Saturday, January 27, 2024

Army rescues two wounded female NPAs

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 26, 2024): Army rescues two wounded female NPAs (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

 THE 4TH Infantry Division captured two wounded female CPP-NPA terrorists (CNTs) who are now recuperating in Agusan del Norte Provincial Hospital in Barangay Libertad, Butuan City early dawn on Thursday, Jan. 25.

The military identified them as Dangga Ayuma Huliao, the medical staff of the so-called Headquarters Force Neo of NCMRC, a resident of So. Roa-Roa, Barangay Umagos, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental; and Mylene Odayao Domino, a member of Platoon 2, SRSDG Sagay, SRC3, NCMRC, a resident of Barangay Agsabu, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

The 402nd Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Battalion, and elements of Police Regional Office-13 immediately launched a joint operation after receiving reports that two rebels sustained multiple gunshots during a clash with the 23IB troops in Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City.

BGen. Adonis Ariel Orio, 402nd Brigade commander, said that on Jan. 24, troops of the 23IB under Lt. Col. Jeffrey Balingao, the commanding officer, figured in a ten-minute encounter against more or less ten members of the Platoon 2, Sub-Regional Sentro De Gravidad Sagay, Sub-Regional Committee 3 of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee in Bitan-agan, Butuan City.

Authorities also recovered M653 rifles, bandoliers, backpacks, and assorted personal belongings.

The brigade commander said the two will continue to be treated and accorded with necessary assistance until they fully recuperate.

“This is in line with our strict adherence to the respect of human rights and to the provisions under the international humanitarian law. We are now coordinating with the PRO13 for the filing of appropriate cases against the said CNTs,” Orio added.

It can also be recalled that on Jan. 16, the same terrorist group clashed against the 23IB troops, which resulted in the death of two rebels and the capture of three high-powered firearms in Sitio Calaitan, Barangay Simbalan, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

In a statement, 4ID commander Maj. Gen. Jose Maria R Cuerpo II thanked residents for giving information on the presence of communist terrorists.

“We shall continue to be relentless in our combat operations and hunt down those who continue to fight the government and sow violence as a means to promote their own agenda. Hence, while there are still opportunities to return to your families and live normal lives, heed our call of peace and surrender now. With the people and all instrumentalities of the government rallying behind us, you will not win this fight,” he added.

Fighting kills 8 ISIS soldiers in the Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 27, 2024): Fighting kills 8 ISIS soldiers in the Philippines

COTABATO CITY - Fierce clashes broke out between security forces and pro-ISIS gunmen in southern Philippine Muslim province of Lanao del Sur and left at least a dozen casualties, reports said on Saturday.

The fighting erupted in Piagapo town late Thursday afternoon after members of the notorious Dawlah Islamiya (Islamic State) attacked soldiers sparking fierce fighting that continued the next day.

Reports said at least eight gunmen were killed and four members of the Army's Scout Rangers wounded in the clash.

The soldiers were tracking down the terrorist group when they came under fire.

The battle stopped after the remaining gunmen split in smaller groups and fled.

Soldiers have recovered the bodies of the slain terrorists and their weapons, including improvised explosives, and t
he hunt for the Dawlah Islamiya continues in the province, a known stronghold of the terrorist group.

The extremist group is blamed for last month's bombing of a Catholic mass inside the Mindanao State University in Lanao del Sur's Marawi City that killed four worshippers and the recent killings of two army soldiers in Munai town in the neighboring province of Lanao del Norte.

The Dawlah Islamiya is fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the largely Catholic, but restive region, home to about four million Muslims. (Mindanao Examiner)

U.S. deploys counter-terrorism operators in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 27, 2024): U.S. deploys counter-terrorism operators in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY - The Pentagon has deployed U.S. Marines in the southern Philippines to train and assist Filipino soldiers in counter terrorism.

The American soldiers replaced another batch from the Special Operations Task Force 511.2 (SOTF 5112) under the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) based in the Western Mindanao Command here.

Photos released by the Western Mindanao Command show the awarding of plaques to the U.S. counter-terrorism task force SOTF 511.2 in Zamboanga City.

The Western Mindanao Command confirmed the arrival of the U.S. Marines but it did not say how many have arrived.

Brig. Gen. Aldrin Annani, the Deputy Commander of Western Mindanao Command, lauded the departing U.S. troops led by Maj. Jeffry Schuele and awarded his group the Military Civic Action Medal and plaques for their valuable contributions.

Shuele's group was deployed here in July 15, 2023 and would return to their unit on January 31 after six months tour in southern Philippines.

Schuele expressed his gratitude to his Filipino counterpart for making their six-month mission a success. He also encouraged the Western Mindanao Command to give the same support to the new group of U.S. Marines.

Annani welcomed the new batch of American soldiers who will be part of the SOTF 511.2 in the next six months.

He lauded the SOTF 511.2 for supporting the endeavors of the Western Mindanao Command.

Pentagon has been providing training and technical support to local troops in combating terrorism since 2001.

Marine Raider with Special Operations Task Force 511.2 provides instruction on Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to service members of the Philippine Marine Corps during Marine Aviation Support Activity 22 in Palawan, Philippines, June 7, 2022.

Filipino and American military commanders give little details of the operations of the JSOTF which was previously called Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines and was part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the global War on Terror.

The Operation targeted the various Jihadist terror groups operating in the country. By 2009, about 600 U.S. military personnel were advising and assisting the Philippine military in the South.

In addition, in 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency had sent its elite paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division to hunt down and kill or capture key terrorist leaders.

This group had the most success in combating and capturing Al-Qaeda leaders and the leaders of associated groups like Abu Sayyaf. (Mindanao Examiner)

9 terrorists involved in MSU-Marawi bombing killed in Lanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2024): 9 terrorists involved in MSU-Marawi bombing killed in Lanao Sur (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Piagapo, Lanao del Sur (Wikimap)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) reported Saturday the death of nine members of the Dawlah Islamiya (DI) terrorist group after a series of encounters in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur in the past two days.

In a statement, PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Dema-ala said the nine belonged to the group involved in the Mindanao State University - Marawi bombing on Dec. 3, 2023. Four were killed during the explosion at the gymnasium while a Catholic Mass was ongoing.

"The Army troops were able to neutralize nine local terrorist members and recovered eight high-powered firearms,” Dema-ala said.

The clashes between the heavily armed DI terrorists and troops from the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion took place in Barangay Taporug on Thursday and Friday, triggered by internal security operations.

Four soldiers were hurt in the encounters and were transported to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, also in Marawi.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the four soldiers who sustained injuries during the said operation," Dema-ala said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. lauded the Army troops for their successful operation, citing their “precision and unwavering dedication” that delivered justice for MSU victims, including the more than 50 who were wounded.

"This operation sets a clear precedent: The AFP will not tolerate those who endanger the lives and well-being of our people. The remaining few will face our full force and unshakeable resolve in bringing every single responsible individual to account," Brawner said in a statement.

He also called on those considering violence to rethink their choices as AFP remains an "indomitable force" in ensuring the safety of Filipinos.

DICT trains Viscom soldiers in cybersecurity management

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27, 2024): DICT trains Viscom soldiers in cybersecurity management (By John Rey Saavedra)

CYBERSECURITY TRAINING. Members of the Visayas Command participate in the lecture conducted by the Department of Information and Communications Technology in Cebu City, Cebu on Friday (Jan. 26, 2024). Viscom commander Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo said the soldiers are now cybersecurity-ready after completing the training for protection, detection and response when there are cyber breaches. (Photo courtesy of Viscom-PIO)

CEBU CITY – Information technology personnel of the Visayas Command (Viscom) are now cybersecurity-ready after completing training for protection, detection and response against cyber breaches.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, Viscom commander, said they partnered with the Department of Information and Communications Technology-Central Visayas (DICT-7) in exposing 29 soldiers to a two-day cybersecurity training that ended here Friday.

The Assistant Chief of Unified Command Staff for Communications, Electronics, and Information Systems of Viscom and the DICT-7 Cybersecurity Division organized the training to capacitate IT personnel to become capable of protection, detection, and response when cybersecurity-related incidents arise.

Arevalo said the command intends to organize a Computer Emergency Response Team that will counter or remedy cybersecurity breaches.

“With the blistering pace of technological change, the cybersecurity threat has evolved dramatically, and it comes in many forms, from identity theft to botnets and ransomware. It is facilitated by a wide range of threat actors, from multi-national cybercrime syndicates to insider threats and hackers,” he said in a statement.

DICT-7 cybersecurity lead Royden Rusiana and cybersecurity specialist Phoebus Keith Advincula gave lectures and hands-on trainings to educate participants about the emerging trends on IT vulnerabilities and security issues.

“For us to better perform our mandate is for us to continue to learn, innovate and adapt to the ever-changing security environment,” Arevalo added.

PAF turns over retired Fokker F-27 'Friendship' aircraft to Negros Oriental

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 26, 2024): PAF turns over retired Fokker F-27 'Friendship' aircraft to Negros Oriental (By MARTIN SADONGDONG)

The Philippine Air Force turns over a retired 1950s-era Fokker F-27 "Friendship" transport aircraft to the city government of Silay, Negros Oriental on Jan. 26, 2024. The ceremony is led by PAF chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Parreno (fourth from left) and Silay City Mayor Joedith Gallego (fourth from right), and attended by local air force commanders and local officials of Silay City. (Photo by PAF)

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) formally handed over a retired 1950s-era presidential aircraft to the city government of Silay, Negros Oriental on Friday, Jan. 26, as part of efforts to preserve its rich history.

PAF chief Lt. Gen Stephen P. Parreño and Silay City Mayor Joedith Gallego led the blessing ceremony of the Fokker F-27 "Friendship" aircraft with tail number 59-0259 at Barangay E. Lopez "to usher in a new chapter in the aircraft's history."

Subsequently, the aircraft's documents were turned over to Mayor Gallego.

"This medium-lift aircraft was delivered to the PAF in 1958 and served with distinction for 63 years. It held a special place in the history of the PAF as it carried presidents and VIPs on countless missions," the PAF said in a statement.

Among those serviced by the Fokker F-27 Friendship was the father of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the late former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

"Later, as part of the 220th Airlift Wing, it performed emergency air evacuations, maritime patrols, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief operations," it added.

In 2022, the aircraft encountered an engine problem during its take-off from Bacolod-Silay Airport en route to Manila, prompting the PAF to ground it and eventually retire from service since it was deemed "beyond economic repair."

The Fokker F-27 Friendship was among the first batch of post-war aircraft acquired by the PAF from Dutch manufacturer Fokker. It had a capacity pf 32 passengers and a maximum operating speed of 223 knots.

Parreño emphasized the aircraft's remarkable service record which, he said, is "a testament to its reliability and the dedication of the personnel who maintained and operated it."

He also took pride in seeing the F-27 continue its legacy by contributing not only to Silay’s cultural heritage development but also serving as a destination for both tourists and learners alike.

Meanwhile, Gallego expressed the gratefulness of people of Silay to the PAF for entrusting the Fokker F-27 Friendship aircraft to the city.

Now, the PAF is aiming to acquire more advanced air assets as part of the military's Horizon 3 modernization program.

11 NPA rebels sued over 2023 Mindoro ambush

From the Manila Standard (Jan 26, 2024): 11 NPA rebels sued over 2023 Mindoro ambush (By Rey E. Requejo)

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday disclosed that eleven suspected New People’s Army members who allegedly ambushed Philippine Army (PA) soldiers in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro on May 30, 2023 have been charged before the regional trial court there.

The DOJ through Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said the complaint for violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 under Republic Act No. 11479 was filed last Jan. 23.

Named accused in the terrorism case were Jovito Marquez, Antonio Baculo, Sonny Rogelio, Veginia Terrobias, Lena Gumpad, Job Abednego David, Jessie M. Almoguera, Reina Grace, Bethro Erardo Zapra Jr., Daisylyn Castillo Malucon, and Yvaan Copuz Zuniga.

Malcontento said the case was filed after conducting preliminary investigation on the complaint filed by the Army.

“The accused individuals allegedly ambushed Philippine Army soldiers with high-powered firearms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” the DOJ said.

In its complaint, the PA’s 2nd Infantry “Junglefighter” Division said its troops 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 in Sablayan town which resulted in a twenty-minute firefight.”

“The government side suffered no casualties while a male and female rebels namely alias Hunter and alias Liza were reportedly killed,” the PA earlier said.

“The troops also recovered three M16 rifles, 13 magazines, one fragmentary hand grenade, an anti-vehicle mine, five improvised hand grenades, 50 meters wire, a detonating cord, four burlap, four bandoliers, and four backpacks with personal belongings,” it added.

Rehorizon 3 Unveiled: AFP’s Strategic Move for Territorial Defense and Modernization

From the Business Mirror (Jan 27, 2024): Rehorizon 3 Unveiled: AFP’s Strategic Move for Territorial Defense and Modernization (Rex Anthony Naval)

Philippine troops watch a Philippine Coast Guard ship as they secure an area on the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, locally called Pag-asa Island, on Friday, December 1, 2023, in the West Philippine Sea.

WITH the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) now gaining the upper hand in its campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents and their allies, the military announced that it would shift to its “territorial defense” mode once the remaining communist rebels are totally defeated.

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., during their Command Conference on Monday, January 15, 2024, said military ground commanders were given a “new set of targets” aimed at totally neutralizing the insurgents.

“By doing that, we will be able to shift now to territorial defense,” he said.


SOME of the territorial defense operations include the conduct of more air and naval patrols in the country’s vast maritime territories and monitoring of sea lines of communications.

Meanwhile, operations conducted against the NPA and other local terrorist groups will be termed as “internal security operations.”

In the same event, Brawner said AFP operations against the NPAs were very successful in 2023 as it is now only facing 11 “weakened guerrilla fronts,” lower than the 13 previously reported.

“So rather than an inward-looking defense concept, we are evolving into a defense concept, which projects our power into our areas where we must, by Constitutional fiat and duty, protect and preserve our resources.”—Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” C. Teodoro

In 2016, there were a total of 89 active guerrilla fronts nationwide.

Despite this, Brawner said the AFP is still on guard as there are still NPA formations trying to recover areas and supporters lost to them.

When asked how many NPAs are left nationwide, Brawner said estimates put the remaining insurgents at “a little over 1,500.”

This is significantly lower compared to the 25,000 recorded during the ’80s up to the early ’90s, he added.

Archipelagic defense

AT the time of the interview, Brawner said Horizon 3 of the AFP Modernization Program is aimed at beefing up the archipelagic defense capabilities of the military.

This defense concept is designed to safeguard the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The equipment required to execute this mission encompasses long-range radar, ships, aircraft, and the necessary weapon systems.

Horizon 3 was scheduled from 2023 to 2028, while Horizon 2 was from 2018 to 2022 and Horizon 1 from 2013 to 2017.

Outward defense

In October, the AFP chief stated that the recommendation to reconfigure Horizon 3, enabling the military to acquire equipment capable of defending the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), came from Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” C. Teodoro Jr. shortly after his appointment to the post in June of last year.

Teodoro issued the directive after observing that the previous Horizon 3 list was more inclined toward “territorial defense in depth,” implying that the AFP had to wait for threats to approach closely before taking action.

The DND chief exact term for the then proposed shift was “rehorizon” and said that it will be presented to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for approval.

Modernization bombshell

So, this remained the status quo until Teodoro, in the Manila Overseas Press Club forum on January 23, 2024, disclosed that the Chief Executive had approved the “Rehorizon 3” capability enhancement and modernization program of the AFP.

“We are embarking into what we call the ‘Rehorizon 3’ capability enhancement and modernization program where the President recently approved an array of capabilities, which will range from our domain awareness, our connectivity, our intelligence capabilities, or C4iSTAR, communication, intelligence capabilities, command and control, to our area denial and deterrence capabilities on both the maritime and the aerial domains,” he said.

Teodoro said these capabilities would be highlighted in the coming equipment acquisitions for the AFP.

Aside from this, the DND chief said that they have also requested from Congress the necessary budget for the maintenance, operation and training of the people who will be handling this equipment.

Teodoro said this is to ensure that this equipment will be utilized in areas where the country needs to have “significant presence” like the West Philippine Sea (WPS), where “violations of our territorial integrity and sovereignty” cannot be tolerated.

The DND chief also confirmed that the AFP is now transitioning on a new defense concept called the “Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept” where the military will develop its capabilities to protect Philippine corporations, nationals and groups engaged by the government to help in the exploration and extraction of natural resources to be found in its EEZ and other areas it has jurisdiction.

Teodoro said this is needed to ensure “unimpeded and peaceful exploration and exploitation” of resources in these areas.

“So, rather than an inward-looking defense concept, we are evolving into a defense concept, which projects our power into our areas where we must, by Constitutional fiat and duty, protect and preserve our resources,” he noted.

Protecting PHL interests abroad

TEODORO also stressed the need to have the capability to protect its interests overseas in the near future.

“For example, we will have to have the ability to protect Philippine interests in the future. Maybe not in my lifetime, but we lay down the building blocks for protecting Philippine interests and Philippine nationals in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world. For example, should we need to import oil in areas which are heavy with pirates, heavy with international criminals, we will have to have the wherewithal to protect Philippine vessels and other interests in those areas,” he added.

And this does not only involve the acquisition of equipment, Teodoro said.

“We have to marshal the resources of making the best of what we have, making sure that acquisitions made are supportable, sustainable, and redundancy is built in,” the DND chief noted.

More engagement with allies

TEODORO said the country would increase the tempo of its activities with allies and other major partners, not only in the WPS but in other areas of the country as well.

“We will exercise these partnerships to the full, and it is within our unquestionable right to do so as a sovereign country. Several countries are interested in joining us,” he added.

In line with this, Teodoro said the Philippines had just signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for Defense Cooperation with the United Kingdom and Canada recently.

“With other countries, the MOU list is growing. This will allow us to access, on a government-to-government basis, different capabilities. We are also on the probably last stretch of signing a Reciprocal Access Agreement, which is like a VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) with the government of Japan, which will allow greater interoperability between that country and us,” he added.

Army Kills 15 Islamist Militants from Dawlah Islamiyah, Including 3 Suspects in Philippines Church Bombing

Posted to News 18 (Jan 28, 2024): Army Kills 15 Islamist Militants from Dawlah Islamiyah, Including 3 Suspects in Philippines Church Bombing (By: Shankhyaneel Sarkar)

Soldiers hold their weapons during a parade on the 126th founding anniversary of the Philippines army at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, Philippines. (Image: Reuters)

The Philippines army engaged in a shootout with the militants who were hiding at a mountain farm near Piagapo.

Nine Islamist militants including three suspects in a Catholic mass bombing in the southern Philippines have been killed in a clash with troops, the military said Saturday.

Army soldiers shot it out with about 15 Dawlah Islamiyah suspects hiding out at a mountain farm close to the remote southern municipality of Piagapo on Thursday, the commander of the military unit said.

The firefight left nine of the gunmen dead and four soldiers wounded, including two who were taken to hospital with “serious” wounds, army brigade commander Brigadier-General Yegor Rey Barroquillo told AFP.

He said three of the six suspects in the bombing of a Catholic mass at a school in the southern city of Marawi last month were among those killed in Thursday’s fighting.

“Of the nine, three had direct participation in the MSU bombing,” Barroquillo said, referring to the December 4 blast at Mindanao State University in Marawi that left four people dead and dozens wounded.

Barroquillo said three other bombing suspects were still on the run including the alleged mastermind, a former student at the university who went by the alias of “Engineer”.

Army Scout Rangers, trained in jungle combat, crept up to a cluster of mountain farmhouses where the suspects had sought refuge to evade the post-bombing manhunt.

“Six (gunmen) were able to escape and in our assessment the Engineer was among them,” Barroquillo said, adding the farmers had left the area earlier this month after the gunmen arrived.

Militant attacks on buses, Catholic churches and public markets have been a feature of decades-long unrest in the south.

Manila signed a peace pact with the nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014, ending their deadly armed rebellion.

But smaller bands of Muslim fighters opposed to the peace deal remain, including militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State group.

[This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - AFP]

Philippine troops kill 9 suspected Muslim militants, including 2 involved in Sunday Mass bombing

Posted to the Washington Post (Jan 27, 2024): Philippine troops kill 9 suspected Muslim militants, including 2 involved in Sunday Mass bombing (By Jim Gomez | AP)

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine troops killed nine suspected Muslim militants in the volatile south, including two key suspects in a bomb attack last month that left four Christian worshippers dead, the army said Saturday.

Four army scout rangers were slightly wounded in Thursday’s operation against the Dawlah Islamiyah, a small outfit aligned with the Islamic State group, in the hinterland village of Taporug near Piagapo town in Lanao del Sur province, army spokesman Col. Louie Dema-ala said.

Army forces clashed with about 15 militants in a series of shootouts from Thursday to Friday after some villagers tipped off the military of their presence, Dema-ala, adding that the surviving militants escaped and were being pursued.

Maj. Gen. Gabriel Viray III, an army infantry division commander, said the militants retreated from fierce exchanges of fire until they were trapped in a rural house, where they tried to fight back before being taken down.

“We call upon the community to remain vigilant and collaborate with the army and government authorities as we collectively work towards eliminating the threat posed by local terrorist groups,” the army said in a statement.

Eight of the nine bodies had been identified, including those of Saumay Saiden and Abdul Hadi, who were among the suspects in the Dec. 3 bombing that killed four Christian worshippers and wounded dozens of others during Sunday Mass in a state-run university gymnasium in southern Marawi city, he added.

Hadi allegedly assembled the bomb, which police investigators said consisted of a 60 mm mortar round and a rifle grenade, Dema-ala told reporters.

A post-battle video, which a government intelligence official showed The Associated Press, conveyed nine bodies lying side by side near a huddle of rural huts surrounded by banana trees as army officers examined each.

Military chief of staff, Gen. Romeo Brawner, said “this operation sets a clear precedent: the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not tolerate those who endanger the lives and well-being of our people.”

“The remaining few will face our full force and unshakeable resolve in bringing every single responsible individual to account,” Brawner said.

The southern Philippine region of Mindanao is the homeland of minority Muslims and has been the scene of decades-old separatist rebellions.

The Marawi city bombing in December was the bloodiest insurgency-related violence so far under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. He blamed “foreign terrorists” for the attack, which set off a security alarm, including in the capital, Manila. Government forces were put on high alert at the time, as the largely Roman Catholic country welcomed the busy Christmas season that marks a festive period of travel, shopping sprees and traffic jams.

The largest armed insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a 2014 peace deal with the government, considerably easing decades of fighting. But smaller armed groups like the Dawlah Islamiyah rejected the peace pact and have struggled to press on with bombings and other attacks while evading government offensives.

Localized implementation of 'Normalization Program' to begin in Basilan

 From GMANews Online (Jan 27, 2024): Localized implementation of 'Normalization Program' to begin in Basilan

Photo from OPAPRU

The province of Basilan will take the lead in the implementation of the Normalization Program between the government and former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

A ceremonial Memorandum of Agreement between the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) and the Provincial Government of Basilan was signed on Friday.

The Normalization Program is a key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which aims to transform former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants into peaceful and productive civilians and their areas into progressive and resilient communities.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., and Basilan Governor Hajiman Salliman Hataman led the signing of the agreement at the Eisenhower Hall inside the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Headquarters.

"I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Governor Hadjiman Hataman Salliman and other local officials of the province for fully supporting the pilot implementation of the LNI (Localizing Normalization Implementation) in Basilan," said Galvez.

"It is our hope that your province will serve as an example for other PLGUs to emulate," added Galvez.

For his part, Governor Salliman Hataman said the "inspiration" for LNI in Basilan came from the provincial government’s campaign against the Abu-Sayyaf group.

"That time, there was no proper policy on how to deal with members of the Abu Sayyaf who are willing to mainstream back to the society. Then, this snowballs, as we implement the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Management Program," he said in Filipino.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. William N. Gonzales, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), gave the assurance that WestMinCom will fully support the LNI’s implementation.

"Rest assured that the team WestMinCom shall definitely endeavor to support programs or projects that would benefit the communities in our area of operations," said Gonzales. –VAL, GMA Integrated News

OPAPRU pilots localized normalization program for MILF combatants in Basilan

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 26, 2024): OPAPRU pilots localized normalization program for MILF combatants in Basilan (By MARTIN SADONGDONG)

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (middle) and Basilan Gov. Hajiman Salliman Hataman (second from right) lead the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the pilot implementation in Basilan of the localized normalization program for former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants held at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City on Jan. 26, 2024. Also in photo are (L-R) Presidential Assistant for Bangsamoro Transformation David Diciano; Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of Western Mindanao Command; and Basilan Provincial Treasurer Majad Daggong. (Photo by OPAPRU)

To sustain the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the provincial government of Basilan on Friday, Jan. 26, for the pilot implementation of the localized "normalization program" for former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants.

Currently being implemented at the national level, the normalization program is a key component of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which aims to decommission 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and transform them into "peaceful and productive civilians" and their areas into "progressive and resilient communities", according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

The agreement seeks to localize the implementation of the normalization program through the "Localizing Normalization Implementation" (LNI) concept. The signing was led by Galvez and Basilan Governor Hajiman Salliman Hataman at the Eisenhower Hall inside the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Headquarters at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

The OPAPRU said that the LNI concept presents a "locally-led and national government/inter-agency-supported structure" to implement the normalization program.

It seeks to strike a balance between enriching competencies and authorities already exercised by local government units (LGUs) under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) under RA 11054 or Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which operationalizes the CAB.


OPAPRU Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. signs the Pledge of Commitment for the pilot implementation in Basilan of the normalization program for former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants during a ceremony at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City on Jan. 26, 2024. (Photo by OPAPRU)

"As members of our community, we must join forces and work hand-in-hand to ensure the smooth and effective delivery of programs and projects that aim to address the different aspects of the normalization program which include security, socio economic development, confidence-building, and transitional justice, as well as political participation," Galvez said.

The OPAPRU further explained that the LNI concept largely depends on the local structure of the communities and as such, its framework is designed to adjust and adapt to certain peculiarities in terms of the capacities and needs of LGUs.

The LNI's community-driven approach "empowers local communities, promotes inclusivity, and ensures that development efforts are sustainable and effective," the OPAPRU noted.

Governor Hataman said the "inspiration" for the implementation of the LNI in Basilan came from the provincial government’s campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a militant organization that was based in the province.

"That time, there was no proper policy on how to deal with members of the Abu Sayyaf who are willing to [go] mainstream back to the society. Then, this snowballs, as we implement the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Management Program," he said, referring to an intervention program by the LGU and local law enforcement agencies that sought to eradicate loose firearms in Basilan.

At present, Hataman said the provincial government of Basilan and the Philippine Army's 101st Infantry Brigade headed by Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon has already stenciled at least 4, 500 firearms and recovered 500 firearms in the island-province.

"We need to level up our peace interventions. The result of LNI will help in the overall peace of the island province of Basilan, the BARMM regional government, and the country," Hataman said.