Monday, October 9, 2023

PNP rejects CHR’s request for records on the killing of 6 people in Negros Occidental

From Rappler (Oct 8, 2023): PNP rejects CHR’s request for records on the killing of 6 people in Negros Occidental (By REYMUND TITONG)

Vincent Parra, Commission on Human Rights - Negros chief, says police rejected his request for records, which might have made it easier for the commission to validate the information it had gleaned from media about the killing of 6 people tagged by the military as communist rebels

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The Kabankalan City Police Station has denied the request of the Commission on Human Rights-Negros for some pertinent records on the killing of a group of six in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City, on September 21.

Vincent Parra, Commission on Human Rights – Negros chief, told Rappler in an interview on Saturday, October 7, that the police had rejected his request asking for records, which might have made it easier for the commission to quickly validate the information it had initially gleaned from various media outlets about the killing of six people, tagged by the military as communist rebels.

“I requested a spot or blotter report from the Kabankalan City Police Station, but they turned down the request, disregarding the fact that it was a public record,” he said.

Parra said the owner of the funeral parlor where the local government unit brought the deceased’s remains gave him information that could benefit the commission in conducting its independent investigation.
Where it all started?

On September 21, six people were killed by the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion in an alleged clash in the upland community of Kabankalan City in the southern part of the Negros Occidental province.

Army Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office chief, tagged the six fatalities as rebels who opened fire at a group of soldiers who were responding to reports of the presence of an armed group who were allegedly extorting food.

The six fatalities were Bobby Pedro or Ka Rekoy; Mario Mullon or Ka Goring; Janice Flores or Ka Joyce, who was a medical personnel of the NPA; Alejo delos Reyes or Ka Bravo, and his wife Melissa Dela Peña or Ka Diane, who were reportedly on leave as the latter was six months pregnant; and tricycle driver Ruben Gaitan.

Ka Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the New People’s Army Southwest Negros Guerrilla Front (ASJC-NPA), said the group of 6 was allegedly fired at by the military troopers while onboard a motorcycle owned by Gaitan, contrary to the claims of the military.

Guerrero claimed that five of six fatalities were non-combatant members of the NPA. Gaitan, however, was just a tricycle driver contracted by the group to transport them.

Ruben Gaitan’s kin strongly refuted earlier claims of the military that he was an NPA member, but a worker in a sugar milling company in the city who also plies a motorcycle during his free time or after work.

Gen Gaitan, Ruben’s sister, told Rappler of their dismay at the military who tagged his brother as one of the members of the New People’s Army (NPA), and was “brutally killed.”

Gen Gaitan said the spiel of the military calling their brother a communist rebel was a usual narrative to cover up their lapses every time they kill a civilian.

CHR-Negros backed up the assertions of Ruben’s family that he was not an NPA nor associated with them.

The assertion was in response to the military’s claim that the kin of the slain tricycle driver was unaware of the connection to the rebel group.

Whether in Negros Occidental or not, the military has a long list of individuals, groups, and communities in the country that they consider to be communist fronts, rebel forces, or communist-influenced – which has spawned fear and threat to the lives of the people.
Cooperating with the investigation

Javines said the Army is currently cooperating with the ongoing investigation conducted by the CHR to prove that the troops in Kabankalan City adhered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) rules of engagement, the provisions of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and the rule of law.

“We are confident and firmly believe that the said encounter was legitimate. Therefore, we are open and welcome any inquiry by independent parties, as the investigation’s results will ultimately clear and vindicate us from any allegations of human rights violations,” Javines said.

Various rights groups and individuals, including Negros bishop Gerardo Alminaza have called an independent probe into the killing of a group of 6, to uncover the truth behind the incident.

Javines asserted the rebels killed had perpetrated various atrocities in southern Negros Occidental and were active members of the Sandatahang Yunit Propaganda (SYP) Platoon, South-Western Front (SWF), Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (KR-NCBS) operating in the towns of Cauayan, Hinobaan, Ilog, Candoni and the cities Kabankalan and Sipalay.

With the deaths of the six, authorities claimed the front membership was down to eight active members.

On Friday, October 6, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., visited the 3rd Infantry Division based in Jamindan town in Capiz and lauded the troops for their unwavering dedication in fulfilling their sworn duties to the country.

China urges Philippines to end ‘provocations’ in South China Sea

From Rappler (Oct 9, 2023): China urges Philippines to end ‘provocations’ in South China Sea (By REUTERS)

Since the grounding of the BRP Sierra Madre at the atoll in 1999 in Manila's attempt to assert its sovereignty claim, China has repeatedly called on the Philippines to tow away the vessel

BEIJING, China – China on Monday, October 9, warned the Philippines against further “provocations” at an atoll in the South China Sea, saying such acts had violated Chinese territorial sovereignty, contravened international law and disrupted regional peace and stability.

The Philippines’ territory is defined by a series of international treaties, and the atoll has never been part of its territory, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a strongly worded statement, referring to the atoll as Renai Reef.

In recent months, the Philippines has been sending supplies to its troops stationed on a World War Two-era, transport-ship-turned-military outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal, prompting the China Coast Guard to repeatedly deploy vessels to block the resupply missions.

China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, pointing to a line on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said the line on China’s maps had no legal basis, which Beijing rejects.

The atoll is known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines, while China calls it the Renai Reef, lying 190 km (118 miles) off the Philippine island of Palawan.

First, China wooed us. Now they are dividing us.

“The Philippines has no legal basis at all to claim sovereignty over Renai Reef on the grounds of its comparative proximity to Philippine territory,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Since the grounding of the BRP Sierra Madre at the atoll in 1999 in Manila’s attempt to assert its sovereignty claim, China has repeatedly called on the Philippines to tow away the vessel.

“The Philippines repeatedly promised to do so as soon as possible,” the Chinese ministry said.

“However, 24 years have passed, and the Philippine warship is still there. China cannot accept the Philippines’ acts of going back on its words again and again and violating China’s territorial sovereignty,” it said.

The Philippines must stop “making provocations” and “creating troubles” at sea, the ministry added.

China will continue to do what is necessary to firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, it said.

China faces ‘global isolation’ over ‘irresponsible actions’ in West PH Sea – AFP

Rebels in Visayas continue to weaken – VisCom

Posted to Panay News (Oct 9, 2023): Rebels in Visayas continue to weaken – VisCom (By Ruby P. Silubrico)


ILOILO City – Relentless operations by government troops are significantly weakening the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the Visayas, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Visayas Command (VisCom).

“We will sustain our campaign until they surrender or are totally eradicated,” said Major General Benedict Arevalo, VisCom commander.

He further mentioned that the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) aims to neutralize or dismantle at least two guerilla fronts in Region 6 before 2023 concludes.

“The rebels have already weakened, so our goal is to dismantle their legal fronts before the end of this year,” Arevalo stated.

Currently, there are five legal front committees operating in Panay and Negros, which include the Southern and Central fronts in Panay, as well as the Southwest and Central Negros fronts in Negros.

“We hope that bullets and guns aren’t the only solution… If they persist in their refusal, we’ll continue our offensive operations. Our pursuit of them will be relentless, and they can’t escape the law,” Arevalo emphasized.

Data from the 3ID highlighted that in September alone, 30 NPA rebels were neutralized, meaning either killed, captured, or surrendered, across Western and Central Visayas.

Detailed breakdown reveals that 16 were killed in clashes, 12 opted to surrender to the government, and two were captured.

During this period, the military confiscated 33 firearms — 15 high-powered and 18 low-powered — as well as five explosives.
(Watchmen Daily Journal)/PN

Machine gun, sniper rifle recovered from Binalbagan gun battle

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 7, 2023): Machine gun, sniper rifle recovered from Binalbagan gun battle (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion yesterday recovered high powered guns and assorted ammunition, among other war materials, following an encounter with New People’s Army rebels in Sitio Capaklan, Brgy. Santol, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental.

1Lt. Mary Liza Joy de Guzman, 62nd Infantry Battalion Civil Military Operations officer, disclosed that Army soldiers responded to reports of civilians on the presence of armed rebels in their community.

De Guzman said the firefight lasted about five minutes, after which the rebels scampered in various directions, leaving behind an M60 general purpose machine gun with a link of ammunition, a caliber .30 bolt action sniper rifle with ammunition, a rifle grenade, three backpacks containing medical paraphernalia, assorted bullets, subversive documents, and personal belongings.

She added that the 10 armed NPA rebels encountered by 62IB soldiers are believed to be members of the composite units of the Regional Striking Force (RSF) and remnants of the Central Negros 1, both under the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros/Cebu/Bohol.

Aside from the firearms and explosives, bloodstains were also discovered at the encounter site and along the rebels’ withdrawal routes.

On October 1, two M653 assault rifles with six magazines containing ammunition, a link of 7.62mm ammunition, an improvised explosive device, three rifle grenades, and other war materials were also recovered by the 94th Infantry Battalion soldiers, following an encounter in Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City.

Furthermore, six NPA rebels also died, while several firearms were recovered by Army soldiers as a result of an encounter in Brgy. Tabugon, Kabankalan City, on September 21.

In a statement, Lt Col. William Pesase, 62IB commander, lauded the efforts of the barangay residents in reporting the presence of rebels in their village, which led to the successful recovery of high powered firearms. No 62IB soldiers were injured in the armed skirmishes, according to the Philippine Army.

Pesase reiterated his call on the NPA remnants, especially those fleeing injured rebels to surrender, stressing that the 62IB will not stop hunting them down.*

87 soldiers earn medals for gallantry

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 9, 2023): 87 soldiers earn medals for gallantry (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

A total of 87 enlisted personnel and military officers assigned in various infantry units of the 3rd Infantry Division in Panay have been conferred with medals by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command, for gallantry in combat operations against the New People’s Army.

Viscom chief Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo led the conferment of Gold Cross and Silver Cross Medals during the awarding rites held recently at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.

Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3ID commander and concurrent chief of Joint Task Force Spear received the Gawad Kaunlaran Medal for his meritorious achievement on the implementation of various government peace initiatives in Western and Central Visayas, while Col. Melencio Ragudo, 3ID chief of staff, got the Meritorious Achievement Medal for contribution in enhancing the combat readiness of 3ID personnel.

The Gold Cross Medals were awarded to eight soldiers assigned at the 31st Division Reconnaissance Company, while Silver Cross Medals were conferred by Lt. Gen. Arevalo to 79 soldiers assigned at the 301st Infantry Brigade, 82nd Infantry Battalion, 12th Infantry Battalion and 61st Infantry Battalion.

In a statement issued by the 301st Infantry Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Michael Samson, the 87 awardees played a crucial role in successful encounters within the Iloilo province, particularly in Leon, Iloilo, which led to the neutralization of key NPA personalities in Panay, including Rebecca Alfaro, alias Jing, who was the secretary of the Komiteng-Rehiyon Panay’s Southern Front; Joven Ceralvo, alias Lex, the 2nd deputy secretary of the Southern Front, KR-Panay; Gerly Tejeros, alias Elay, the 2nd deputy secretary of the Education Department; and nine other NPA rebels.

Arevalo also conferred the Gawad Sa Kaunlaran award to 458 personnel of the 61IB for their meritorious and invaluable contributions to the AFP’s socio-economic and other non-combatant activities.

Samson commended the accomplishments of soldiers under the supervision of 301st Infantry Brigade in safeguarding the people of Panay and Guimaras Islands against NPA atrocities.

“May these awards inspire us to double our efforts and work tirelessly towards achieving a just and lasting peace,” he stressed.

In his message, Arevalo, who commended the unwavering dedication exhibited by the 301st Bayanihan Troopers in their efforts to locate and engage the remaining members of Kometing Rehiyon–Panay, called on the rebel remnants to avail themselves of government programs for former rebels.

“Rather than suffering the same fate as your comrades who wasted their lives fighting for a useless and futile armed struggle, decide and choose the path to peace while there is still time,” Arevalo said.*

4 NPA guerilla fronts dismantled in Negros Island

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 9, 2023): 4 NPA guerilla fronts dismantled in Negros Island (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Four of the five New People’s Army guerilla fronts in Negros Island have been declared “dismantled” by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, following focused military operations without let up against the NPA since 2018.

In his report to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his recent visit to Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, Maj. Gen. Marion Sison,3ID commander, reported that eight active NPA guerilla fronts in Negros and Panay has been reduced to three, which they also declared as “weakened.”

Sison also reported that 3ID infantry units figured in 73 armed encounters with the NPA in Negros, Panay and Bohol, of which six were major armed engagements that resulted in the neutralization of 137 rebel personalities, 11 of whom were top leaders of the NPA, and the recovery 118 firearms from January to October this year.

“With strong partnership, cooperation and collaboration with our stakeholders, let us continue to work together towards our goal of declaring our area of operations free from the influence of the communist terrorist group (CTG) the soonest time possible,” said the 3ID commander.

Lt. Col. J Jay Javines, 3ID Civil Military Operations chief, yesterday said that the Central Negros (CN) 1 and Central Negros (CN) 2 of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siqujior were added to the list of guerilla fronts declared as dismantled.

The forces of CN1 and CN2, respectively known also as Leonardo Panaligan Command and Mt Cansermon Command, have been reduced to a squad sized unit, composed of about 10 members each.

Javines said they are now waiting a resolution from the Joint Peace Security and Coordinating Committee (JPSCC), which is composed of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Police, to formalize the declaration of CN1 and CN2 as dismantled guerilla fronts.

In previous years, the JPSCC also declared the South East and Northern Negros Fronts of KR NCBS as dismantled.

Declaring a guerilla front as dismantled does not necessarily mean that they will cease their operations against the NPA remnants, which he admitted will be a challenge for them hunt down, since they are now composed of a smaller group.

On October 6, soldiers of the 62nd Infantry Battalion encountered CN 2 remnants and the Regional Striking Force of KR NCBS in Brgy. Santol, Binalbagan, that resulted in the recovery of an M60 machine gun and a .30 caliber Bolt action sniper rifle, assorted ammunition, and a rifle grenade, among other items.

Javines said the three remaining NPA guerilla fronts up for dismantling are the South West Front of KR NCBS in southern Negros, as well as Southern and Central Front of Komiteng Rehiyonal Panay.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier expressed his optimism that Western Visayas may soon be declared “insurgency free,” because of the declining strength and support to the remnants of the New People’s Army, since 2019.

“Hinihintay ko ang imbitasyon ninyo na makabalik ako dito sa 3ID para ideklara ang area na ito, insurgent-free. (I will wait for your invitation for me to return to 3ID, to declare this area as insurgent-free). Go ahead, keep up the good work, keep working, we will get there in the end” the President, in his message to the 3ID troops, said.

Maj. Gen Sison expressed his gratitude to the President for recognizing the dedicated efforts and achievements of 3ID.

“We are indeed fortunate that our President visited us and acknowledged our efforts to end local communist armed conflict in Western and Central Visayas. More than his visit, may his words inspire all of us to work even harder to accomplish our mission,” Sison said.*

Defense chief pushes fight vs loose firearms in Bangsamoro region

From MindaNews (Oct 8, 2023): Defense chief pushes fight vs loose firearms in Bangsamoro region (By BONG S. SARMIENTO)

Seized loose firearms presented during the Maguindanao del Norte Stakeholders’ Summit for Unity and Peace in Cotabato City on Tuesday (1 August 2023). MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 8 October) – Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. stressed the need to intensify the campaign against loose firearms in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), noting that “internal security is as much a priority as external defense.”

Teodoro made the pronouncement during the launching of the Assistance for Security, Peace, Integration and Recovery for Advancing Human Security (ASPIRE) in the BARMM in Isabela City, Basilan on October 5.

He described the Japanese-funded project as “a proactive and innovative way of reducing the proliferation of illegal weapons in society.”

“Kaalinsabay ng ASPIRE project, kailangan ang police and military visibility to deter any form of aggression, para sa mga magsu-surrender, mararamdaman nila na safe sila (Together with the ASPIRE project, there is a need for police and military visibility to deter any form of aggression, and for those who will surrender to feel they are safe,” he said in a statement.

ASPIRE aims to reduce small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the Bangsamoro region and to provide livelihood support to former Moro combatants and members of private armed groups, as well as raise awareness on the negative effects of possessing SALW.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Unity and Reconciliation (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the initiative is part of the normalization process under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the CAB in 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations. At the core of the CAB is the establishment of a Bangsamoro region, which was realized in January 2019 following the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

“We in OPAPRU believe that in the near future, guns and other weapons will be kept by residents because it will be shameful to bring them around. Moreover, there will no longer be a need for them, especially in communities where peace, security and development reign,” Galvez said.

To complement the SALW efforts of the GPH-MILF Joint Normalization Committee, the government of Japan funded and the United Nations Development Programme implemented the ASPIRE program. This initiative encourages the registration and stenciling of loose firearms in the identified areas.

The ASPIRE project started in September 2022 with the Japanese government extending a grant of $5 million (PhP285 million).

Teodoro said that programs such as ASPIRE intend “to harden the country’s integrity in order to face external challenges.”

He urged the residents of Basilan and the rest of the BARMM to protect their “hard-earned peace” as there are many groups who are trying to wreak havoc, apparently referring to the Abu Sayyaf Group and private armed groups in the region.

Teodoro said the national and Bangsamoro governments must work together so that the threats to national security are eliminated in the area. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

DFA: Locsin joined Ayungin resupply to get firsthand info on WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9, 2023): DFA: Locsin joined Ayungin resupply to get firsthand info on WPS (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

SUPPLY MISSION. A Chinese Coast Guard vessel with bow number 21551 is seen sailing a few meters away from BRP Cabra that was escorting the resupply boats of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during a RORE mission on Oct. 4, 2023. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday (Oct. 7) said Special Envoy to China Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr. joined the resupply mission to get firsthand information on the situation in the West Philippine Sea. (Screengrab from PTV)

MANILA – The participation of Special Envoy to China Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr. in the latest resupply to Ayungin Shoal is part of an “official mission” to get firsthand information on the situation in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.

Locsin joined the routine rotation and reprovisioning (RORE) mission on Oct. 4 aboard the BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409), one of the escort vessels of two Philippine ships that brought fresh supplies to the troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

“As Special Envoy, he is expected to be up to date on the matters that he will discuss with China; and there is no better way to understand the West Philippine Sea issue than to see, for himself, what is happening in our own waters,” DFA Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said in a text message on Saturday night.

“We are confident that this firsthand information will allow him to effectively convey our concerns to China,” she added.

Locsin, the Philippine ambassador to the United Kingdom and former DFA Secretary, was appointed as President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr's special envoy to China for special concerns in August 2023.

As of this posting, the DFA has yet to respond to information if Locsin will be meeting with Chinese officials anytime soon.

The DFA has filed a total of 46 notes verbales against China from January to Oct. 4, 2023 but Daza did not confirm whether the latest diplomatic communication is a protest against the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) during the Oct. 4 RORE mission.

While successful, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said there were attempts by a significant number of CCG and Chinese Maritime Militia vessels to "block" and "harass" Philippine supply ships Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 2.

AFP shifts defenses to Philippine EEZ

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9, 2023): AFP shifts defenses to Philippine EEZ (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program is now being reconfigured or shifted to provide the military with the capabilities needed to protect the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or 200 nautical miles from its coast.

This shift is now undergoing in Horizon 3 of the AFP Modernization Program, military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. confirmed in a recent media interview.

Brawner said this reconfiguration, while still defensive in nature, was recommended by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. shortly after his appointment last June replacing then Defense Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. who was reappointed as Presidential Peace Adviser.

"Nung dumating si SND (Secretary of National Defense) nakita nya yung Horizon 3 so sabi nya we should revisit it and 'rehorizon' yun yung term nya 'rehorizon’ (When the SND came, he saw Horizon 3, so told us we should revisit it and 'rehorizon' it, that was his term, 'rehorizon'),” Brawner said.

“So tiningnan natin, the original Horizon 3 was made prior to the events that happened yung water cannoning, laser pointing mga ganun ganun. Parang ang focus nya was territorial defense in depth yun yung luma na strategy (So we looked at it, the original Horizon 3 was made prior to the events that happened, the water cannoning, laser pointing, and the like. His focus was like territorial defense in depth, that’s the old strategy),” he added.

Brawner was referring to the incidents where the Chinese tried to interfere with Philippine resupply efforts to its detachment aboard the BRP Sierra Madre which is keeping watch over Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

He said the original Horizon 3 was made with "territorial defense in depth" in mind, meaning the military has to wait for threats to come near before engaging them and consists of "first, second, third, and fourth line of defense".

"But this time because of what's happening, proactive tayo. So sabi ni SND says we need to be proactive, and we project outwards our defenses," Brawner said.

This means, he said, defensive efforts will now focus on defending the Philippines' EEZ and not only the country's baselines or coasts.

Brawner said this refocus is similar to the United States' defense strategy of "forward defense" where threats are contained or repulsed as far away as possible.

In this shift, he said the AFP is aiming to protect Philippine-held islands in the WPS which he identified as Pag-asa, Panata, Parola, Likas, Patag and Lawak.

Aside from these islands, the country is also occupying four other features in the WPS– Kota Island, Likas Island, Rizal Reef, and Ayungin Shoal.

Brawner said the AFP needs equipment capable of projecting defenses forward to carry out this mission.

"So ano kailangan mo dyan e di mga multirole-fighters (MRFs), mga barko, submarine(s) mga ganun ang kailangan mo para makaproject ka, tapos hindi lamang west, titingnan rin natin yung north and east lalo yung east kasi kailangang depensahin din natin yung Philippine Rise (So what equipment do we need for this mission, of course, we need multi-role fighters, more naval ships, submarines, things like that, you need to project your defenses. And we will be doing this not only in the West but also in the North and East, we (also) need to defend the Philippine Rise),” he said.

Under Horizon 3, which is now being tweaked, Brawner said there are plans to increase the numbers of MRFs from the initial 12 units planned earlier.

The AFP chief did not specify on how many MRFs will be added as the Air Force is still finalizing on the planned numbers.

Horizon 3 was initially scheduled from 2023 to 2028 while Horizon 2 was from 2018 to 2022 and Horizon 1 from 2013 to 2017. But he stressed that these are "more potent" and have "more numbers."

PH, Aussie forces to hold counter-terror drills

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9, 2023): PH, Aussie forces to hold counter-terror drills (By Priam Nepomuceno and Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

COUNTER TERRORISM DRILL. Philippine Army special operation forces are seen here preparing for the "Dawn Caracha 2023" bilateral counter-terrorism exercises with the Australian Defense Forces to be held in El Nido, Palawan from Oct. 16 to 27. The bilateral exercises aim to enhance the interoperability of both services. (Photo courtesy of the Western Command)

MANILA – Philippine Army (PA) and Australian Defense Forces (ADF) special operation forces will hold counter-terrorism drills and related exercises from October 16 to 27 at the Western Command (Wescom) area of operations in Palawan.

This bilateral exercise, known as "Dawn Caracha 2023", aims to enhance the interoperability of both services, Wescom said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

"Scheduled from October 16 to October 27 in El Nido, the exercise will primarily focus on conducting counter-terrorism operations and special operations, showcasing the capabilities of the two forces," it added.

Preparations for "Dawn Caracha 2023" began October 7, as Philippine Army special operation forces troops held pre-exercise movements and operational briefings.

The exercise presents an opportunity for both units to showcase their skills, strengthen their partnership, and foster increased collaboration. It also aims to enhance collaboration in tackling complex security challenges on the country's western front.

"Furthermore, 'Dawn Caracha 2023' will also definitely contribute to regional security and foster closer cooperation between the Philippines and Australia," the Wescom added.

‘Combined maritime activities’

Speaking at the Australian Institute of International Affairs prior to the 6th Philippine-Australia Ministerial Meeting in Adelaide on Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Enrique Manalo said the two countries have agreed to “reinforce commitment as maritime democracies” to ensure maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight.

“In this context, we are expanding maritime cooperation across policy-planning, practical engagement and capacity-building activities including through combined maritime activities in the South China Sea,” he said.

He added that part of this support for a rules-based order is Australia’s “unequivocal support” for the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea and its rejection of historic claims that have no basis in international law.

“Its assistance in upgrading the capacities of the Philippine Coast Guard, as pledged by Minister Penny Wong early this year is also ‘part of this’,” he said.

Manalo, meanwhile, pointed out that the Philippines will play its part “not to confront nor provoke, but to honor our commitment to our people for the protection of our sovereignty, territorial integrity, and regional stability”.

“Our friendship, forged in the crucible of war, has evolved to assume a mantle of stewardship of global peace and stability, with our defense of democracy, sovereignty, and the rule of law,” he said.

“Our Strategic Partnership is but a new chapter in the ongoing story of our ties as builders and keepers of peace and prosperity of our peoples and of the region,” he added.

Army execs reach out to bishop for peace in Negros Island

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9, 2023): Army execs reach out to bishop for peace in Negros Island (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

COLLABORATION. Bishop Gerardo Alminaza (center) of the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros Occidental meets with Philippine Army officials led by Maj. Gen. Marion Sison (right), commander of 3rd Infantry Division, during a courtesy visit at the Bishop’s Home in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental on Sunday (Oct. 8, 2023). “I want to collaborate. I want it to be clear: I am not in favor of violence, but we must establish the foundation for people to live peacefully,” Alminaza said. (Photo courtesy of 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army)

BACOLOD CITY – Top officials of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) have reached out to San Carlos Diocese Bishop Gerardo Alminaza for strengthened collaboration in the peace and development efforts in Negros Island.

In a report on Monday, the Army said Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3ID commander, led a courtesy visit to Alminaza at the Bishop’s Home in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental on Sunday.

Lt. Col. J-Jay Javines, 3ID Public Affairs Office chief, said the bishop has expressed his intention to work with the military and noted that the root causes of violence must be addressed.

“I want to collaborate. I want it to be clear: I am not in favor of violence, but we must establish the foundation for people to live peacefully,” Alminaza was quoted as saying.

“We need long-term solutions, not just quick fixes, as the same problems persist from long ago. Allegations of abuse must be systematically investigated, balanced, and evidence gathered to establish the truth,” the bishop said.

Javines said Alminaza also stressed the importance of dialogue in resolving conflicts as he clarified that he is “not advocating armed struggle”.

“I can assure you, without hesitation, that I am not advocating for armed struggle. I am a proponent of the Christian faith, combining prayerful and proactive approaches, both spiritual and social,” the bishop added.

At the end of the meeting, Alminaza led a prayer, seeking guidance as well as protection and safety for government troops as they carry out their duties to sustain peace and a strengthened bond between the security forces and the church.

Sison assured the religious leader that the Church-Military and Police Advisory Group will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders to address security threats and challenges and tackle social issues that contribute to armed conflict.

“Our soldiers invest their lives in ensuring peace and security for all. I do not tolerate any violations of humanitarian rights. If such violations occur, I will ensure that those responsible are held accountable and subjected to investigation,” he said.

During the courtesy visit, Sison was joined by Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin and Brig. Gen. Joey Escanillas, commanders of the 303rd and 302nd Infantry Brigade, respectively, and Lt. Col. Arnel Calaoagan, commanding officer of the 79th Infantry Battalion (IB).

The meeting came after six NPA rebels were killed in a clash with troops of the 47th Infantry Battalion in Kabankalan City in southern Negros on Sept. 21 and 12 communist rebels in northern Negros surrendered to the 79IB on Sept. 29.

Soldier killed in armed encounter with NPAs in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9, 2023): Soldier killed in armed encounter with NPAs in Nueva Ecija (By Jason De Asis)

SLAIN SOLDIER. Private First Class Sher Nelson B. Casayuran, the soldier killed during an encounter with rebels on Sunday (Oct. 8, 2023) in Laur town, Nueva Ecija province. The encounter happened after soldiers responded to the report of villagers about an armed group harassing the people. (Photo courtesy of Army's 7th ID)

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija – A military personnel from the 84th Infantry (Victorious) Battalion, Philippine Army was killed following an armed encounter with the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the hinterlands of Barangay San Fernando, Laur, Nueva Ecija on Sunday.

In his report on Monday, Major Gen. Andrew D. Costelo, commander of the Army's 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, said Private First Class (PFC) Sher Nelson B. Casayuran sustained a gunshot wound and was declared dead on arrival at the Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center, Cabanatuan City, this province.

Costelo said the encounter took place following a tip-off from the residents that around 10 CTG members were circling the area and harassing the people by brandishing their guns. Troops were immediately sent to the area.

"Those CTG(communist terrorist group) members were armed and has been terrorizing the community. Pinipilit nilang sumuporta ang mga tao sa kanila kasi hindi na nga sila makagalaw dahil wala na silang suporta ng masa. Kaya panay ang pananakot nila sa mga tao (They are forcing the people to support them because they can no longer move due to lack of people's support. They are always threatening the people),” he said in media interview.

"The Kaugnay troopers mourn for the loss of PFC Casayuran. His bravery, dedication, and heroism will not be forgotten as he offered his ultimate sacrifice just to protect the people of Laur,” he said.

Costelo asked the residents to remain calm and vigilant and report to the authorities any unusual activities in their communities.