ASEAN and China.

This, as he noted that China's separate bilateral negotiations with ASEAN member-states only make things "complicated."

"Over the years, lahat nakikipagusap sa (everybody is talking to) China... I really believe that we will slowly, slowly get to the point where we can proffer and say this is what we want to look like," Marcos said.

"That (COC in the SCS) makes things clearer. Walang possibility na magkamali kasi maliwanag na maliwanag dapat ang usapan (There should be no possibility of committing mistake because discussion should be clear)," he added.

China, the Philippines and several other littoral states have overlapping claims in the SCS.

Beijing is claiming about 80 percent of the contested waters.

However, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, 2016, ruled against China’s supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire SCS.

Marcos acknowledged that the negotiations for the COC in the SCS is "separate from the ASEAN Summit."

"That's not something that will be done here," he said, adding that he has no plan of setting a deadline on the negotiations between the Philippines and China.

Marcos said imposing a deadline is not ideal since there is already a "progress" in the ongoing talks between Manila and Beijing.

"The deadline is when it's done. Because if you set a deadline and it's not done, what then? It doesn't help anything. So, just keep going, keep going, keep going as hard as you can, as much as you can until you get an agreement on the fishing ground," he said.

Taiwan Strait crisis

Meantime, Marcos said the growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait would be "one of the most important subjects" that he would bring up with his fellow ASEAN leaders.

The situation in the Taiwan Strait, Marcos said, is an issue that is "unavoidable."

"Siyempre (Of course), it is a grave concern to all the member-states of ASEAN," he said. "The discussions on that that we have a year ago, in that time, marami nang nagbago (many have changed), many changes have occurred. And that's why we have to really calibrate whatever it is that we are planning to do."

China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, firmly opposes any form of official contact between the United States (US) and Taiwan.

The Philippines, like the US, adheres to the one-China principle and recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the government of China.


PNP probes Northern Samar clash that killed 2 alleged rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): PNP probes Northern Samar clash that killed 2 alleged rebels (By Sarwell Meniano)

INVESTIGATION TO FOLLOW. Police special action force commandos unload the remains of one of two slain men believed to be members of the New People's Army in Palapag, Northern Samar in this May 6, 2023 photo. The Philippine National Police will investigate the recent clash between government forces and armed rebels in Palapag that killed two alleged New People’s Army members. (Photo courtesy of Danny Tonog Balading)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine National Police (PNP) will investigate the recent clash between government forces and armed rebels in Palapag, Northern Samar that killed two alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Lt. Col. Alberto Renomeron, chief of the Northern Samar police’s investigation and detection management unit, said in a press briefing Tuesday that the public could expect a fair investigation of the May 5 incident.

“Even without (a) private complainant, we have a motu proprio investigation. We will assign investigators to gather statements from complainants. It will be an impartial investigation,” Renomeron said. “Relatives are free to file formal complaints and it’s up (to) the court to decide.”

Reacting to claims of relatives that the two slain men were not rebels, police and military said the two casualties have been positively identified as NPA rebels.

“On May 5 (at) around 5:05 p.m., our troops had a clash with six NPA members. The rebels fired the first shot and our commandos returned fire, ensuing a gun battle,” said Maj. Mark Henry Garcia, acting commander of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) 12th special action battalion.

Killed during the firefight on the outskirts of Capacujan village in Palapag were Joel Balading Recare and Oscar Alastoy.

Since last week, their friends and relatives have been expressing outrage on social media, demanding justice for the deaths of the two who they said were in the forest on May 5 to cut trees as loggers.

The alleged armed rebels clashed with 16 policemen joining a test mission. The operation was part of training for policemen to qualify as PNP-SAF commandos.

Col. Efren Morados, commander of the Philippine Army’s 803rd Infantry Brigade, said SAF commandos were in the area to augment the military force tasked to suppress the insurgency.

“Prior to the May 5 encounter, there have been sightings of armed men in Capacujan, there were meetings of NPA in the area, and we have drone shots confirming the presence of armed men,” Morados said. “I just don’t know why they carried firearms and did not inform the Philippine Army that they’re heading to the mountain to cut trees.”

Palapag town Mayor Florence Batula has sympathised with the families of the slain men and called for an impartial investigation.

Palapag, a third-class municipality with a population of more than 34,000, is one of the oldest settlements on Samar Island.


PH-Indonesia border control bolstered in joint patrol exercises

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): PH-Indonesia border control bolstered in joint patrol exercises (By Che Palicte)

REPATRIATED. Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, welcomes on Monday (May 8, 2023) the six Filipino fisherfolk who were sent home from Indonesia. Three of the repatriates are from Sultan Kudarat province and the others from General Santos City. (Photo courtesy of Eastmincom)

DAVAO CITY – Philippines and Indonesia further strengthened their cooperation in protecting their borders with the conduct of the Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) at Manado City, North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

In a statement Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-Eastmincom) commander, said the CORPAT held May 3 to 7 was a bilateral naval patrol carried out along the border areas of the two countries.

The exercises aim to secure the territorial waters of both countries from the enemies' utilization of the border, piracy, smuggling activities, illegal fishing, and other threats that may transpire at sea.

Almerol said the operation is held four times a year covering the harbor and sea phases.

The harbor phase activities began with courtesy calls on Philippine Consulate General Angelica Escalona and Rear Admiral Maman Firmansyah, commander of the Second Fleet Command of the Indonesian Navy and Indonesia Border Committee chair on May 3.

The courtesy calls were followed by joint patrols of the BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37) and aircraft NV-393 of the Philippine Navy and Kri Escolar-871 of the Indonesian Navy along the borders for the sea phase.

"The entire AFP commits to strengthen our partnership in all joint endeavors and exert our best efforts to safeguard the maritime borders and best interest of our respective countries," Almerol said.

Through the joint efforts, they also facilitated the repatriation of six Filipino fisherfolk from Indonesia, carried by BRP Ricarte on May 5.

Three of the repatriates are from Sultan Kudarat province while the other three are from General Santos City.

Eastmincom data revealed that a total of 58 Filipinos -- 49 repatriated and nine rescued from Indonesian waters – have been sent home since June last year.


Riding-in-tandem gunmen kill Zambo Sur village exec

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): Riding-in-tandem gunmen kill Zambo Sur village exec (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Zamboanga del Sur provincial police office ordered Tuesday an thourough probe over the killing of a village chief by suspected hired gun in Tambulig town.

Col. Diomarie Albarico, provincial police director, issued the order after Edgardo Surigao, 57, was killed by riding-in-tandem gunmen in Barangay Gabunon, Tambulig, on Monday morning.

Surigao, the chief of the same village, was driving a motorcycle on the way to the town proper of Tambulig when repeatedly shot by two men on another motorcycle that tailed him.

Initial investigation showed that the gunmen stopped and returned to finish off Surigao, who crashed on the pavement after he was hit twice.

Albarico said the suspects -- clad in black jackets, black crash helmets and blue jeans -- sped towards Bonifacio town, Misamis Occidental.

Villagers rushed the victim to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival by the attending physician.

Recovered at the crime scene were four empty shells from a .45-caliber pistol.


Newly trained cops to boost anti-insurgency drive in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2023): Newly trained cops to boost anti-insurgency drive in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

INTERNAL SECURITY OPS. At least 160 personnel of the Police Regional Office in the Caraga Region completed the 60-day Basic Internal Security Operations Course (BISOC) on May 8, 2023, during the graduation rites held at the Regional Training Facility in Santiago, Agusan del Norte. The training focused on the effectiveness of police personnel in handling internal security operations. (Photo courtesy of PRO-13)

BUTUAN CITY – At least 160 police officers have completed their two-month Basic Internal Security Operations Course (BISOC) to boost the anti-insurgency and anti-terror campaigns in the Caraga Region, an official said Tuesday.

In a statement, PRO-13 director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II said the newly trained cops graduated at their Regional Special Training Facility in Santiago town, Agusan del Norte, on Monday.

The BISOC is a 60-day specialized training course that hones the personal effectiveness and capability of police personnel in handling internal security operations.

“Our anti-insurgency drive during the first quarter of 2023 netted 256 communist rebels,” he said.

He said at least 63 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were arrested while 193 others surrendered to the various PRO-13 field units from January to March this year.

Among the police personnel who excelled during the training were Patrolwoman Cherry Grace Gonzaga, who received both the excellence award for topping the class and the pistol marksmanship in the female category. Patrolman Richard Chavit, meanwhile, received the award of pistol marksmanship in the male category.

Two other police officers, Pat. Ralph Lauren Rocero and Pat. Richelle Dayagan, were also recognized for achieving the highest ratings in physical fitness in the male and female categories.