Tuesday, October 17, 2023

FACT CHECK: Decommissioning includes Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters from Lanao del Norte

Posted to MindaNews (Oct 16, 2023): FACT CHECK: Decommissioning includes Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters from Lanao del Norte

A number of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters from Lanao del Norte have been decommissioned, contrary to a claim by Rep. Khalid Q. Dimaporo of the province’s 1st District.

Dimaporo made the claim after Secretary Rex Gatchalian of the Department of Social Welfare and Development presented the agency’s proposed budget for 2024 to the committee on appropriations of the House of Representatives on August 17.

The congressman said: “The Moro Islamic Liberation Front  have [sic] not been decommissioned in Lanao del Norte. When we discussed this with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  leaders during the last congress, and sinabi nila, ang may kasalanan is DSWD (they said the fault lies with DSWD). The DSWD is very slow in doing case studies. So I would like a clarification on this. And I will not bring it up here in the budget briefing in favor of tradition, and I will not bring it up in the plenary in support of our majority, but instead I will talk to the secretary personally.”

“But I would like this placed on the record so my constituency in the province of Lanao del Norte can hear and can see that we are trying to do our very best to ensure that peace will prevail under the BBM (Bongbong Marcos) administration,” he added.

That portion of the video of the budget briefing where Dimaporo made the claim was posted in his Facebook page on October 11, and has generated 144,000 views, 605 shares, 380 comments and 6,300 reactions as of 3 p.m. Monday, October 16.

But in a news article posted on its website on March 18, 2020, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) said that of the 12,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front  combatants who were decommissioned under phase two of the decommissioning process, 986 were from Lanao del Norte.

“Under phase two of the decommissioning process, 5,361 combatants were decommissioned from the Darapanan cluster; 1,691 from Lanao del Sur cluster; 1,100 from Salman cluster; 986 from Lanao del Norte cluster; 954 from Rajamuda cluster; 848 from Old Maganoy cluster; 742 from Davao del Norte cluster; and 318 from Al-barka cluster,” the article reads.

According to the same article, each of the decommissioned combatants received a total of P100,000 in transitory cash assistance, P80,000 from the Bangsamoro Transitory Family Support Package and P20,000 from the Livelihood Settlement Grant, a fund that was created in partnership between the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (now the OPAPRU) and the DSWD.

The second phase of the decommissioning process began on August 28, 2019, and ended in March 2020.

The state-run Philippine Information Agency, citing the OPAPRU, reported last April 30 that around 400 decommissioned and non-decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front  combatants received their Certificates of Live Birth through the Access to Legal Identity and Social Services for Decommissioned Combatants (ALIAS-DC) Project on April 27, 2023 in Camp Bilal in Munai, Lanao del Norte.

ALIAS-DC is being implemented by the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment Through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) Program, with funding from the European Union, Australian Embassy in the Philippines, Japan, and The Asia Foundation.

The same story appeared in the news website of ABS-CBN.

The decommissioning process is among the key provisions of the Annex on Normalization of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to help former Moro Islamic Liberation Front  combatants transition to civilian life.

“As of August 10, 2023, a total of 26,132 Moro Islamic Liberation Front  combatants and 4,625 of their firearms have been successfully decommissioned since 2015 by the IDB (Independent Decommissioning Body), which is tasked to implement the decommissioning process,” Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said, according to a press release from OPAPRU on Thursday October 12.

As with all our other reports, MindaNews welcomes leads or suggestions from the public to potential fact-check stories.

MindaNews is a verified signatory to the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Checking Network. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno / MindaNews)

Annex on Normalization, cab, Comprehensibr Agreement on the Bangsamoro, decommissioning, fact check, false, IDB, lanao del norte, milf, Rep. Khalid Q. Dimaporo


AFP: Submarine acquisition set in latter part of modernization program

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 16, 2023): AFP: Submarine acquisition set in latter part of modernization program

ARMED FORCES of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Branwer Jr. said the acquisition of diesel-electric submarines would take place in the latter part of the military’s ongoing modernization program.

"The (Philippine) Navy has a long range of equipment requests on its wish list," Brawner said in a recent media interview, when asked if the acquisition of at least two submarines for the Philippine Navy is included in the new Horizon 3 of the AFP's modernization program.

The modernization program is still being finalized.

The budget for the proposed submarine acquisition program is placed between PHP80 billion and PHP110 billion and includes basing, maintenance and crew training.

Brawner said the PN’s need for more naval vessels would possibly be included in the new Horizon 3, which is initially scheduled from 2023 to 2028.

Meanwhile, the AFP modernization program’s Horizon 2 was originally set from 2018 to 2022 and Horizon 1 from 2013 to 2017.

Brawner said these proposed equipment to be acquired for the new Horizon 3 will be "more potent" and have "more numbers".

He said the AFP modernization program is 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.

He added that 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.

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

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, Brawner 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 and these are Kota Island, Likas Island, Rizal Reef, and Ayungin Shoal.

To carry out this mission, Brawner said the AFP needs equipment capable of projecting defenses forward. (Priam Nepomuceno)


Platoons of soldiers to augment security forces for BSKE in NegOr

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17, 2023): Platoons of soldiers to augment security forces for BSKE in NegOr (By John Rey Saavedra)

AUGMENTATION FORCE. Four platoons of Army soldiers stand in formation in preparation for their travel to Negros Oriental on Monday (Oct. 17, 2023) to augment the existing force for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on Oct. 30. Visayas Command chief Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo said the additional troops will ensure the safety and security of the people in Negros Oriental during the elections. (Photo courtesy of Viscom PIO)

CEBU CITY – Four platoons of Army soldiers have been deployed to Negros Oriental to augment the existing forces that will secure the polling precincts for the Oct. 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

In a statement on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, chief of the Visayas Command (Viscom), said troops from Eastern Visayas attended the send-off ceremony in Tacloban City on Monday and traveled straight to Negros Oriental.

“Peace and order situation in Negros Oriental remains very much under control. However, we don’t want to take any chances. This is to ensure the safety and security of our people, as they exercise their rights and cast their votes in the upcoming BSKE,” he said.

The augmentation force of over 120 personnel is in line with the pronouncement of regional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Central Visayas, lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano, that personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be deployed to the 549 clustered voting centers in the said province, along with Philippine National Police personnel.

“We will adhere to the directive of the Comelec pertaining to the security deployment in Negros Oriental since the entire province is under their control for the duration of the election period. The additional troops will provide us with flexibility, as we secure not only the voting centers but also the entire province and ensure a safe, peaceful and orderly election,” Arevalo added.

Negros Oriental currently has nine villages under the Comelec watchlist, eight of which are under the category of areas of immediate concern (AIC) due to the reported presence of New People’s Army, and one under the category of areas of concern (AOC) due to intense political rivalry.

Securing the polling precincts

According to Comelec in Central Visayas, AFP personnel who will render election duty in Negros Oriental will be deployed inside the voting centers along with the PNP members.

In other places, AFP personnel are only allowed beyond the 50-meter radius from the voting centers.

Castillano thanked Viscom for its “commitment to ensuring secure, accurate, and fair elections in Negros Oriental.”

“This would assure the voters and stakeholders of Negros Oriental that they could exercise their right to vote free from fear, intimidation, and violence. Hopefully, the voters would go out and vote on the election day,” Castillano told the Philippine News Agency.

He said having soldiers at the precincts has been a practice in Cebu, especially in areas where security is a problem.

The electoral boards will issue an order of detail for peace officers that will specify when the latter can enter the 50-meter voting area perimeter and how near they can come to further ensure safety of all stakeholders.


Ex-NPA rebels in N. Ecija get carp, catfish fingerlings from BFAR

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17, 2023): Ex-NPA rebels in N. Ecija get carp, catfish fingerlings from BFAR (By Zorayda Tecson)

LIVELIHOOD AID. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, in partnership with the Army's 91st Infantry Battalion, distributes 16,000 fingerlings to members of two people's organizations in the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija on Monday (Oct. 16, 2023). The two groups have as members former Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) members and supporters. (Photo courtesy of 91IB)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has provided about 16,000 fingerlings to former members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) during a distribution activity in the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija.

The BFAR, through the National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center (NFFTEC) and in collaboration with the Army’s 91st Infantry Battalion (91IB), distributed on Monday the carp and catfish fingerlings to members of two people's organizations (POs) – the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay Malinao Association and Barangay Tagumpay People’s Association, both based in Gabaldon town.

Lt. Col. Julito B. Recto, commander of the Army's 91IB, said the beneficiaries will grow the fingerlings in fishponds built by the POs in their town as a requirement for the grant.

The livelihood assistance is under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) program, which aims to support and assist the former CPP-NPA rebels and sympathizers in starting new lives.

The program beneficiaries thanked the concerned government agencies for the livelihood aid that could give them a sustainable income.

“Nagpapasalamat po kami sa mga kasundulahan kasi dahil sa kanila ay nagkaroon kami ng livelihood na semilya ng isda na galing sa BFAR. Maraming salamat po. Malaking tulong po ito sa amin (We are thankful to the military. Because of them, we now have a source of livelihood – the fingerlings from BFAR. Thank you very much. This is a big help to us),” Roderick Tribianis, president of the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay Malinao Association, said in a video interview on Tuesday.

Tribianis said they are determined to improve their lives and provide a better future for their families by nurturing their new livelihood venture.

Yolanda Baldos, president of the Barangay Tagumpay People’s Association, was likewise thankful for the assistance that was granted to them.

“Kami po ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa BFAR at sa kasundaluhan sa tulong para kami ay makapagsimula ng livelihood (We are thankful to BFAR and the military for the assistance that could help us start a livelihood),” Baldos said.

The two people's groups will grow the fingerlings

Maria Jodecel Danting, chief of BFAR-NFFTC, said the distribution of fingerlings is part of the collaborative efforts of the NTF-ELCAC members to empower the communities, especially those affected by the communist groups' atrocities.

"Through NTF-ELCAC, tutulungan natin silang magkaroon ng livelihood projects na magiging source ng kanilang pagkakakitaan (we will help them have livelihood projects that would become their source of income),” Danting said.


Comelec-BARMM needs more poll workers from Army, Marines: exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17, 2023): Comelec-BARMM needs more poll workers from Army, Marines: exec (By Edwin Fernandez)

Commission on Elections-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Director Ray Sumalipao. (Photo courtesy of Comelec-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – The Commission on Elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Comelec-BARMM) needs more Army and Marines personnel to serve as poll officials for the Oct. 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, the Comelec-BARMM director, said the poll body has already trained 2,000 police personnel to serve as electoral board (EB) members after about an equal number of teachers have refused to serve in the BSKE for BARMM’s 2,590 villages.

“Relationship with candidates and security issues were among the reasons some teachers nix poll duties,” Sumalipao said in a radio interview Tuesday.

Sumalipao said part of the poll body’s preparation is to train more members of the security sector to perform poll duties in the event more teachers refuse to serve, or when violence erupts.

“We must inculcate in our minds that in this coming political exercise, failure of election is not an option, hence this plan to have more alternate poll officials,” he said.

A day earlier, Sumalipao briefed police, Marines and Army personnel at the police regional headquarters in Camp SK Pendatun in Parang, Maguindanao del Norte on the BSKE situation in the region.

“We are asking you (police and military personnel) to volunteer to serve and we will train you in the event more teachers back out or violence erupts hours before the opening of voting,” Sumalipao said.

BARMM comprises the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan and Marawi. It has 2,590 barangays in 116 municipalities, including the 63 villages in North Cotabato that are now part of the autonomous government.

Based on Comelec data, BARMM has 2,740,000 registered voters expected to participate in the forthcoming BSKE.

The positions for village chairs, village councilors, Sangguniang Kabataan chairs and SK councilors will be contested in 2,590 villages across the region, and the voting will take place at 1,156 voting centers.

In 63 barangays in North Cotabato province now known as BARMM Special Geographic Area (SGA), there are about 125,000 registered voters, and they are to cast their votes at 67 voting centers composed of 553 polling precincts.

SGA villages have been listed by the police as areas with grave security concerns or under the red category.


Davao Oriental 'Happy Home' for ex-rebels wins Galing Pook award

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17, 2023): Davao Oriental 'Happy Home' for ex-rebels wins Galing Pook award (By Che Palicte)

GALING POOK. Davao Oriental Governor Niño Sotero Uy Jr. (4th from left) receives the Galing Pook Award 2023 in Pasay City on Oct. 12, 2023 for the province's Happy Home, a halfway house and processing center for former rebels. The award recognizes and honors outstanding initiatives of local government units. (Photo courtesy of Davao Oriental-PIO)

DAVAO CITY – Davao Oriental province won the 30th Galing Pook Award for its “Happy Home” program, a halfway house and processing center for former rebels.

Governor Niño Sotero Uy Jr. said the provincial government "aced" the extensive and rigorous evaluation process, following a panel presentation and interview.

The Galing Pook Awards recognizes excellence in various aspects of local governance.

Uy said the establishment of the Happy Home by the late governor Corazon Malanyaon in 2013 has served as an inspiration for all those who continue to work to sustain peace.

“The entire province was overjoyed honoring the legacy of Gov. Malanyaon whose dedication to peace and development was unwavering,” he added.

He noted that Happy Home has been changing the lives of former rebels, giving them a new lease on life.

“This award is a testament to the province’s unwavering commitment to our people to sustainable development, peace, and progress,” Uy said.

The other winners of the 2023 Galing Pook Awards and their respective innovative programs are Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte, Seal of Health Governance; General Santos City, Shari’a Atas Bitiara; Makati City, Virtual Queuing Management System for Health Centers; Iloilo Province, Mobilizing Communities through People-Centered Zero Open Defecation Movement Towards Sustainable Sanitation; Pasig City, Prehospital Care and Emergency Medical Services Medical Control Program; Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, Fish From The Mountains: Bayawan Inland Aquaculture; Bataan Province, 1Bataan Seal of Healthy Barangay; Barangay Taloot, Argao, Cebu, Barangay Taloot Community-Based Integrated Approach; and Quezon City: iRISE UP (Intelligent, Resilient, and Integrated Systems for the Urban Population).

The finalists were chosen from 166 entries across the country.


Housing project for ex-rebels in Negros Oriental to start this year

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17, 2023): Housing project for ex-rebels in Negros Oriental to start this year (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

ONSITE INSPECTION. Negros Oriental Board Member Jessica Jane Villanueva (3rd from left) confers with other members of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) during a site inspection in Basay town on Tuesday (Oct. 17, 2023). The proposed housing project site for former rebels has an initial budget of PHP 60 million from the provincial government. (PNA photo by Mary Judaline Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A socialized housing project for former rebels (FRs) in Negros Oriental is ready to start this year with the approved acquisition and distribution of government land in the municipality of Basay.

The provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) and its private partners conducted an onsite inspection in Barangay Bongalonan, Basay on Tuesday to survey the area for the housing project.

Board Member Jessica Jane Villanueva, chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Peace and Order, said that with this development, the provincial government will try to start the project before the end of the year by completing all the necessary requirements.

Conferring with members of TF-ELCAC and Kawayan Collective, a bamboo social enterprise that has partnered to build the houses for FRs, Villanueva said an initial PHP60 million has been allocated by the provincial government in the previous years for the project.

“This is part of the province’s contribution to the whole-of-nation approach to end the communist insurgency,” she said.

The proposed project site covers 13 hectares of government land in Bongalonan and is part of what used to be the CDCP Mining Corporation, now a government-owned and controlled corporation.

Manuel Galon, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the project will include a housing site of initially 100 units, a communal farm, and a community center.

Each beneficiary would have an estimated 150 square-meter lot with individual titles, he said.

Galon said his office received last August from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) central office a directive to proceed land distribution and acquisition for this specific project, prompting meetings to fast-track the project implementation.

“Actually, for the implementation of Executive Order 75, which is a tedious process, this is the last document that we would need in order to proceed with the acquisition and distribution of land to the former rebels,” he said.

EO 75 directs “all departments, bureaus, offices, and instrumentalities of the government to identify lands owned by the government devoted to or suitable for agriculture for distribution to qualified beneficiaries.”

Galon said they can now proceed with the documentation of the beneficiaries and the processing of requirements prior to the issuance of titles.

At least 58 FRs who have previously surrendered over the past years since 2018 in Negros Oriental were already profiled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as beneficiaries of the housing project, said Lt. Col. Michael Aquino, commanding officer of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Siaton town.