Friday, June 2, 2023

Ex-rebel yields in Oriental Mindoro town

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1, 2023): Ex-rebel yields in Oriental Mindoro town (By: Madonna T. Virola) FILE PHOTO

CITY OF CALAPAN — A former New People’s Army (NPA) rebel surrendered on Wednesday to police in Bulalacao town in Oriental Mindoro province, a report from the Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan (Mimaropa) police office said on Thursday, June 1.

“Ka Jomar/Marlo,” 30, surrendered at 7:57 p.m., with a hand grenade, to the Bulalacao police station in Barangay San Roque. The Provincial Intelligence Unit of Oriental Mindoro, 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company, and Regional Intelligence Unit 4B assisted him.

The surrenderer said he was a member of Komiteng Larangang Gerilya Mark Anthony Velasco (KLG MAV) of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front.

He will be eligible for the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive and Local Integration Program, which offers cash, free medical treatment, education, housing, and legal aid to rebel surrenderers to help them and their families start new lives.

Leader’s arrest, death of 4 fighters big blow to NPA in Region 8

Posted to Maharilika TV (May 30, 2023): Leader’s arrest, death of 4 fighters big blow to NPA in Region 8

TACLOBAN CITY – The New People’s Army (NPA) in Eastern Visayas (Region 8) has suffered a big blow with the recent arrest of one of its leaders and the deaths of four fighters, the Philippine Army said on Tuesday.

Major Gen. Camilo Ligayo, commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said the arrest of Rosita Solayao Taboy alias Laling, secretary of the NPA Regional Organization Department and member of the rebel’s executive committee in Eastern Visayas, is a victory to the government’s efforts to end the insurgency.

Taboy and her husband, alias Beto, were arrested by police and soldiers in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan last May 26. Beto was a demolition expert of the NPA’s national operations command.

The couple was also said to be responsible for numerous atrocities committed in the Eastern Visayas region, including the burning of the Smart Communication tower in Catbalogan City in 2000, the assassination of Cafgu Active Auxillary Danilo Nuguit in 2006, and the ambush of military personnel that resulted in the death of 10 soldiers and a 9-year-old civilian in 2010.

In a statement on Tuesday, Ligayo said the NPA’s downfall is now more evident as its top leaders are either captured, surrendered or killed.

“The arrest of the couple is another victory for the combined efforts of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines in pursuit of peace and security. This is a great development in attaining justice in honor of the victims of violence perpetrated by the communist terrorist group in Eastern Visayas,” Ligayo said.

Troops seized in their possession one .45-caliber pistol, one .38-caliber pistol, one commercial C4 bomb, blasting caps, assorted mobile phones, laptop, and subversive documents.

Meanwhile, on the deaths of four NPA combatants in a clash in Catarman, Northern Samar last May 28, the Philippine Army also said the incident is a huge setback to the NPA’s plan to reinforce a dismantled guerilla front.

The report said two male and two female combatants died during the 15-minute clash that took place in upland Mabini village in Catarman town.

After the clash, soldiers recovered two M16 rifles, two .45 caliber pistols, magazines, and the rebels’ personal belongings.

Lt. Colonel Manuel Degay, Jr., commander of the Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion, said in a statement Tuesday that the seven rebels who figured in the clash with government troops was led by Mario Sevillano alias Durok, a notorious rebel leader who perpetrated numerous atrocities in Northern Samar province.

“Furthermore, from the traces of blood observed in the encounter site, and the items left behind, it cannot be denied that there were NPA members who were wounded during the encounter,” Degay said.

The military has been monitoring the movement of two remaining guerilla fronts in Eastern Visayas, all operating in Northern Samar.

They are reportedly hiding in the upland villages of Catubig, Las Navas, Silvino Lobos, Palapag, Mapanas and Gamay towns.

Several upland communities in the province are considered the hotbed of the communist terrorist group due to thick forests and poor road networks.

‘Giving financial aid to NPA criminal offense’

Posted to Panay News (May 31, 2023): ‘Giving financial aid to NPA criminal offense’

“Any form of monetary or material support to the CPP-NPA, a terrorist organization, is tantamount to ‘terrorist financing’ that is punishable under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” says Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr., Philippine National Police chief.

MANILA — Cases will be filed against aspirants of 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) who will be found to have fallen into extortion demands of communist rebels to secure their victory, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Monday.

PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. alludes to aspirants who deal with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) which conducts extortion activities during election period through “permit to campaign, harassment, and gun-for-hire operations.”

“Let me caution candidates who will fall for this election racket of the CPP-NPA that any form of monetary or material support to the CPP-NPA, a terrorist organization, is tantamount to ‘terrorist financing’ that is punishable under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” Acorda said in a press briefing,

“If the donor or giver is an incumbent Barangay or SK official, the crime is further aggravated by willful disloyalty to their Oath of Office,” he added.

According to the PNP chief, the police force said it does not foresee any threat for the 2023 BSKE as it closely monitors the actions of some remaining active guerilla fronts.

Moreover, PNP earlier said it has been monitoring 48 private armed groups (PAGs) in various parts of the country as the barangay and SK elections this October draw closer.

On May 22, PNP Public Information Office (PIO) chief Col. Redrico Maranan said three active PAGs or previously involved in criminal offenses and 42 potential PAGs, which are in central Luzon, Bicol, Western Visayas, Caraga, Cordillera Administrative Region, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are under surveillance.

The police force also backed Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. for BSKE aspirants to undergo drug testing to strengthen the country’s campaign against illegal narcotics.

“Although mandatory drug testing is specifically not among the requirements for filing the certificate of candidacy, the PNP welcomes any voluntary benevolent gesture by candidates to present to their constituents a clean bill of health,” Acorda said.

“This is a magnanimous manifestation of the individual candidate’s support of the national anti-illegal drugs campaign and should be recognized by constituents as a personal display of leadership by example, especially among SK candidates who represent the youth sector,” he added. (Faith Argosino © Philippine Daily Inquirer)

44 ex-rebels yield firearms

From the Philippine Star (Jun 1, 2023): 44 ex-rebels yield firearms (By Jose Rodel Clapano)

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 44 former communist rebels have pledged their allegiance to the government and renounced their support for the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front.

In a ceremony held at the National Capital Region Police Office headquarters at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig on Tuesday, NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Edgar Alan Okubo and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chairman San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora welcomed the former rebels to the fold of the law.

They surrendered 11 firearms to the NCRPO.

The rebel returnees include 27 former members of communist front organizations and 17 active members of communist-linked groups.

“As chairman of the RPOC-National Capital Region, I congratulate the government agencies, led by the Philippine National Police, for having successfully converted the allegiance of our fellow Filipinos to the Republic,” Zamora said.

“To the returnees, I welcome you back to the fold and assure you that our government will do everything to help you assimilate into a life of peace and prosperity as citizens of the Philippines,” he added.

Former rebels, supporters receive financial aid from government

From Palawan News (Jun1, 2023): Former rebels, supporters receive financial aid from government (By Gerald Ticke)

Another batch of former members and sympathizers of the rebel group New People’s Army received financial aid from the government in a ceremony held Wednesday at the VJR Hall of the provincial capitol.

The latest batch of returnees included 18 individuals who received P65,000, and seven others who received P15,000 from the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the national government’s Department, along with three others who received P25,000 from the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) of the provincial government of Palawan.

DILG Assistant Regional Director Rey Maranan, meanwhile, expressed gratitude to the former rebels for returning to the government fold, emphasizing that the program is a significant help for them to start anew.

“Today, you received a small amount to assist you in beginning a peaceful and normal life, and we are delighted about this,” Maranan said.

He further assured them that these government programs will continue to exist, and the various government agencies will ensure that the objectives of these programs are achieved, thus providing everyone with a better future.

On the other hand, Colonel Antonio Mangoroban, 3rd Marine Brigade commander, expressed his hope that the former rebels will successfully reintegrate into the community.

“I hope that this aid will serve as a seed for you and your families towards a better future as you return to the government fold,” he said.

Since the launch of these programs, a total of 189 former rebels have received financial assistance from E-CLIP, while 217 have received aid from LSIP.

Opinion: After half a century, Reds soon to be dead

Opinion piece posted to the Manila Times (May 31, 2023): After half a century, Reds soon to be dead (By Rigoberto D. Tiglao)

THE British magazine The Economist's lead paragraph in its May 3 article on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was as hilarious as it was so revealing of the situation of the insurgency.

"Last month the guerrilla leaders of the New People's Army (NPA) ordered its units all over the Philippines to give a 21-gun salute to two fallen heroes. Yet this martial display was diminished by an instruction to give the salute silently, either because the army is out of bullets or for fear a fusillade would alert the police.

The few hundred fighters who duly lined up (and presumably whispered "bang") are all that remains of a once-formidable Maoist insurgency. The NPA was launched 54 years ago to overthrow an American-backed president, Ferdinand Marcos. It is now on the brink of yielding to his son and successor, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos."

If I were a "Far Side" cartoonist, a cartoon of that "salute" would have shown the NPA rebels being ordered to fart, instead of firing their guns.

The article was practically an obituary for the CPP and its private army, ridiculously called the New People's Army. Its main headline was "The Philippines' once-proud Maoist insurgents are out of ammo." It had two subheads: "The revolution is over" and a more scathing one: "The New People's Army is a relic of all sorts of political stupidity."

The Economist article was actually brief, as if the magazine didn't want to use more space for something that was a "relic." It is a succinct summary of the rise and fall of this scourge on the nation:


"At its strongest, the NPA, the armed wing of the shadowy Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), had an estimated 25,000 fighters. It threatened American troops stationed in the Philippines during the Cold War. It was cited by Marcos to justify his long and increasingly tyrannical rule. Yet after he was toppled by a popular uprising in 1986, in which the guerrillas played no part, the restoration of democracy and faster economic growth made armed revolution less appealing to young Filipinos. As the NPA's ranks dwindled, its leaders became increasingly lost in arcane ideological debate (leading to important revisions, such as the purgative "Second Great Rectification Movement" of the 1990s). Their fighters meanwhile turned to extorting "revolutionary taxes" from local firms.


Despite the group's manifest unseriousness, America paid it another compliment in 2002. In search of adversaries for its global war on terror, it branded as terrorists the Communist Party, their extortionist guerrillas, and groups of Filipino jihadists and Islamist separatists. The NPA gravely threatened reprisals against American targets. But this last gasp of notoriety did not arrest the Maoists' decline.

Following a rout of the jihadists and a negotiated end to the Islamist separatist movement, the NPA is now considered the Philippines' last internal security threat. But Bongbong Marcos need not worry overly. The group is estimated to have about 2,000 fighters and no surviving national leader. The CPP's aged founder, Joma Sison, died in exile last December. The party's other foremost leaders, Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria, were the subject of last month's silent salute. The government says they were killed at sea when their boat blew up during a chase with the armed forces. The guerrillas claim the government murdered them and blew up their corpses. Either way, the revolution didn't work out."

Once romanticized by foreign media, there is now a rush to write the Reds' obituary. A May 26 article in the news website Asian Sentinel — which appears to be getting traction as a reliable news source and analysis for the region — was titled "Communists Crumbling in the Philippines." It was written by Michael Hart, who has researched for the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Action on Armed Violence. Hart provides more detailed information on the Reds' last gasps.

Excerpts from Hart's article:

"According to the Philippine military, the NPA's days are numbered. Just before Sison's passing, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reported that only 24 of 89 guerrilla fronts remained active nationwide, with the group's strength having reduced from 4,000 rebels in recent years to 2,112. It is estimated that just 1,800 firearms remain in its arsenal. And now, with no figurehead having emerged to replace Sison, the administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has the NPA in its sights, four decades after his father's failed quest to end the insurgency under martial law.


The military has been keen to draw attention to the NPA's struggles. The Armed Forces chief in the Visayas, covering the Philippines' central belt of provinces, Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, has said the NPA is 'drastically degraded' in the region. In the Eastern Visayas, the NPA is leaderless after losing four key commanders over the past year, and the AFP claims 'no one is giving [the rebels] instructions.' According to the AFP, only two NPA fronts remain in the region, with around 200 fighters each. Most are thought to be hiding out in the mountains of Samar and largely refrain from attacking soldiers for fear it will expose their positions. Earlier this month, Arevalo said the remaining rebels in the Eastern Visayas were 'tired due to constant movement [between camps] and have no safe place to hide.'

In the Western Visayas, the AFP claims NPA rebels are increasingly demoralized and have 'no clear operational direction' after their commander Rogelio Posadas — responsible for operations in Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor and Negros Island — was killed in an encounter with government soldiers. Troops have taken control of many remote villages previously under NPA influence, stymying rebel recruitment.

In the NPA stronghold of Eastern Mindanao, the trajectory is similar. Its most senior commander in the region, Menandro Villanueva, was killed by troops in Davao de Oro last year. The AFP says there are now just four active rebel fronts left in the region, down from 32 in 2017, when the AFP stepped up its campaign after peace talks with the CPP faltered under former president Rodrigo Duterte. The NPA's losses have led his successor Marcos to declare that 'half-a-century's fight with insurgents is coming to an end.' The National Security Council (NSC) declared 'strategic victory' over the NPA in April, and said it foresees the AFP securing 'total victory' against the rebels within two years.

The government credits the degrading of the NPA not only to AFP offensives, but also to the creation of a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) in 2018. This body has engaged NPA commanders at the local level, and encouraged insurgents to lay down their arms in return for livelihood support under the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip). It has also directed development funds to rebel-influenced villages to blunt its rural support base.


The NTF-Elcac was established by Duterte after he ended national-level negotiations with the CPP leadership. Marcos has rejected resuming talks and persisted with Duterte's strategy. Arguably, after Sison's death and the demise of the Tiamzons, there is now nobody left to negotiate with. Manila hopes the symbolic blow of Sison's death, and the resulting hit to morale, will lead more NPA rebels to surrender. There is controversy over exactly how many have surrendered to date — with the task force accused of listing NPA supporters and the family members of ex-rebels as former combatants.

The CPP has acknowledged suffering setbacks but denies the extent of losses from its ranks. It also rejects claims by the AFP that few rebel fronts remain active. Is the NPA really on the brink of defeat after Sison's death, as the AFP claims? Looking at rebel activity in 2023 indicates that it is struggling.

From January 1 to May 23, the NPA has been active in 29 provinces, with at least 70 armed clashes and violent incidents involving the group. This indicates a rebel presence across wide swaths of the NPA's historical areas of operation, from northern Luzon to Mindanao. The NPA is, however, firmly on the retreat, with proactive roadside ambushes and bombings an increasingly rare occurrence. This is borne out by the casualty figures from clashes so far this year, with 68 NPA rebels killed compared to just six AFP troops.* Most clashes were initiated by government soldiers, either while encountering rebels on routine patrol or during targeted intelligence-based operations.

NPA activity has remained prevalent in Eastern Mindanao, Samar, Masbate and Negros island, indicating that the group is still holding out in some of its traditional strongholds. Yet even in these areas, the rebels' influence over residents has significantly reduced as the NPA lacks the capacity it once had to coerce entire rural communities into compliance. Arson attacks on firms that refuse to bow to extortion demands, and raids on businesses to steal weapons from private security guards, are becoming much less frequent, limiting the rebels' ability to sustain and finance their campaign."

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Twitter: @bobitiglao
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NPA leader in Caraga surrenders

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 1, 2022): NPA leader in Caraga surrenders (By MIKE CRISMUNDO)

BUTUAN CITY – A New People's Army leader in the Caraga region surrendered to the police on Thursday, June 1.

POLICE Regional Office-13 Director Police Brig. Gen. Pablo G. Labra II (third from left) receives the firearm of New People’s Army (NPA) leader ‘Jerwin’ during a brief surrender ceremony at the police regional headquarters in Camp Rafael C. Rodriguez, Butuan City, on Thursday, June 1. (Photo via Mike U. Crismundo)

The Police Regional Office-13 identified the surrenderer as alias "Jerwin," 34.

He turned over a caliber .45 pistol with bullets.

His surrender was facilitated by the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 13 headed by Police Col. Harry B. Domingo, force commander, through the help of the community.

The rebel returnee was a commander of Abe, Squad 2, Platoon 1 of Guerrilla Front 88, Sub-Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) and listed in the Periodic Status Report (PSR), PRO-13 Director Police Brig. Gen. Pablo G. Labra II said.

“We are hopeful that more of his former comrades would follow his footstep to return to the folds of the law,” Labra said.

“I commend the efforts made by our police force in convincing our brother who was once blinded by a ruthless and irrelevant ideology,” Labra added.

5 killed in clashes with Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur

From Rappler (Jun 1, 2023): 5 killed in clashes with Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur (By FERDINANDH CABRERA)

Four suspected terrorists and one military personnel died in 2 skirmishes Wednesday night in Lanao del Sur

COTABATO, Philippines – Four alleged members of Dawlah Islamiyah (DI-Maute) ISIS terror group were killed and one military personnel died in a pair of fierce encounters Wednesday night, May 31, in an interior village of Marogong town, Lanao del Sur province.

Brigadier General Allan Nobleza, regional director of Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) said that troops of scout rangers conducted focused military operation (FMO) after receiving information that several members of the DI-Maute terror group were hiding in a secluded location in Brgy. Piangolongan of the said town on Wednesday night.

“We have our Scene of the Crime Operatives now in the area conducting further investigation, we have information received that there were also civilians rescued”, Nobleza said.

Nobleza said that the location of the encounter was around four to five kilometers away from the downtown area where some residents who fled last week had just started to return home.

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Information gathered showed that at past 7 pm Wednesday the Joint Task Force Group (JTG)-Haribon, led by a certain First Lieutenant Manuel with his combat group from the scout ranger company, engaged a close combat firefight with DI-Maute members. After the smoke had gone, one body from the DI-Maute was recovered, a government soldier was killed identified as Private First Class Jemric Pol Cotingjo and three others were wounded.

Not far from the first encounter, before 9 pm of the same night, troops led by a Captain Legada were in a blocking position southern part of the clash site in the same barangay when they encountered the same terror group under the leadership of Abu Zacharia. This exchange lasted for five minutes, then the terror group withdrew after it was overpowered by the government troops.

A total of four fatalities from the DI-Maute were recovered from the encounter sites.

The troops also reported rescuing two minors and a woman.

High-powered firearms like an AR-15 bushmaster, M16-riffles and R4 including ammunitions, IED components, grenades, radio communication equipment and other war materials were recovered in the clash site.

“Based on our information the group of Zacaria has splintered into four small groups which they managed to change location anytime in the jungle areas,” Nobleza added.

Military and police forces are in high alert in the area.

Earlier last week the leader of the terror group warned of attacking Marogong town after four of their young comrades were reported arrested by elements of Moro Islamic Liberation Front and were turned-over to military troops.

Around four thousand residents had evacuated due to fear of the attack. –

[Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow]

Planned BARMM aid office for aging mujahideen stirs controversy

From Rappler (Jun 1, 2023): Planned BARMM aid office for aging mujahideen stirs controversy (By ROMMEL REBOLLIDO)

Several active and retired soldiers and policemen frown on BARMM officials' move to honor and give more benefits to former MILF and MNLF combatants whom they once fought

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), facing the challenges of aging and requiring assistance, have welcomed a move by officials in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to establish an agency dedicated to addressing their needs.

The move, however, did not sit well with some soldiers, policemen, and retirees, some of whom fought against the MILF and MNLF, who called for sensitivity from the BARMM leadership.

They viewed it as an insult to those who fought and made sacrifices fighting against the secessionist movement in the years before the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the former rebel groups.

The interim parliament of the Bangsamoro region has moved to pass Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Bill 44, which seeks to create a Bangsamoro Veteran Mujahideen Affairs Office (BVMAO).

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If approved, the BVMAO will provide financial, medical, social, and other forms of assistance to honor the mujahideen who fought for the causes of the MILF and MNLF.

Mujahideen refer to Muslims who engage in armed struggle or jihad, often in the context of defending or promoting their religious beliefs or seeking self-determination.

Based on BTA Bill 44, “veteran mujahideen” are members of the MILF and MNLF who will be at least 55 years old at the time the proposed BARMM law takes effect. They are those who provided revolutionary services in the protracted wars for self-determination between the Bangsamoro people and the national government for at least 20 years between 1969 and 2014.

BARMM parliament member Raissa Jajurie said they were currently engaged in consultations to gather crucial feedback for the proposed measure, which will be included in a committee report to be presented before the region’s legislature.

Regional officials said a substantial budget will be required to provide periodic benefits, as well as other forms of assistance, to the thousands of veteran mujahideen from both the MNLF and MILF.

Jajurie said the proposed veteran mujahideen affairs office would be funded by the Bangsamoro regional government.

If plans don’t miscarry, the measure would likely be passed before the regional parliament adjourns its second regular session in February 2024, Jajurie said.

Some soldiers, policemen, and retirees frowned on the proposed BARMM law, saying it would likely hurt the morale of members of the Armed Forces (AFP) and Philippines National Police (PNP).

“While it may sound as a noble move, the framers of the proposed measure must remember that there was a time when the MILF and MNLF were not fighting for the government, but rather against it,” an Army official, who requested anonymity, told Rappler.

Another military officer added, “Is the financial assistance given to them as part of the decommissioning process not enough? Will BARMM also recognize, honor, and reward us for keeping the country intact?”

Retired police lieutenant Philip T. Morris said he was nearly killed in an ambush by then-secessionist rebels when he served in Cotabato City and the then-undivided Maguindanao.

Morris said he lost a fellow policeman in that ambush.

“What they’re doing is a big blow to the AFP and PNP,” Morris told Rappler.

Mario Almanzor, who served as a ranger in the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary in the 1970s, said, “What they did back then was rebellion and should not be glamorized by treating them the way this country treats veterans and heroes. Many people died. Loved ones were lost due to their actions back then.”

During recent public consultations for the proposed measure, numerous former combatants took turns sharing their experiences from their years of struggle and expressed their elation about the planned recognition of their contributions by the regional government.

Ustadz Abdulwahid Tundok, who led the MILF’s 118th Base Command, said the aging mujahideen also need psychological support because of their trauma.

Tundok said the veteran mujahideen required financial and livelihood assistance, medical and social welfare aid, and educational opportunities for their children.

Rumina Malaguiok, whose husband Tani was a prominent figure in the MNLF, said she served as a field medic during the Bangsamoro struggle in Cotabato and Maguindanao in the 1970s.

She said the BARMM officials’ proposal “brings a glimmer of hope to us veterans and demonstrates that our efforts were not in vain.”

In September 2022, an official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said financial assistance had been set aside for decommissioned combatants of the MILF.

The state-run Philippines News Agency (PNA) quoted DSWD Undersecretary for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace Alan Tanjusay as saying that each decommissioned combatant “gets P80,000 BTFSP (Bangsamoro Transitory Family Support Package) and another P20,000 as livelihood settlement grant.”

Some 5,500 decommissioned MILF members were supposed to receive the cash aid during the final phase of the decommissioning last November.

Ex-campus activist forced underground by threats slain in Northern Samar clash

From Rappler (Jun1, 2023): Ex-campus activist forced underground by threats slain in Northern Samar clash (By RICKY BAUTISTA

Dire circumstances, including the arrests and detention of activists on trumped-up charges, force many to go underground and find other ways of resistance, says Bayan national secretary-general Renato Reyes

CATBALOGAN, Philippines — A former student leader of the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban Campus (UPVTC) died with three other alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels during a clash with government troops in Northern Samar on May 28.

Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division (8ID) public affairs chief Captain Jefferson Mariano announced on Wednesday, May 31 the death of Joshua M. Sagdullas, former chairperson of the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban Campus (UPVTC) College Student Council and former Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Eastern Visayas secretary general.

Mariano said a rebel surrenderer known as “Kurarti” identified Sagdullas as “Miyong”, alleged political instructor of the NPA in Northern Samar.

He identified the three other alleged rebel casualties as Geraldine Teopinto alias Luz, finance officer; Abigail Padula Baselga alias Moana, medical officer; and Vicente Termo, an NPA cadre.

“Joshua Sagdullas is a rebel but he is no terrorist,” Renato Reyes, Bayan national secretary-general told Rappler in response to the AFP’s statement calling Sagdullas and company “terrorists”.

“The dire circumstances in the province, including the arrests and detention of activists, including many Bayan leaders, based on trumped-up charges, is what forced many to go underground and find other ways of resistance. “Yung gobyerno ang nag-tulak kay Joshua na lumaban sa armadong paraan. (The government pushed Joshua to take up arms.)” Reyes said.

“The AFP should save its crocodile tears. Joshua offered his life in the struggle of the people. His death is not in vain,” he added, offering sympathies for the slain rebel’s family and friends.

Mariano said the military recovered two M16 rifles, two cal.45 pistols, magazines with ammunition, and personal belongings from the clash site in the upland village of Mabini in Catarman, the capital of Northern Samar.

Sagdullas family has been informed, and that the Tacloban City government was facilitating the return of his body, he added.

RECOVERED. The Philippine Army seized these items after the May 28 encounter in Mabini, Catarman, Northern Samar, where the four suspected rebels were killed. (8ID public information unit)
Legal activists hounded

Sagdullas joined the NPA as a full-time combatant in 2020, according to Mariano, and served with a subregional guerrilla unit deployed in Northern Samar to reinforce the rebel front committee 2 dismantled by the military early this year.

Reyes did not specify the threats faced by Sagdullas before he went underground.

But after peace talks between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the government of then-president Rodrigo Duterte collapsed in 2017, he signed Memorandum Order No. 32 ordering the deployment of additional troops, equipment and ammunition to Samar island, one of three key perceived strongholds of Asia’s longest running communist insurgency.

The government has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA as terrorist organizations. It has tried to tag even legal activists as terrorists, and courts have dismissed many of what activists call trumped-up cases.

Several legal activists in Eastern Visayas, including journalist Frenchie Mae Quimpo, have spent years in jail after being slapped charges linking them to the communist movement.

International institutions have condemned the practice of red-tagging in the country. The rights group Karapatan has said that hundreds of activists killed under the government of then president Rodrigo Duterte were all red-tagged online and on-ground before the attacks that felled them.

AWAITING HOMECOMING. The coffins containing the remains of four alleged New People’s Army rebels slain on May 28, 2023 in Northern Samar await the guerrilla’s final journeys back to their hometowns. (8ID public information unit)

Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) Chair, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez conveyed his sympathies and condolences to the families of the deceased.

In English, Tagalog and the local Waray language, the mayor urged rebels to think of the families they have left behind.

“You feel that your are fighting for a good cause. But in the end, grief is what it brings to those you leave behind, including the parents who worked hard to give you good education, and all for what? I hope this will stop, and this will end very soon,” Romualdez lamented.

Samar, an island in the Eastern Visayas divided into three impoverished provinces, has a reputation in military and activist circles of having the strongest underground communist bases.

But the rebels there have suffered serious setbacks recently, including the deaths of top CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and eight other comrades during a September 2022 chase in waters off Samar province.

The deaths of the Tiamzons came eight months into a government campaign launched after a series of surrenders by mid-level but key officers of the rebel movement in Samar.

The clash that killed Sagdullas is part of the military campaign to crush what it calls the last two remaining rebel bases on Samar, “both in the wilds of Northern Samar,” according to Mariano.

– With Jairo Bolledo,

2 alleged NPA members die in Occidental Mindoro clash — military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1, 2023): 2 alleged NPA members die in Occidental Mindoro clash — military (By: John Eric Mendoza - Reporter)

This is a file photo of the New People’s Army (NPA) Guerilla Front 21 with their high-powered firearms somewhere in the mountains of Marihatag town in Surigao del Sur. PHOTO BY ERWIN/MASCARIÑAS/ INQUIRER

MANILA, Philippines — Two alleged members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in a clash with government soldiers in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, the Philippine Army said on Thursday.

Government troops and Maoist rebels figured in a 20-minute firefight that led to the death of a male and female rebels only identified with aliases “Hunter” and “Liza.”

“Soldiers from the 68th Infantry Battalion were conducting focused military operations when they encountered armed personalities believed to be members of the Main Regional Guerilla Unit from the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee at Sitio Pasugue in Barangay Malisbong which resulted in a twenty-minute firefight,” the Philippine Army said in a statement.

The troops also recovered three M16 rifles, war materiel and other personal belongings.

Caraga anti-crime drive nets 266 wanted persons in May

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2, 2023): Caraga anti-crime drive nets 266 wanted persons in May (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday reported focused police operations in Caraga have resulted in the arrest of 266 wanted persons in the region last month.

"The PNP has achieved a remarkable feat in its intensive operations against individuals with standing warrants of arrest in Caraga region. In the month of May alone, Police Regional Office 13 successfully apprehended 266 wanted persons, bolstering the region's law enforcement efforts," PNP public information chief Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan said in a statement.

Out of the total number of arrests made, 46 individuals were classified as most wanted, while the remaining 220 were categorized as other wanted persons.

Maranan said this operation is a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Caraga police to ensuring the safety and security of its communities.

"Leading the charge in this successful campaign was the Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office (PPO), which apprehended the highest number of wanted persons with an impressive tally of 64 arrests," he added.

Among those captured was the region's number one most wanted, Joel Belandres, also known as "Abarka."

Belandres, a 51-year-old member of the communist New People's Army (NPA) is wanted for charges of three counts of murder, five counts of frustrated murder, and attempted murder.

As a former member of the NPA's weakened guerilla front 19, Sub-Regional Sentro de Grabidad (SRSDG), North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC), he participated in numerous terrorist atrocities in Caraga.

Other notable contributions came from the Butuan City Police Office with 59 arrests, Agusan del Sur PPO with 55, Surigao del Norte PPO with 52, Agusan del Norte with 28, and Dinagat Islands PPO with nine.

The collective efforts of these police offices resulted in significant strides toward upholding the rule of law in Caraga.

"In terms of categorization, five individuals were considered most wanted persons at the regional level, while 16 were at the provincial level, and 26 at the municipal level. These figures highlight the comprehensive approach taken by the PNP Caraga in addressing wanted personalities across different jurisdictions," Maranan said.

"The successful operations conducted by the PNP Caraga demonstrate the unwavering commitment of our police force to maintain peace and order in our communities. I extend my sincerest appreciation to the dedicated men and women who risk their lives daily to bring criminals to justice. Your actions serve as an inspiration to all law enforcement personnel across the country," PNP chief General Benjamin Acorda Jr. in lauding the performance of the police operatives.

Meanwhile, the PNP Mimaropa under Brig. Gen. Joel Doria has successfully arrested a total of 939 wanted persons from January 1 to June 1.

Data from the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division revealed that from January 1 to June 1 this year, Mimaropa had apprehended 939 persons, including 243 most wanted for various criminal cases.

"The greatest number of arrests came from Palawan PPO with 334; followed by Oriental Mindoro PPO, 236; Occidental Mindoro PPO, 159; Puerto Princesa CPO, 91; Romblon PPO, 71; and Marinduque PPO, 48," Doria said in a separate statement.

2 missing youth among 20 rebel returnees in Cagayan

Posted to Rappler (Jun 2, 2023): 2 missing youth among 20 rebel returnees in Cagayan (By SHERWIN DE VERA)

Michael Cedrick Casano and Patricia Nicole Cierva are among the 20 described as former rebels who took their 'oath of allegiance' before Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Two of the missing youth activists in Cagayan were presented Friday, June 2, in a government press conference at the sub-provincial Capitol in Lal-lo town, along with other rebel surrenderees in the province.

Michael Cedrick Casano and Patricia Nicole Cierva were among the 20 described as former rebels who took their “oath of allegiance” before Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and other members of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) to formalize their surrender.

In an urgent bulletin on May 25, human rights group Karapatan Cagayan Valley said soldiers from the 501st Infantry Brigade arrested the two in Barangay Cabiroaoan, Gonzaga, on May 18. This prompted several organizations, including the University of the Philippines Manila, to urge authorities to surface them and respect their rights.

No honor in surrender

During the program, officials of the PTF-ELCAC gave Casano and Cierva time to talk.

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Casano, identified as the former secretary of the East Front Committee in Cagayan, acknowledged the government’s counterinsurgency efforts.

“Ang karangalan ngayong araw ay wala sa amin dahil sabi nga nila ang mga mandirigma at mga kumander, ang karangalan nila ay wala dito sa pagsuko kundi nandun hanggang sa kamatayan. Kaya ang karangalan ay ibinibigay natin sa mga tropa ng Armed Forces of the Philippines at ng PNP (Philippine National Police),” Casano said. (The honor does not belong to us today because there is no honor in surrender for warriors and commanders; for them, honor is with death. That is why we honor the AFP and PNP troops today.)

He acknowledged that the focused military operation in the province and the efforts of the NTF-ELCAC gave them difficulties.

“Iti panawen nga kasangsangok dagidiay nangala kanyak, pwede pa naman sanang pumalag, pero siempre, sa proseso noong, siguro resulta na din ng pagkawala ng iba naming mga kasama ay ang will to fight ay nawala. Kaya yun ang dahilan kung bakit ako nandito,” Casano said. (When I faced my captors, I could have struggled, but in the process, and with the loss of several comrades, I lost my will to fight. That is the reason why I am here.)
Peace based on justice

He said NTF-ELCAC made their task more complicated, an “impediment in our revolutionary work.”

However, he stressed that while the current government tactics might effectively slow the rebels’ progress, it is not the solution to achieving peace.

“Ang kapayapaan na hinahangad nating lahat ay hindi natin masusukat sa pagkawala ng labanan, Ang kapayapaan ay masusukat kung yung tiyan ng mamamayan ay hindi na nagaalburuto. Kaya yung kapayapaan na gusto natin ay yung kapayapaang nakabatay sa katarungan,” he added. (We cannot measure the peace we aspire for by the absence of war. Peace is measured if the people have sufficient food to eat. The peace we want is a peace based on justice.)

Casano and Cierva said that letting go of the principle they had stood for years would not be easy, but they acknowledged that they could always continue to help differently.

“Sino ba ang may ayaw sa kapayapaan, yung kaunlaran? Magkakaiba lang naman ang perspective depende kung nasaang side… Bagamat hindi na sa ganoong pamamaraan, magpapatuloy pa rin naman ang ganoong hangarin,” Cierva said. (Who does not want peace or development? Perspective differs depending on what side you are on. Though it will no longer be like the same means, our aspirations will remain.)

The two thanked the military for treating them well during captivity, saying they were not maltreated or coerced. They also expressed gratitude to all those who called and campaigned for their surfacing.

“We appreciate yung kanilang [efforts] sa personal, naappreciate yung pagkalinga sa amin. Siempre madanaganda no anya ti sasasadaen mi iti panawen a saanda ammo no sadinno ti ayanmi,” said Casano.(Personally, we appreciate their efforts and their care for us. Of course, they are concerned about our welfare because they do not know where we are.)

“Nagpapasalamat din po kami sa maayos namang pagkanlong sa amin. Daydiay ti maysa a concern dagiti amammomi idiay ruar… We cannot blame them for their concern, kaya ganun na lang din ang kanilang efforts sa kanilang campaign para hanapin kami,” Cierva said. (We thank them [the military] for their proper treatment during our custody. That is one of the concerns of those we know from the outside… We cannot blame them for their concern, which is why they exerted all efforts for the campaign to find us.)

“Kami po ay honored that you have surrendered your will to fight and you have welcomed into your heart the will to go back to the government, to your families. Isa pong magandang example yan na nakikita natin sa bible,” said Lieutenant General Fernyl Buca, commander of the Northern Luzon Command. (We are honored that you have surrendered your will to fight, and you have welcomed into your heart the will to go back to the government (and) to your families. That is one good example that we see in the bible.)

He said the surrender campaign does not end with their presentation and oath, urging those who surrendered to work for peace.

Timeline: What pushed Joshua Sagdullas to join the New People’s Army?

Posted to Rappler (Jun 2, 2023): Timeline: What pushed Joshua Sagdullas to join the New People’s Army? (By ROWELL MONTES, INDAY ESPINA-VARONA)

One of Joshua Sagdullas' last posts on Facebook warns of a fake account that shows him as turning on fellow activists and supporting then-president Rodrigo Duterte's tokhang-style, anti-insurgency campaign.

TACLOBAN CITY – Soft-spoken, smart, and a logical thinker. This is how a former professor of Joshua Sagdullas at the University of the Philippines Visayas, Tacloban College described him as a political science student.

Associate professor Ladylyn Lim-Mangada spoke to Rappler on Thursday, June 1, a day after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported that Sagdullas was one of four New People’s Army (NPA) rebels slain during a May 28 clash with members of the 43rd Infantry Battalion in the hinterlands of Brgy. Mabini, Catarman, Northern Samar.

The three others killed were identified by the military as Geraldine Teopinto alias Luz, the finance officer; Abigail Padula Baselga alias Moana, a medical officer; and Vicente Termo.

Sagdullas, who graduated with a degree in political science in 2017 from UP Tacloban, was Mangada’s student in several political courses and excelled in class, she said.

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Michael Cedrick Casano and Patricia Nicole Cierva are among the 20 described as former rebels who took their 'oath of allegiance' before Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba

As a student leader, he consistently lent his voice to the poor, oppressed, and weak, she added.

Kind, eloquent

Sagdullas was “one of the kindest people I know,” his former classmate Ara Pacoma said.

“He was very helpful to his fellow students, a leader who always showed his willingness to lend a hand, and I never heard him complain even in the midst of so many daunting tasks as student council president.”

When asked by Rappler if he knew the student Sagdullas, a security guard of almost two decades at the said university recalled him as being polite and kind. The youth, he said, was a good public speaker and seemed untiring even in longer talks.

Former student leaders who shared news of Sagdulla’s death mentioned his “eloquence” during council debates. They described him as having a “critical mind with a great talent for articulating points and arguments anchored on the best interest of the people.”

Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel on Twitter said, “Joshua was the chair of KASAMA sa UP (national alliance of UP student councils) when I served as Student Regent. Many students and people will remember Joshua not as a terrorist but as a defender and servant of the oppressed.”

Joining the NPA

After his graduation, the campus activist eventually became the Eastern Visayas secretary general of Bayan, the national militant coalition of sectoral organizations. He remained active in organizing youth groups.

Sagdullas was a regular user of Facebook, pushing statements of people’s organizations, and schedules of events. He combined condemnation of human rights violations and attacks on activists, and the Duterte government’s messy COVID-19 pandemic response, with lyrical notes on art, music, and authors he loved.

His social media presence abruptly stopped on June 8, 2020.

Captain Jefferson Mariano, 8ID public affairs chief, said that year, Sagdullas joined the NPA as a full-time combatant.

He was among the combatants belonging to the NPA subregional guerrilla unit deployed in Northern Samar to reinforce the NPA front committee 2 dismantled by the military early 2023, said Mariano.

He was a political officer, Mariano added. It was not clear where Sagdullas was operating before that.

A former comrade identified the bodies of the four rebels slain on May 28. Alias Kurati had surrendered on April 30, 2023, to officials of Barangay Santander, Bobon, Northern Samar after receiving serious injuries in a firefight that killed seven rebels.

Turning point

Military officials blamed Asia’s longest communist insurgency and its “pointless ideology” for the death of a promising young man.

The public information office of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division (8ID) quoted its commander Majr General Camilo Z. Ligayo as saying that Sagdulla “could have had a better future ahead and be an active partner of the government in nation-building, helping the people in the community if he had not been recruited with the terrorist group.”

But Bayan national secretary-general Renato Reyes told Rappler on June 1 that the government pushed Sagdullas to take up arms.

“The dire circumstances in the province, including the arrests and detention of activists, including many Bayan leaders, based on trumped-up charges, is what forced many to go underground and find other ways of resistance,” the activist leader said on June 1.

Rappler researched what was happening in Tacloban and other areas of Eastern Visayas in the last year before Sagdullas’ disappearance from legal activism. This is what we found:

June 7, 2020

A day before his last Facebook post, Sagdullas asks friends to report a fake account bearing his name and picture. It launched in April of that year. But it gets his attention only when a spate of fake accounts surface after the arrests of activists during a June 5 protest against the then-still-unpassed anti-terror bill.

Rappler on June 7 also reports on the trend, which started at the University of the Philippines Cebu and then spread to other UP campuses. The newer fake accounts, however, are still blank when activists report these.

The fake account paints Sagdullas as a rabid supporter of then-president Rodrigo Duterte, who had ordered stepped-up anti-insurgency campaigns in the islands of Samar and Negros in the Visayas, and Bicol – for example, the fake Sagdullas justifying the killings of people violating the curfew imposed as part of the government’s COVID-19 lockdown.

In bad English, the post says people who feel threatened by Duterte’s shoot them dead order must be violators.

FAKE ACCOUNT. Unknown persons created a fake account using Joshua Sagdullas’ name and face in April 2020, crafting posts to make him look like an activist who had turned around and pledged allegiance to the government. Joshua Sagdullas

Why did this alarm the activist?

“He feared it was setting a trend for a murder that the state would then blame on the NPA, as there were hints of this new tactic,” says a former Eastern Visayas rights worker forced to leave the region for security reasons.

May 30, 2023

Sagdullas shares a call for justice for Secretary-General Carlito “Ka Karlets” Badion, an urban poor leader whose dead body was found on a highway in Ormoc City on May 28.

The news outfit Bulatlat reports that Badion, the long-time secretary general of Kadamay, was red-tagged and received death threats two days before his killing.

GUNNED DOWN. Kadamay secretary-general Carlito Badion was found on a highway in Ormoc City on May 28. Ferdinand Gaite, Courage  

May 29, 2023

“Stop the killings!,” Sagdullas calls out as he shares a Manila Today report on the May 26 killing of farmers’ leader Allan “Mano Boy” Aguilando, in Barangay New Rizal, Catarman, Northern Samar.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) says the 43rd Infantry Battalion claimed Aguilando died in an encounter.

A June 7 report by the National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas says that “the allegations against him are baseless and the so-called recovered gun planted in the manner of Tokhang killings and other murders of peasants such as in Negros.”

KMP says Aguilando was the 251st farmer-victim of extrajudicial killing (EJK) under the Duterte administration.

KILLED. Farmers’ leader Allan “Mano Boy” Aguilando was killed on May 26 in Barangay New Rizal, Catarman, Northern Samar. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas  

May 27, 2003

The Army reports the abduction on May 27 of three “peacebuilders” by the NPA in Canvais village, Motiong, Samar.

The Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion claims Cosme Cabangunay and his sons Jevie and Jason were members of the Motiong Peacebuilders, a group of former rebels who joined the peace and development efforts of the government.

The NDF in the region denies the allegations.

“We are aware that the Cabangunay men were earlier forced to ‘surrender’ by the 87th IB even though they were merely peacefully farming in their community. We fear for their lives and demand that the military immediately surface and release them,” says a statement by Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, then-spokesperson of the regional underground group.

April 12, 2020

Sagdullas shares a PressOne report of officials of Balangiga town in Eastern Samar denying the 8ID’s claim that NPA rebels had raided relief goods meant for the COVID-19 aid program. Even the local police deny the claim after conducting an investigation.

March 10, 2020

Sagdullas shares a petition announcement of a Quezon City event supporting community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who was arrested in Tacloban City, along with four human rights defenders on February 7, 2020 in Tacloban City.

Cumpio remains in jail three years after her arrest. He also defends Cumpio in a March 7 post.

December 19, 2019

Sagdullas posts that Northern Samar has experienced 11 cases of politically-motivated killings since then-president Duterte issued Memorandum Order 32 in November 2018 to halt the “state of lawlessness” in Bicol, Samar, Negros Island.

November 27, 2019

Sagdullas mentions the killing of Commission on Elections (Comelec) employee and former community journalist Maureen Japzon.

Japzon, the founder of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Eastern Visayas chapter, was shot seven times by suspects on board motorcycles on October 15, 2019 near her workplace in McArthur, Leyte.

On the same day that Japzon was killed, the human rights group Karapatan says Renee Superior, a village councilor in Libungao, Kananga, Leyte was also reported killed.

“Several other barangay officials have been targeted in the region for supporting campaigns against militarization,” says Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

November 22, 2019

Sagdullas posts the Bayan Eastern Visayas statement, challenging some local media that had signed a Manifesto of Commitment to Duterte’s Memo 32 and joined the military’s red-tagging efforts in statements, videos, and photo captions.

“Word usage includes ‘confirmed’, ‘known’ and other similar words as if to denote or deduce that the illegal tagging of our organizations as ‘mere legal fronts’ of the CPP-NPA-NDF is valid,” the statement says.

[Retired Analyst Note: The view from the CPP-sympathetic Philippine left. Some truth mixed with lots of false allegations and inuendo.]

Rizal town 'insurgency-free'

 From the Manila Times (Jun3, 2023): Rizal town 'insurgency-free' (By Franco Jose C. Baroña)

THE 2nd Infantry Jungle Fighter Division of the Philippine Army has announced the declaration of the municipality of Tanay in the province of Rizal as "insurgency-free."

The Tanay Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, with assistance from the 202nd Infantry "Unifier" Brigade and the 80th Infantry "Steadfast" Battalion, facilitated the signing of a memorandum of understanding and the Declaration of Stable Internal Peace and Security (SIPS) of the municipality of Tanay on May 31, 2023.

The event was seen marking a significant milestone in the region's pursuit of stable internal peace and security and serving as a testament to collaborative efforts made by various stakeholders in achieving lasting peace in the Calabarzon Region.

The region groups the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.

The event included the signing of a pledge of commitment, reaffirming the community's dedication to peace and progress.

The ceremony heard once more the declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and National Democratic Front as persona non-grata in Tanay.

"The declaration of Tanay as insurgency-free is a testament to our unwavering dedication and collective efforts together with the various [task forces to end local communist armed conflict], LGUs [local government units] and the community as a whole. This achievement represents a significant stride toward a peaceful and prosperous future not only for Tanay but the entire Rizal province," Maj. Gen. Roberto Capulong said in a statement.

Acorda lauds bill empowering PNP via organizational reforms

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1, 2023): Acorda lauds bill empowering PNP via organizational reforms (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Benjamin Acorda Jr. on Thursday welcomed the measure seeking to empower the PNP through organizational reforms, saying the proposal would equip the police force with the tools and structure needed to effectively address contemporary law enforcement challenges.

“I must emphasize that this proposal goes beyond making changes to our organization; it represents a profound commitment to making a positive impact on the communities we serve. We have persevered through various legislative attempts, undeterred by previous disapprovals of the PNP reorganization plan,” Acorda said in a statement.

Acorda was referring to House Bill No. 8327 which seeks to restructure and strengthen the PNP to empower the institution to effectively address current challenges of law enforcement, such as kidnapping, human trafficking, terrorism, cyber-crimes, illegal drugs, and public safety concerns, including effective humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The proposed measure, which was passed on second reading at the House on Tuesday, also takes into account emerging threats in the Philippines and the impact of globalization and technological advancements.

Acorda said the proposed amendments under HB 8327 hold significant national importance, providing an opportunity to fortify the PNP's capabilities and ensure the safety and security of the Filipino people.

“Let us remember that this proposed reorganization is not just a matter of policy; it is an investment in the future of our country,” he said.

“By empowering the PNP to be more efficient and effective, we are fostering an environment where our people can live in peace, security, and prosperity. Together, let us build a nation where the rule of law prevails, where justice is served, and where the rights of every Filipino are protected,” he added.

Meanwhile, Acorda thanked Congress and the National Police Commission (Napolcom) for their efforts in prioritizing the restructuring and strengthening of the PNP organization.

Acorda also expressed his sincere gratitude to retired PNP Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., who eagerly pursued this legislative agenda, as well as to Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, Maj. Gen. Robert Rodriguez, the director for Personnel and Records Management, and Maj. Gen Bernard Banac, the director for Plans, and other members and secretariat who worked together tirelessly from planning until submission of the proposal to the House of Representatives.

PH Army, PAF to conduct another interoperability exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1, 2023): PH Army, PAF to conduct another interoperability exercise (By Priam Nepomuceno)

JOINT EXERCISES. Phillipine Army (PA) and Philippine Air Force (PAF) planners lay out plans for the upcoming interoperability exercise in a conference held at the PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Wednesday (May 31, 2023). Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said this is to array and integrate PA and PAF capabilities for more effective joint operations. (Photo courtesy of PA)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will conduct a second series of interoperability exercises (IOX) within the next few days.

PA and PAF planners met in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Wednesday to plan for the latest IOX.

"PA and PAF planners discussed the proposed concept of execution of the interoperability IOX and force requirement, logistical requirement, and assets that will be used," Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said Thursday.

He added the exercises are geared at ensuring the interoperability of ground and aerial units for joint operations and to array and integrate PA and PAF capabilities for more effective joint operations.

The 2nd PA-PAF IOX will be held in the area of operations of the 5th Infantry Division in Cagayan Valley and Cordilleras.

No specific dates nor the number of participating Army and Air Force personnel were given for security reasons.

It can be recalled that the first-ever PAF-PA IOX, which addressed gaps in joint operations and achieved seamless air-to-ground communications and operations between the two service branches, took place from March 7 to 11, 2022 at the 2nd Infantry Division's area of operations -- Calabarzon and parts of Mimaropa except Palawan.

Around 1,000 soldiers and airmen participated in last year's PA-PAF IOX which consisted of military free-fall, bundle drop, helicopter sniping, fast rope insertion-extraction system, air evacuation, and communications and electronics exercise.

DND condoles with family, friends of former PAF chief Farolan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1, 2023): DND condoles with family, friends of former PAF chief Farolan (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Former Philippine Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Ramon J. Farolan (Photo courtesy of PAF)

MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday expressed its condolences to the family and friends of former Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Maj. Gen. Ramon Farolan who passed away Wednesday at the age of 88.

"The DND is deeply saddened by the passing of Maj. Gen. Ramon J. Farolan AFP, former Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force. Gen. Farolan was a seasoned diplomat, dedicated public servant and a respected columnist," Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Farolan is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1956 and graduated from the PAF Flying School in 1957.

Andolong said Farolon served with unwavering dedication and commitment throughout his career, making significant contributions to the country's national defense, displaying exemplary leadership and professionalism in every role.

"His leadership skills and strategic thinking played a pivotal role in enhancing the effectiveness and readiness of the PAF and the Armed Forces (of the Philippines)," he added.

The former PAF chief is an esteemed pilot and commander, having received awards and commendations not only from the Armed Forces, but from all over the world.

"Beyond his professional accomplishments, Maj. Gen. Farolan was known for his compassion, integrity, and unwavering commitment to the well-being of service members under his command. He fostered a culture of camaraderie and unity, inspiring those around him to excel and uphold the highest standards of military service," Andolong said.

Farolan was born in Baguio City on August 31, 1934 and was the 16th PAF commanding general serving from Feb. 25 to Oct. 8, 1986.

"Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with MGen Farolan's family, loved ones, and colleagues during this difficult time. The Department of Defense stands ready to provide support and assistance to them as they navigate this period of mourning," Andolong said.

Farolan also served as the country's envoy to Indonesia, customs commissioner and administrator of the Export Processing Zone Authority of the Department of Trade and Industry.

He was also a columnist of the Philippine Star and a former president and editor in chief of the paper.

"As we mourn the loss of Maj. Gen. Farolan, the One Defense Team reaffirms our commitment to honor his memory by carrying forward his dedication, professionalism, and unwavering spirit," Andolong said.

Romualdez calls for closer ASEAN-Korea ties for peace, prosperity

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1, 2023): Romualdez calls for closer ASEAN-Korea ties for peace, prosperity (By Jose Cielito Reganit)

CLOSER ASEAN-KOREA TIES. Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez offers a toast to his counterpart Speaker of the National Assembly of South Korea Kim Jin-pyo during their dinner meeting hosted by the latter at Lotte Hotel in Jeju Island on Thursday (June 1, 2023). Romualdez attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Korea Leaders Forum held at the Jeju International Convention Center where he called on ASEAN and South Korea leaders to work closer together for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. (Photo courtesy of Office of Speaker Romualdez)

MANILA – Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday urged leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Korea to work closer together for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Romualdez made the call in his message during the opening ceremony of the ASEAN-Korea Leaders’ Forum held at the Jeju International Convention Center (ICC) in Jeju Island, Korea.

“I look forward to substantive discussions on how we as a collective global community can ensure peace, stability, and prosperity in the region; as well as promote sustainable economic growth and enhance regional resilience, with a focus on energy and food security, among others,” said Romualdez, who led the delegation of the House of Representatives to the forum.

Noting that sustainable peace is a key component of economic growth, he said Philippines continues its effort to reform and modernize the country’s security sector to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity and deal with natural calamities and disasters to usher economic development.

“We still have ways to go and we will look to partners like the Republic of Korea and those present today in improving these initiatives, and in working together to make sure that the geopolitical challenges of today do not undermine the possible gains of our future,” he said.

He also pointed out that the Philippines is an advocate of the importance of open communication and effective collaboration between interparliamentary bodies in addressing a range of transnational and global threats.

He likewise identified critical areas of potential collaboration among parliamentarians in the region such as promoting green investment; equitable and sustainable finance; improving the operational efficiency of inter-parliamentary mechanisms; promoting innovation, transfer, application and development of science and technology for regional growth and sustainable development; and building resilient supply chain.

“We hope this forum can serve as a bridge to connect the Philippines and the rest of the Southeast Asian region closer to our Asian and international partners,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez also congratulated his counterpart, Kim Jin-pyo, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, for hosting the 2023 forum.

“On behalf of the Philippine government and people, it is a great honor for me to lead the Philippine delegation to the 18th Jeju Forum. I would like to thank the Republic of Korea for hosting this forum in Jeju Island, home to world heritage sites and a model for green transition. I extend my nation’s warmest congratulations to our host,” he said.

Other prominent personalities who graced the forum include Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta and former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

The ASEAN-Korea Leaders Forum is a special program of the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity. It brings together parliamentarians and business leaders in the region to forge mutually beneficial, inclusive and trustworthy cooperation in the spirit of solidarity.

Romualdez has been actively promoting the Philippines as an ideal investment haven to create more jobs and business opportunities for Filipinos.

PH, Japan, US kick off joint drills; elevate maritime cooperation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2, 2023): PH, Japan, US kick off joint drills; elevate maritime cooperation (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

JOINT DRILLS. The JCG Akitsushima (PLH-32) of the Japan Coast Guard is docked in Manila on Thursday (June 1, 2023) for the first-ever joint maritime drills this week. The maritime exercise from June 1-7 will include water drills off the Bataan Peninsula. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Philippines, Japan and the United States kicked off on Thursday their first-ever trilateral maritime exercise, reflecting an increasing interest to level up cooperation for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

In an arrival ceremony in Manila, Japan Embassy Chargé d'affaires Kenichi Matsuda said the inaugural drills is Tokyo taking a “step forward towards reinforcing maritime domain awareness and maritime law enforcement” in the region.

“Without a doubt, the shared history between Japan, the Philippines and the United States realizes a free and open international order in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“This afloat exercise elevates the level of maritime cooperation and mutual understanding of the Coast Guards in the field of maritime safety, environmental protection, and security and law enforcement,” he added.

The trilateral drills will be held off the waters of Mariveles, Bataan from June 1 to 7, with a focus on enhancing “interoperability” between the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Japan Coast Guard (JCG).

The PCG will send the BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702), BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Boracay (FPB-2401), and one 44-meter multi-role response vessel (MRRV).

The JCG and USCG, meanwhile, deployed the Akitsushima (PLH-32) and USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752), respectively.

The Japanese Embassy in Manila said anticipated activities include communication exercises, maneuvering drills, photo exercises, maritime law enforcement training, search and rescue (SAR), and passing exercises, among others.

The joint drills follow the JCG and USCG’s support in Mindoro’s oil spill response and the recent culmination of the Multinational Vessel Boarding Officer Course by the Mobile Cooperation Team of the JCG and USCG in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan from May 14 to 27.

LINK ARMS. (From left) Japan Coast Guard Capt. Toru Imai, commanding officer of JCG Akitsushima (PLH-32); Capt. Antonio Sontillanosa, Philippine Coast Guard commanding officer of BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV 9702); and US Coast Guard Capt. Brian Krautler, commanding officer of USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752) link arms during the arrival ceremonies in Manila on Thursday (June 1, 2023) for the first-ever joint maritime drills this week. The week-long exercise also involves a sporting event to strengthen the three coast guards' camaraderie, a special interest exchange for women in maritime law enforcement, and an expert exchange for PCG personnel's professional development. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

“[W]e greatly welcome this opportunity to re-unite in enhancing our interoperability in joint maritime operations as we increasingly strengthen collaboration between our three countries,” Matsuda said.

“Needless to say, Japan places considerable emphasis in supporting the area of maritime security. As a maritime nation, Japan has a stake to uphold and protect a rule-based maritime order,” he added.

Matsuda stressed that modernizing PCG facilities and equipment as well as supporting its human resource development is also “at the forefront of Japan’s long-standing initiative”.

The PCG held an arrival ceremony at Pier 15 in South Harbor, Manila on Thursday to welcome contingents from the JCG and the USCG.

Joining Matsuda were US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Variava, PCG Vice Admiral Rolando Punzalan Jr., Transportation Undersecretary for the Maritime Sector Elmer Francisco Sarmiento, and Foreign Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Raphael Hermoso.

PH Army firing platoons undergo operational readiness evaluation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2, 2023): PH Army firing platoons undergo operational readiness evaluation (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Army Artillery Regiment)

MANILA – The Army Artillery Regiment (AAR) tested the operational readiness of all firing platoons of the nine field artillery battalions deployed nationwide from May 1 to 30.

In a statement Friday, Philippine Army (PA) spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said this came following the holding of its 2023 1st semester Operational Readiness Site Inspection Test & Evaluation (ORSITE) which inspected, test and evaluate an artillery unit's overall operational preparedness.

"It (ORSITE) also assesses the competency of the gun crew to execute the tasks assigned to them as well as the firing units in providing accurate and timely artillery fire support to the maneuver units," he added.

Trinidad said all firing platoons were also evaluated in terms of logistical management, maintenance standards, personnel qualification profile and security measures implemented in the camp or fire bases they occupy.

"To reinforce the performance of these units, AAR shall provide feedback and assessment after the conduct of the evaluation and subsequently award the deserving battalion with remarkable performance as manifested by the results of the evaluation," he noted.

The ORSITE is also among the AAR’s series of proficiency tests that reinforce the thrust of the Army leadership to enhance the individual skills of soldiers as well as unit competencies.

PNP vows closer collaboration with AMLC vs. financial crimes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2, 2023): PNP vows closer collaboration with AMLC vs. financial crimes (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

AMLC executive director Mathew David (left) and PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. (right) (Photo courtesy of PNP Public Information Office)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) joined forces to boost efforts against money laundering and financial crimes in the country.

This came after PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. met with AMLC officials led by executive director Mathew David in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Wednesday, where they highlighted the strong partnership and collaboration between the PNP and the AMLC in joint efforts to combat money laundering and financial crimes.

"This meeting signifies the commitment of both organizations to upholding the rule of law, preserving the integrity of the financial system, and ensuring the security of the nation," Acorda said in a news release issued on Friday.

Acorda said the PNP will continue to enhance its capabilities, improve intelligence gathering and analysis, and streamline investigative processes working closely with the AMLC as the PNP aims to identify emerging trends, share best practices, and develop targeted strategies to effectively disrupt the financial networks of criminal syndicates.

He said the PNP also encourages greater collaboration between the AMLC and local law enforcement agencies through its "Serbisyong Nagkakaisa" initiative.

“Strengthening partnerships at the grassroots level will enable the PNP to address regional and community-based financial crimes more effectively. By working hand in hand, a network of vigilant officers committed to protecting the financial system and preventing the misuse of funds for criminal purposes can be established,” said Acorda.

The AMLC has played a pivotal role in assisting PNP in dismantling criminal networks, disrupting the flow of illicit funds, and bringing the perpetrators to justice. Through collaborative operations, information sharing, and capacity-building initiatives, significant progress has been made in combatting money laundering and related offenses.

"The PNP expresses gratitude to the AMLC delegation for their presence and reaffirms their shared commitment to fighting money laundering and preserving the integrity of the financial system. With determination and unwavering dedication, the PNP and the AMLC will continue to safeguard the nation from the scourge of financial crimes," Acorda added.

Focused AFP operations neutralize 163 local terrorists in May

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2, 2023): Focused AFP operations neutralize 163 local terrorists in May (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(File photo)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday reported that focused military operations against the communist and local terrorist groups have resulted in the neutralization of 163 of its members last May.

In a statement, Col. Jorry Baclor, AFP public affairs office chief, said 27 terrorists were killed, another 125 surrendered while 11 were nabbed during operations last month.

"Against the communist terrorist group (CTG), notable accomplishments were the successful focused military operations conducted by the 62nd Infantry Battalion in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental and Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on May 20 to 21, that resulted in the death of 10 communist terrorists and capture of 14 high-powered firearms, various ammunition, explosives, and other war materiel," he added.

Other recent AFP accomplishments include the neutralization of four communist terrorists, including the former leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)'s Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee in Catarman, Northern Samar on May 28 by the 43rd Infantry Battalion.

Meanwhile, the operations conducted by the 68th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro on May 30 resulted in the death of two communist terrorists with firearms and ammunition.

Baclor added that various ground units also recorded the surrender of New People's Army (NPA) terrorists across the country. Most recent and notable were the surrender of four NPAs in General Nakar, Quezon on May 30 by the joint forces of the 80th Infantry Battalion, 1st Infantry Battalion, 70th Infantry Battalion, and Philippine National Police forces; the surrender of nine insurgents to the 94th Infantry Battalion in Ayungon, Negros Oriental on May 25; and the surrender of a female communist terrorist leader identified as "Maui" and two others to the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City.

Against the local terrorist groups, a total of 43 surrenders and six were apprehended from Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic and the ISIS-inspired Daulah Islamiyah.

"The surrender of eight Abu Sayyaf members with seven firearms was notable during the period to the joint elements of the 101st Infantry Battalion and 21st Infantry Battalion in Luuk, Sulu on May 24.

“Another member yielded with an M-14 rifle and ammunition in Malagutay, Zamboanga City to the Joint Task Force Zamboanga on May 25," Baclor said.

He added that the AFP's continuous accomplishments from its successful implementation of the whole-of-nation approach seek to end armed violence in the country through the convergence of civic and military efforts to bring development in conflict-affected areas.

"The AFP leadership lauded the troops for complying with the directive to put closure to the internal security threats as the AFP shifts its focus toward external defense operations," Baclor said.

Viscom: 40 more rebels neutralized in one month

From Philippine New Agency (May 31, 2023): Viscom: 40 more rebels neutralized in one month (By John Rey Saavedra)

WEAKENED MANPOWER. An M16 armalite rifle with a scope seized during the recent encounter between government troops and New People's Army rebels in Catarman, Northern Samar. Visayas Command chief, Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo on Wednesday (May 31, 2023) said the NPA's manpower and armed capability have weakened, as one month internal security operations neutralized 40 rebels. (Photo courtesy of Visayas Command PIO)

CEBU CITY – The Visayas Command (Viscom) said Wednesday the New People’s Army’s (NPA) manpower and armed capability have weakened further after the intensified operations conducted for the month of May.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, Viscom commander, said 40 suspected NPA rebels were neutralized through the 15 government-initiated internal security operations that led to encounters.

Of the 40 suspected NPA fighters, 17 died during encounters while 23 surrendered to the authorities, Arevalo said.

The military has also seized 54 firearms, 38 of which were recovered during operations, seven were discovered through information relayed by former rebels, and nine were surrendered to the troops.

“The CPP-NPA in the Visayas region has been substantially weakened having incurred devastating losses in their manpower and armed capability, as well as the collapse of their support system from the community,” Arevalo said in a statement.

Focused military operations, he said, would continue as he pledged that “there will be no safe place for these terrorists to hide nor a haven for them to rest.”

The most recent armed skirmishes between NPA fighters and soldiers occurred in Barangay Mabini in Catarman, Northern Samar on Monday, which led to the death of four suspected rebels and the recovery of four firearms.

Army escorts school teachers in critical villages in N. Cotabato

From Philippine New Agency (May 31, 2023): Army escorts school teachers in critical villages in N. Cotabato (By Edwin Fernandez)

ADDRESSING THE THREAT. Mayor Sumulong Sultan (standing) convened the municipal peace and order council in Pikit, North Cotabato Tuesday (May 30, 2023) to address the resurgence of violence and gun attacks in the area. Currently, military and police forces in the area are escorting teachers to public schools following the killing of a teacher and wounding of another during a gun attack last May 26, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Army 90IB)

COTABATO CITY – Following the recent killing of a teacher and wounding of another in Pikit, North Cotabato, the military has started providing security escorts to public school teachers in critical villages of the municipality.

Lt. Col. Rowel Gavilanes, the Army's 90th Infantry Battalion commander, said Wednesday that his unit also deployed motorcycle-riding soldiers "in full battle gear” to protect public school teachers as they travel to their respective schools and on the way home.

“The Department of Education has been alarmed by the attacks against teachers in Pikit, so we are here providing them security,” Gavilanes said in a radio interview.

On May 26, unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked and killed Joel Reformado, a teacher at the Damalasak Elementary School in Pikit, and injured his co-teacher Elton John Lapinid, while both were onboard a motorbike.

They were among the victims of gun attacks that hit the town since last year.

The local police listed more than 30 victims of shooting in different villages of Pikit as of this posting.

Education officials have condemned the killing of Reformado and urged authorities to take steps to ensure the safety of teachers and students.

Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan has ordered all village chairpersons to come up with their own security plan and address the threats confronting their respective areas.

Army confirms death of activist-turned-rebel in N. Samar clash

From Philippine New Agency (May 31, 2023): Army confirms death of activist-turned-rebel in N. Samar clash (By Sarwell Meniano)

ACTIVISM. Joshua Sagdullas joining an anti-government rally in Tacloban as a student activist in this Aug. 11, 2017 photo. The Philippine Army confirmed on Wednesday the death of the campus activist-turned-rebel during a recent clash between government forces and the New People’s Army in Northern Samar. (Photo from FB page of Joshua Musico Sagdullas)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army confirmed on Wednesday the death of a campus activist-turned-rebel during a recent clash between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Samar.

The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division verified in a press statement that one of the four casualties in the May 28 firefight was Joshua Musico Sagdullas, the Secretary General of Bayan Eastern Visayas and former chairperson of the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban Campus (UPVTC) College Student Council.

“His former comrade alias Kurati positively identified the cadaver of Joshua Musico Sagdullas known among armed rebels as alias Miyong served as the political instructor of the group,” the Philippine Army stated.

He also identified the three others killed during the armed encounter in upland Mabini village in Catarman, Northern Samar as Geraldine Teopinto alias Luz, the finance officer; Abigail Padula Baselga alias Moana, medical officer; and Vicente Termo.

Alias Kurati surrendered to village officials on April 30, hours after a clash between rebels and soldiers in Santander village in Bobon, Northern Samar. The same clash left seven rebels killed and seriously injured Kurati.

Sagdullas was one of the combatants belonging to the NPA subregional guerrilla unit deployed in Northern Samar to reinforce the NPA front committee 2 dismantled by the military early this year.

Maj. Gen. Camilo Ligayo, commander of the Army's 8th Infantry Division, was saddened by the demise of the young rebel because of his “pointless ideology.”

Sagdullas, he said, could have had a better future had he not joined the armed struggle.

“Another life has been lost in the war against the senseless ideology of the communist terrorist group. Let us put an end to this way of life of constant struggle and fear. The door is still open for those who want to surrender and live a better and more peaceful life,” Ligayo added.

The military confirmed that he joined the NPA as a full-time combatant in Northern Samar after months of persuading students of the University of Eastern Philippines to join activism.

For several years, Sagdullas was a student activist before his graduation in 2017. As the secretary general of the left-leaning group Bayan Eastern Visayas, he was active in organizing local chapters of the League of Filipino Students, Gabriela Youth and Pulso.

[Retire Analyst Note: Once again the connections between the above legal Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) front organizations and the underground, clandestine and insurrectionist New People's Army is plain for all to see. Joshua Sagdullas was a student at the University of Eastern Philippines and CPP front group member and recruiter. He eventually became the political instructor for the NPA Northern Samar.]