Saturday, January 13, 2024

China says nations outside region shouldn't 'interfere' in sea dispute

From CNN Philippines (Jan 13, 2024): China says nations outside region shouldn't 'interfere' in sea dispute (By CNN Philippines Staff)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — China on Saturday said countries outside the region have no right to "interfere" in its dispute with the Philippines regarding contested waters in the South China Sea. This was after Germany's foreign minister expressed concern over China's "risky" behavior toward Philippine vessels in the area.

"No non-regional country has the right to interfere in the maritime disputes between China and the Philippines," the Chinese embassy said when sought for comment on German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's statements in support of Manila.

During her visit to the country on Thursday, Baerbock said European countries are concerned about tensions in the disputed South China Sea as Beijing's actions in the resource-rich waterway "violate the rights and opportunities for the economic development" of the Philippines and other nations.

She noted the Chinese ships' use of military-grade laser and water cannons against Philippine vessels. The use of laser temporarily blinded Filipino crew members, while the blasts from the water cannons resulted in damage to much smaller Philippine ships.

Germany also reiterated its support for the 2016 arbitral award that recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in areas within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

To this, the Chinese embassy said it strongly opposes "relevant disinformation, misrepresentation and distortion of truth."

"Disregarding basic facts, the German side made unwarranted accusation about China's South China Sea policy and legitimate and lawful actions," it said.

Beijing insisted that the landmark award invalidating its sweeping claims in the area is "illegal, null, and void," and that its rights and interests in the South China Sea "are consistent with international law."

"At the same time, we are committed to properly handling disputes with the Philippines through dialogue and consultation with the aim of jointly maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea," the embassy said.

The Philippines has repeatedly demanded that China immediately leave its waters and stop any acts that violate its rights within its EEZ.

PH now has zero active NPA guerilla fronts – Marcos

From CNN Philippines (Jan 13, 2024): PH now has zero active NPA guerilla fronts – Marcos (By CNN Philippines Staff)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) --- President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday claimed that the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) no longer has active guerilla fronts in the country.

Marcos disclosed that government forces neutralized 1,399 members of extremist groups, and seized 1,751 firearms through capture, confiscation, and surrenders.

“Ngayon maaari na nating i-report na wala ng active NPA guerilla front as of December of 2023. Kaya patuloy natin ipaglalaban ito,” the chief executive said in a video message.

[Translation: We can now report that there are no more active NPA guerilla fronts as of December 2023. So, we will continue to fight for this.]

Marcos added that the alleged success against “internal terrorism” can be attributed to the good performance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police.

“Maganda naman ang performance ng ating AFP, maganda naman ang performance ng ating mga police, at maganda ang koordinasyon ng SND (Secretary of National Defense), ng Department of National Defense, at ng mga intelligence agencies,” he said.

[Translation: The AFP and our police performed well. The Department of National Defense, the secretary of national defense, and our intelligence agencies also had good coordination.]

Last year, Marcos granted amnesty to current and former members of rebel groups who may have committed crimes “in pursuit of their political beliefs.”

The president also amended Executive Order No. 125 or the Creation of the National Amnesty Commission to cover the processing of the applications for amnesty under the new proclamations.

Zambo town village chieftain killed

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 13, 2024): Zambo town village chieftain killed

PAGADIAN CITY – Police continue to hunt Sunday the killers of a village chieftain who was murdered outside his home in Dinas town in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur.

The victim, a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front, Modem Abu, was slain on Friday while about to park his motorcycle in Benuatan village.

The killers rammed their car on Abu’s motorcycle and then stepped outside the vehicle and peppered the politician with bullets from an automatic rifle, according to his daughter Micah, quoting unnamed witnesses.

She said her father just returned home when killed by the assailants.

She said her father’s body bore many bullet wounds and died on the spot. “We suspect politics behind his murder,” the sobbing woman told journalists without further elaborating.

Policemen sent to hunt down the gunmen recovered the car on Saturday abandoned on a coconut farm in Bubual village, about three kilometers from the highway in the neighboring town of San Pablo.

The recovery of the car automatically involved the municipal police force and the 2nd Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Mobile Force Company and two other local police units in the hunt for the murderers.

Police confirmed the report and were investigating whether the car was stolen or rented from a car rental company. Other reports said the vehicle was leased by the suspects from a car rental company and that police were talking with the owner and gathering information about the identity of the renters.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for Abu’s murder, but her family is crying for justice. (Mindanao Examiner)

Cops face blank wall on mass murder

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 13, 2024): Cops face blank wall on mass murder

ILIGAN CITY — Police were facing a blank wall on the gruesome murder of seven people found buried in a shallow grave in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Norte.

Two of the victims Marly and Joselito Gaviola were residents of Zamboanga City. The remaining cadavers belonged to Jomar Lenera, Elvie Lenara, Jopay Lenara, Epifanio Lenara Sr. and his son Epifanio Jr., all from Margos sa Tubig town in Zamboanga del Sur province. All were Christians.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the killings. It was unknown if the pro-ISIS group Dawlah Islamiya was behind the massacre and pretended to be a job recruiter to lure Christians in the province and then kill them.

Police said all the victims, all Christians, had been shot with one report saying the bodies also bore hack wounds, and buried in the remote village of Karkum. The grave was discovered January 7 after relatives of the Gaviola family received text messages saying the duo is dead.

Marly and Joselito were recruited here to work at a factory in Cebu, according to the Gaviola family, adding relatives tried calling pair after receiving the horrifying text messages from an unknown number but the phones were apparently turned off.

One relative said she was told that there were 14 people recruited to work in Cebu. The recruiter remains unidentified. (Mindanao Examiner)

Destabilization rumors continue

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 13, 2024): Destabilization rumors continue

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Rumors of a destabilization plot to unseat President Ferdinand Marcos continue despite repeated warnings from the police and military that it will not allow any groups to grab power from the democratic government.

These reports were further aggravated after National Police Chief General Benjamin Acorda filed charges against a former army general Johnny Macanas, now a vlogger, for claiming that Acorda and Armed Forces’ chief General Romero Brawner Jr supposedly withdrew their support for Marcos.

Brawner admitted in November that there is a plot by former military officers to topple Marcos. He said he spoke to some of those behind the plot not to involve active soldiers. He warned troops to stay apolitical and not to join the destabilization plot

Macanas served as a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City in southern Philippines and was also involved in the 1989 coup against the Aquino government. He now runs the YouTube channel called “The General’s Opinion.”

Acorda, referring to the Macanas’ vlog, said: “It hurts me that there are people na gusto lang maging sikat yung kanilang vlog ay gagawa ng mga disinformation. No less than my face, the face of the Chief of Staff, posted and viral saying the AFP and the PNP withdrawing support or asking for the resignation of the president is unforgivable.”

Macanas, in one of his vloggs, quoted another vlogger “Maharlika” that Marcos was included in the so-called 2017 “Narco List of then President Rodrigo Duterte.” “Si Mr. BBM kasama sa Narco List noong 2017,” he said.

He also said that there is a purported video in the hands of Maharkila showing Marcos allegedly using illegal drugs.


In November 2021 at the height of the presidential campaign, Duterte, who frequently throws jabs at Marcos, asked how a presidential bet manages to elude arrest for alleged cocaine use.

Marcos and other presidential candidates, submitted themselves to a drug test. Marcos was tested negative for cocaine, crystal meth and marijuana use and submitted the results to the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police.

“I really don’t feel that I am the one being alluded to. In spite of that, I believe it is my inherent duty as an aspiring public official to assure the Filipinos that I am against illegal drugs,” Marcos said then.

Protect people, state

In November last year, the commanders of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City and Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City said they stand united with Brawner in preventing any destabilization plot against the Marcos administration.

Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, also reminded troops “to remain professional and dedicated to their constitutional mandates and stern duty of protecting the people and the state.”

Almerol’s statement came a day after the Western Mindanao Command said it had no reports of a destabilization plot in the South.

“We have not monitored any persuasion moves within our ranks or any unauthorized movement in our joint operational area. Our significant administrative and operational gains have consistently been progressive. We will not engage in any other activities not congruent to what we have sworn to do,” Almerol said.

Major Andrew Linao, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said Brawner may have been misquoted by the press, saying this destabilization plot had been reported since 2022.

“Na-misquote lang siya dito kasi wala naman report sa amin on the ground as far as Western Mindanao Command is concerned. Last year pa yan balita and si CS (Chief of Staff) is just reminding troops,” he told The Mindanao Examiner.

Linao said they have, nonetheless, mounted a counterintelligence operation to monitor security forces in Mindanao. “Anyway, meron naman tayong CI (counterintelligence) that is monitoring our troops, pero so far wala naman threats or destabilization sa AOR (area of responsibility) natin,” he said.

The Western Mindanao Command and the Eastern Mindanao Command are the largest military headquarters in the South which have operational control over the air force and the naval forces and tens of thousands of soldiers.

Last year, General Rodolfo Azurin Jr., then the chief of the Philippine National Police, also ordered an investigation after receiving reports of the plot in the military to remove Marcos from power. This also triggered an alert among police forces in the country.

Philippine military spokesman Colonel Medel Aguilar previously denied the destabilization plot, saying “everything is normal” within the military.

Who is behind it?

It was unclear what triggered or pushed former military officers and their group to plot the downfall of Marcos, a former Scout Ranger, and son of Dictator and namesake Ferdinand Marcos who was ousted in a military-backed popular power people revolution in 1986.

However, there were reports that Duterte had been talking to retired military generals, but he denied involvement in any destabilization plots against Marcos.

The destabilization reports first floated after Marcos cut short the term of the AFP Chief-of-Staff General Bartolome Bacarro, a medal of valor awardee, whom he appointed last year to replace General Andres Centino. Bacarro served only five months and was replaced by retiring Centino in August this year. (Mindanao Examiner)

PBBM: Anti-insurgency ops continue to enhance internal security

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13, 2024): PBBM: Anti-insurgency ops continue to enhance internal security (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

President Ferdinand R. Marcos (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The government would remain on guard, despite the successful dismantling of the guerilla fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA), President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said on Saturday.

While the NPA has “zero active guerilla fronts,” Marcos acknowledged the need to continue the counterinsurgency efforts to enhance the country’s internal security.

“Ngayon, maaari na nating ma-i-report na wala ng active NPA guerilla front as of December 2023. Kaya patuloy nating ipaglalaban ito (Now, we can report that there is no active NPA guerilla front as of December 2023. So we will continue to fight for it),” Marcos said in a video message uploaded on his official Facebook page.

“These accomplishments underscore our steadfast commitment to peace and stability,” he added.

The President expressed elation over the government troops’ achievement in addressing the country’s insurgency problem by wiping out active NPA guerilla fronts.

He noted that in 2023, around 1,398 members of communist and local terrorist groups were neutralized and some 1,751 firearms were seized.

Marcos lauded the military, the police, the Defense department and all the intelligence agencies for their performance and coordination to ramp up the government’s efforts against insurgency.

“Sila’y nagtutulungan kaya naman naging matagumpay ang ating kampanya kontra sa internal terrorism (They work together that's why our campaign against internal terrorism was successful),” he said.

In November 2023, the Philippines and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), agreed to a “principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.”

However, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), in a statement earlier this month, expressed skepticism over the CPP-NPA-NDF’s sincerity because of the communist group’s “history of failed negotiations, the continuing perpetration of violence, and inconsistent statements.”

The communist movement demanded for the resumption of peace talks, even as it launched a “3rd Rectification Movement” calling for its armed wing, the NPA, to intensify the “protracted people’s war” against the government during its 55th anniversary on Dec. 26 last year.