Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Gov’t seizes 200 high-powered speedboats from Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 21): Gov’t seizes 200 high-powered speedboats from Abu Sayyaf

Government forces have confiscated some 200 high-powered speedboats of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) which they believed has “impacted” the bandits’ movements, Armed Forces Philippines Chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said on Wednesday.

Visaya said neutralizing the “speed” of the bandits by confiscating their speedboats was just one of the “innovations” in the military’s operations against the ASG.

“My instruction…is that before we will conduct our offensives against the Abu Sayyaf, we have first to neutralize the speed of the enemy in the high seas,” he said during his confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments’ committee on national defense.

“Because these (speedboats) are the primary transportation assets of the Abu Sayyaf in their kidnapping activities, we have to neutralize that first,” he said.

Since there is no law that could prevent the ASG from using high-powered speedboats, Visaya said he requested the Department of Transportation to “deputize” them in confiscating unregistered boats.

“So this has impacted on the movement of the Abu Sayyaf now. We have confiscated about less than 200 boats in Basilan, Sulu , Tawi tawi, and Zamboanga. These are some of innovations that we’re doing now in our operations against Abu Sayyaf,” he added.

Visaya said the ASG is considered among the biggest threats to national security. The other internal threats, he said, are the communist rebels, drug syndicates and other kidnapping groups.

2 Moro drug lords hide in MILF territory

From the Philippine Star (Sep 21): 2 Moro drug lords hide in MILF territory             

Authorities are constrained from neutralizing two large-scale drug lords in nearby Maguindanao province by the proximity of their lairs to a camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Relatives on Wednesday told The STAR Taipeh and Wang, whom they described as “big fishes,” have confined themselves in Barangay Kabuling at the border of Pandag and Paglas towns after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on June 30, but persisted with their drug trafficking nonetheless.

Barangay Kabuling is a recognized enclave of the MILF, covered by its July 9, 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with Malacañang.

Relatives of two Moro drug traffickers killed last month in a police raid in Tacurong City said they are certain the MILF central committee is unaware of how Taipeh and Wang have both been boasting of immunity from arrest owing to their being residents of a barangay covered by the interim security pact.

“Since they are in Barangay Kabuling, the police and the military cannot simply go there and arrest them,” said Taipeh’s uncle, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Barangay officials in nearby Tulunan town in North Cotabato said Taipeh and Wang are the key suppliers of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) in their municipality.

Army ready for BIFF retaliation

From the Philippine Star (Sep 21): Army ready for BIFF retaliation

The mortar rounds and grenade projectiles bandits abandoned in a hinterland in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao after a two-hour encounter with soldiers. Unson

Authorities are bracing for possible retaliations by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for losing four of its gunmen in an encounter with soldiers early this week, Army officials said Wednesday.

Col. Markton Abo, civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the soldiers who clashed with BIFF bandits in Sitio Saniag in Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan, Maguindanao also recovered from the scene 10 high-powered firearms, dozens of explosive projectiles and 4,694 rounds of rifle ammunition.

“Our soldiers who figured in the encounter had no actual body count of slain enemies but there are persistent reports by barangay residents that four BIFF members were indeed killed in that incident,” Abo said.

Abo said the commander of 6th ID, Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., ordered all Army units guarding areas vulnerable to BIFF attacks to guard against possible retaliations by the outlawed group.

Galvez and Col. Carlito Sobejana of the 601st Brigade on Wednesday presented to reporters at a military camp in Barangay Kalandagan here the recovered firearms, comprised of assault rifles, an M-60 machinegun and a shoulder-fire grenade launcher.

“They suffered a big loss in that encounter so we need to guard against their possible harassments of civilian and military targets just to get even,” Sobejana said.

The BIFF is known for targeting non-combatants, motorists and commuters passing through isolated stretches of the Cotabato-Isulan Highway to avenge losses in skirmishes with the military.  

The group, which boasts of allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, mulcts money from hapless peasants to sustain its activities and espouses hatred for non-Muslims.

Included in the arms cache the BIFF bandits abandoned in Sitio Saniag as they fled carrying four dead companions were 21 live 40 millimeter projectiles and more than a dozen 81 millimeter mortar rounds that can be fabricated into roadside bombs.

The BIFF pulled of some 50 roadside bombings in Maguindanao province in the past 12 months, killing more than a dozen innocent civilians and patrolling soldiers.

Unicef, MILF promote peace, kids’ protection

From the Business Mirror (Sep 21): Unicef, MILF promote peace, kids’ protection

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao—On the occasion of the International Day of Peace and National Peace Consciousness Month, United Nations children’s agency United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) came together to celebrate peace and promote peacebuilding by showcasing traditional art forms with the talents of children.

They held the Pakaradian sa Kalilintad, or festival of peace and merrymaking, which featured traditional art forms including music, visual arts and dance.

The event was aimed at expanding community understanding on the welfare of children and their role as instruments of peacebuilding, as part of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign on nonassociation of children in armed conflict.

Children from Bangsamoro communities from Lanao to the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan competed in three categories of traditional dance, song and musical performances. Clad in vibrant colored costumes, and backed by traditional musical instruments, such as the kulintang, agong and dabakan, they proudly shared their folk arts and culture as a significant part of their unique identities as a community.

This event is the grand culmination of six local-level competitions organized by the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Auxiliary Brigade, supported by Kalimudan Arts and Culture Center and Unicef.

“By fostering children’s appreciation for diversity and creating a platform for children to share their stories and dreams, we promote unity and peace. Through these activities, children develop friendships and become active players in peacebuilding, paving the way for social cohesion among communities. The community members such as the Base Commanders, elders and parents also play their role in changing behaviours to keep children away from war, and allow children to play, go to school and just be children,” Unicef Philippine Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

The UN-MILF action plan was signed in 2009 to address the recruitment and use of children and commits the MILF to ensure that no children under 18 are associated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (Biaf) as combatants or in supporting roles such as messengers, cooks or cleaners. The “Children Not Soldiers” campaign has reached around 29,100 people, including 10,765 members of the BIAF, 2,457 children and 9,427 community members in eight provinces.

As the seven sambolayang or peace flags by children fluttered in the morning breeze in this camp, the children reminded the adults for the need to preserve their rich cultural heritage for the new generation, as well as their desire for the successful implementation of the peace process that is inclusive and supports the rights of all children.

What is Duterte’s Strategy Toward the Abu Sayyaf?

From the Council on Foreign Relations blog (Sep 21): What is Duterte’s Strategy Toward the Abu Sayyaf?


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao after Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in Jolo, Sulu in southern Philippines on September 18, 2016. (Lean Daval Jr/Reuters)

Having already launched a grim, brutal war on drugs that has reportedly led to thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of arrests, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is now turning his eye to southern Philippines, where a collection of insurgent groups/terrorist organizations/bandits have wreaked havoc for decades. (Southeast Asia is also now home to more piracy attacks than any other region of the world, and the waters of the southern Philippines are part of this massive piracy problem.) In recent days, Duterte has, in his usual tough guy style, vowed to step up the government’s war against the Abu Sayyaf, which in the past year has allied itself with the Islamic State group, increased its number of kidnappings, and appeared bolder in its ability to stand toe-to-toe with Philippine army troops in gunfights in the deep south. Duterte now has promised to have the army totally destroy the Abu Sayyaf militarily. In early September, the president vowed that he would “eat [the Abu Sayyaf] alive,” and declared that the Abu Sayyaf were trying to build a caliphate in the southern Philippines.

But destroying the Abu Sayyaf, a wily group with havens in some of the most remote and lawless areas of the southern Philippines and the waters between the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, is going to be very difficult. For fifteen years, Philippine presidents, and the Philippine army, have tried and largely failed with various strategies to destroy the Abu Sayyaf. These have included all-out wars (including plans by the Aquino administration to declare martial law in the deep south), special operations designed to kidnap the top Abu Sayyaf leaders while pressuring their followers to surrender, and putting feelers out to the Abu Sayyaf for a negotiation that would lead to a permanent ceasefire.

Duterte has not explained how his war on the Abu Sayyaf will differ from those of previous administrations, and the Philippine armed forces face the same challenges in their battle now as they did during the Aquino or Macapagal-Arroyo administrations. The army has limited intelligence about the Abu Sayyaf’s strongholds. Graft remains a huge problem in the Philippine armed forces, as is keeping details about impending maneuvers secret.

Meanwhile, the Abu Sayyaf is widely reviled in the deep south, but the army’s history of brutality in the south—and its inability to protect informants—badly undermines its chances of effectively tracking the Abu Sayyaf’s movements.

The Duterte administration has shown few signs that it has a new approach that could comprehensively eliminated the Abu Sayyaf, or lead to some kind of negotiation in which the Abu Sayyaf would join other southern groups in accepting a peace deal for Mindanao and the deep south. It doesn’t help matters that Duterte’s brusque, wild style could alienate many of the regional partners whose support he needs in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf. Duterte has, in recent weeks, condemned the United States for criticizing the abuses that have become common in his war on drugs, but U.S. assistance and training has been crucial in helping Philippine troops learn modern counterinsurgency strategies and develop battle plans for combating the Abu Sayyaf. It will be challenging for the Duterte administration to take the fight to the Abu Sayyaf if Duterte is serious about reducing U.S. assistance for the Philippine army and coast guard.

In addition, although the new president has not yet alienated Malaysia and Indonesia and Singapore, whose cooperation he needs to improve the quality of patrols in the lawless Sulu Sea, don’t count out the possibility. Duterte needs Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur’s cooperation to implement a deal the three nations made in August to allow their navies to pursue Abu Sayyaf members who have taken hostages into each others’ territorial waters. But earlier this year, Duterte slammed Singapore publicly. Given his personality, it is probably only a matter of time before he says something that alienates leaders in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, further undermining cooperation in combating the Abu Sayyaf and piracy in general.

President Duterte visits 9th Infantry Division soldiers in Camarines Sur

From Vox Bikol (Sep 22): President Duterte visits 9th Infantry Division soldiers in Camarines Sur

President Rodrigo R. Duterte arrived here Wednesday afternoon and proceeded to Camp Elias Angeles, headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Barangay San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur, to visit the troops.

Maj. Gen. Manolito P. Orense, commander of the 9th ID, also known as the Spear Division, gave a situation briefing to the President when he arrived at the Officers’ Club at around 3:30 p.m. or four and a half hours later than his scheduled arrival of 11 a.m.

At around 4:30 p.m. when the President started his speech before the soldiers in Bicol, he initially dwelt on the “encompassing” illegal drug problem, which he said, has come to destroy the nation.

He said the drug menace will “destroy your children and the next generation.”
But the President said “the technicality of the law makes it hard for me to deal with the problem on illegal drugs.”

He added: “What is very disturbing about this country now, ang droga kasi within the government na ang away.” (the fight against illegal drugs has reached the ranks of the government)

The President made passing remarks on how the United States became interested in Mindanao.

“Naging interesado ang mga Amerikano sa Mindanao kasi walang typhoon (The Americans became interested in Mindanao because there is no typhoon). But they could not get workers to work for them,” he said.

President Duterte gave assurance to the soldiers that “there will be an inclusive government with the left but there will not be a coalition government.”

With regards to the problem with the Abu Sayyaf Group or ASG, the President said, “I do not want to talk with the Abu Sayyaf Group.”

He told the Bicol soldiers to “make the most of this time to come up with doctrines on how to deal with terrorism.”

Before the end of his speech at around 5 p.m., the President gave three Glock 30 and four magazines to the soldiers which he said were for use in encounters with the terrorists.

“Para sa engkuwentro sa mga terorista,” he said.

The President has been going around military camps in the country in previous weeks with a promise to the soldiers that they will be given what is due them while soliciting support for his programs.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said President Duterte has to visit the military camps just like the previous Presidents to boost the soldiers’ morale and to personally interact with them on the government’s programs lined up for the AFP.

In past weeks, government troops from Bicol under the 9th ID have been sent to help fight the ASG in Mindanao.

On September 3, the 49th Infantry Battalion of the 9th ID was sent to augment the troops of the Western Mindanao Command. Soldiers from the 65th IB, also from the 9th ID, were earlier deployed to the same area.

The President's visit here in Camp Elias Angeles was his third visit to military camps across the country in a span of four days. On Tuesday, September 20, the President took the time to visit and talk to the Agila troops of the Philippine Army at Camp General Manuel T. Yan Sr. in Mawab, Compostela province.

Earlier, on Sunday, Sept. 18, the President visited the 5th Infantry Division (ID), at Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Isabela.

PH, NDF resume talks in Manila to make ceasefire stable

From Rappler (Sep 22): PH, NDF resume talks in Manila to make ceasefire stable

The two camps agree to hold talks in Manila in between formal meetings in Norway – the third party facilitator – to fast track the process that government aims to complete in a year

MANILA TALKS. The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front agree to hold talks in Manila to fast track the process. Photo from the Twitter page of government negotiator Hernani Braganza

MANILA TALKS. The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front agree to hold talks in Manila to fast track the process. Photo from the Twitter page of government negotiator Hernani Braganza
Negotiators of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) resumed talks in Manila this week to initiate discussions on a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the military and the New People's Army (NPA), an accord that they aim to complete during the second round of talks in Oslo next month.
"What we have at the moment is a unilateral ceasefire declared by both parties. We hope to sign a bilateral agreement in Oslo for a joint ceasefire, which is more durable and permanent," said government negotiator Hernani Braganza, who supervises the ceasefire committee.
The agreement to declare the silence of the guns was accomplished during the first round of talks in Oslo, Norway in August. The government also committed to recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the grant of amnesty to all political prisoners,
There have been no reports of major clashes and incidents since the first round of talks in August despite NDF complaints about military activities in certain areas.
The two camps aim to come up with operational guidelines that the military and the NPA are expected to follow to avoid misencounters or other violations.
"We are also expected to come up with a mechanism for reporting of ceasefire violations," Braganza said.
The government and NDF ceasefire committees are chaired by Philippine Country Director of Philippine Alert Francisco Lara and Fidel Agcaoili, respectively. (READ: Oslo talks: 'The most kind and most warm negotiators')
Fast-tracking the process
To fast track the process that the government aims to complete in one year, the two camps agreed to hold talks in Manila in between formal meetings in Norway, the third party facilitator.
"This is another breakthrough in the peace process. The peace panels, through their committees and sub-committees, are holding talks in the Philippines, not only in Oslo," Braganza said.
It was held at the Royal Norwegian embassy in Taguig, September 20-21, or two weeks before the scheduled second round of talks scheduled October 6-11 in Oslo. Norwegian facilitator Elisabeth Slattum is in Manila for the talks. (READ: Norwegian facilitator 'cautiously optimistic' about PH, NDF talks)
"Whatever was agreed upon by the working groups in the Philippines will be elevated to the panel level during formal talks in Oslo for discussion and approval," Braganza said.

The two camps also discussed monitoring mechanisms for human rights and international humanitarian law. They revived the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), the group tasked to implement the comprehensive agreement on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (CARHR-IHL) signed in 1998.

They discussed the maintenance of office that will have dedicated personnel to receive complaints on violations of CARHR-IHL. They also discussed joint activities such as information and education campaign on human rights and international humantarian law.
The second round of talks will also include discussions on substantive agreements on socio-economic reforms (CASER), political and constitutional reforms (PCR) and end of hostilities/disposition of forces (EOH-DOF).

Green group decries attacks on environmentalists

From the Philippine Star (Sep 21): Green group decries attacks on environmentalists

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- Environmental group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) is alarmed over recent extrajudicial killings, illegal detention and other human rights violations allegedly carried out by military agents in North Luzon and Southern Mindanao.
"We have just received reports of the illegal detention of John Claudio Maniquez, a young environmental defender who is part of our local affiliates in Compostela Valley, by elements of the 46th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army while two of his companions have apparently been forcibly disappeared," Kalikasan PNE campaign coordinator Leon Dulce said.
Maniquez is a 21 year-old peasant youth with the local environment group Panalipdan Youth – Pantukan. He and his two companions -- identified in initial reports as 'Bla' and 'Iking' -- were putting up posters announcing a local peace forum on Sept. 19 when they were tailed by military soldiers and later on allegedly illegally arrested.
A certain Sgt. Domingo Ygat of the 46th IB reportedly filed a complaint against Maniquez for his alleged illegal possession of a revolver and being an alleged member of the New People's Army.
Dulce said "the ludicrous complaint that Maniquez was an armed NPA member has been a tried and tested technique of the police and military to harass activists and citizens." Kalikasan PNE believes Maniquez was detained for opposing a large-scale mining project in the area.
Dulce said three farmers opposing "environmentally-critical" projects were also killed in separate incidents in North Cotabato and Isabela.
"The military and private security of corporations seem to be sabotaging the ongoing peace efforts with this continuing militarization in areas where destructive projects are found, and environmental advocates are suffering for it," Dulce also said
According to Kalikasan PNE, 99 environmentalists have been killed since 2001, with five cases happening under the Duterte administration.
The environmentalist group has been coordinating with local affiliate organizations to work for the Maniquez's release and the confirmation of his companions' whereabouts.  
The group also called for the accountability and eventual dismantling of paramilitary groups, and the pullout of military and paramilitary forces from areas threatened by extractive projects like mining."

Army’s peace & development troops to stay in communities

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Sep 22): Army’s peace & development troops to stay in communities

Major General Rafael Valencia, 10th Infantry Division Commander (Paulo C. Rizal/

Major General Rafael Valencia, 10th Infantry Division Commander (Paulo C. Rizal/
The Army claims it will pursue its peace and development program in different communities while there is a unilateral ceasefire declared by both the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Eastern Mindanao Command public information officer Major Ezra Balagtey said that since there are no records of any New People’s Army (NPA) activities, the 10th Infantry Division will continue with its peace and development outreach program.

“This is in support of the peace process now facilitated by the current administration,” he said.

Army commander Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia of the 10th Infantry Division also said that after the unilateral ceasefire declaration, they are now engaging in different communities to mobilize support for the peace talks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)- New People’s Army (NPA) here.

“Some of our troops are now focused on the peace and development outreach program in different communities and try to address the different political and economic agenda and security issues on the root causes of the insurgency,” he said.

Valencia said that they also urged the non-governmental organization “to really help the moving forward of the peace talks.”

Aside from peace development program, Valencia said that 10th ID is now “actively supporting” the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcers in the anti-drugs and criminal operations.”

“As a matter of fact, we conducted a series of checkpoints especially in our area and arrested some drug pushers,” he said.

Valencia said that the 10th ID arrested 62 suspected drug pushers and users, confiscated 162 sachet of shabu and 60 packs of marijuana in their area.

“We already identified some areas in the camp for the rehabilitation center if it will be pursued,” he said.

As for the rehabilitation center, Valencia said that they have not yet prepared the rehabilitation centers, but confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte will use the 100-hectare Camp Manuel T. Yan in Mawab, Compostela Valley of 10th ID and Camp Hermigido Agaab Jr., in Pulatana Malandag, Malungon, Saranggani of 1002nd Infantry Brigade (IB).

NDFP hits arrest of NPA rebel in Mindoro

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 21): NDFP hits arrest of NPA rebel in Mindoro

WINNING MOMENT Members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (from left) Fidel Agcaoili, Coni Ledesma, Jose Maria Sison, Luis Jalandoni, Juliet de Lima and Asterio Palima raise their fists and hold an NDFP flag to mark the end of the first round of peace talks with the government panel in Oslo, Norway. EDRE OLALIA/CONTRIBUTOR

Members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (from left) Fidel Agcaoili, Coni Ledesma, Jose Maria Sison, Luis Jalandoni, Juliet de Lima and Asterio Palima raise their fists and hold an NDFP flag to mark the end of the first round of peace talks with the government panel in Oslo, Norway. EDRE OLALIA/CONTRIBUTOR

An official of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the arrest of a New People’s Army (NPA) leader in Oriental Mindoro province, saying the police were sabotaging the peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

Ka Ma. Patricia Andal, NDFP-Mindoro spokesperson, said Jeffrey delos Reyes was “fulfilling his tasks for the peace talks” when police arrested him on Sept. 19. She did not elaborate on Delos Reyes’ supposed role in the peace talks.

“The arrest of Delos Reyes… is an incontrovertible truth that… the police are insincere toward the ongoing peace talks,” Andal said in a statement on Thursday.

On Aug. 26, the NDFP and government representatives agreed to an indefinite cessation of armed hostilities after the first round of formal peace talks held in Oslo, Norway.

The Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) against communist rebels, however, does not cover normal police functions, such as serving of arrest warrants.

A report from the Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) regional police office said Delos Reyes, 30, of Calapan City, was arrested by a police and military team in Barangay Sampaguita in Naujan town on Sept. 19.

Police said the suspect was served with a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Harry Jaminola of the Regional Trial Court Branch 41, in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, for a murder case.

Delos Reyes, police said, has two other standing arrest warrants for frustrated and attempted murder in Occidental Mindoro province.

Ka Higom Maragang, spokesperson of the NPA’s Lucio de Guzman Command operating on Mindoro island, called the criminal cases as “trumped-up charges.”

“This battle against the… government is legitimate because we fight for genuine social change against the exploitation and oppression of the people by the ruling class. If this is not legitimate, the (government) should have not faced us in the peace negotiations,” Maragang said.

Pangasinan war veterans benefit from PVAO medical outreach program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): Pangasinan war veterans benefit from PVAO medical outreach program

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – More than 200 war veterans and their families availed of free medical and administrative services  conducted by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center  (VMMC) during its outreach program in Pangasinan last Thursday.

Medical Officer Pilar Ibarra of PVAO said the program aims to bring PVAO services closer to veterans. It  is part of the  Veterans Hospitalization and Medical Care Program (VHMCP) which aims to provide hospitalization and medical care benefits to Filipino veterans and their dependents.

“Layunin nito ang magbigay ng medical services sa ating mga kababayang beterano  na hindi nararating ng VMMC.  Gusto naming magkaroon din ng health care benefits ang ating mga beterano from all over the country,” Ibarra said during the outreach program held at the Narciso Ramos gymnasium.

Services rendered during the event ranged from medical consultation to dental check-up, eye examination, ECG, among others. Recipients also received prescription medicines and eyeglasses for free.

Aside from medical and surgical services, the PVAO outreach program also established a help desk where concerns of veterans regarding pensions, IDs and re-validation were processed.

“The re-validation of  veterans and their dependents is crucial para hindi maputol ang pension nila,” Ibarra added.

The beneficiaries were grateful for the program.

“Maraming services, nakakuha ako ng gamot ko sa maintenance,  dati pumupunta pa ako sa Maynila. Dito nilapit na,  libre pa ang pagkain,” Romeo Pascua, 65, from San Nicolas town said.

Marakep yan ginawa da (Maganda itong ginawa nila). Libre  ray tambal tan  akapan-ECG  kami ya libre met (Libre ang gamot at nakapag-ECG din kami ng libre),”  Macaria Navarro of Mangaldan and daughter of a veteran, also said.

The outreach program is in line with PVAO's objective to reduce the number of indigent veterans as underscored in its strategic blueprint, Kagitingan Roadmap 2022.

Army: Let us walk the extra mile for peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): Army: Let us walk the extra mile for peace

CATBALOGAN CITY, SamarThe army based in Camp Lukban Catbalogan City urged the public, “Let us walk the extra mile for peace!”

Colonel Divino Rey C Pabayo Jr, Chief of Staff, 8ID read this message as the  8th Infantry (STORMTROOPERS) Division, Philippine Army, marked National Peace Consciousness Month on September 19, 2016.

Proclamation No. 675 declares the month of September of each year as National Peace Consciousness Month. 

This year’s theme, “Tayo ang Pagbabago, Tayo ang Kapayapaan! ” centers on “us”- or tayo trying to speak as first person and realizing our roles in pushing for change and peace.

Officers, Enlisted Personnel and Civilian Employees of the Command attended the early morning activity.

During the ceremony, Colonel Pabayo read the message from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

“The administration of President Duterte has already walked the extra mile to achieve peace. His intention to permanently end the armed conflicts requires the support and participation of the stakeholders.

" Now is our time to own the process, our ownership of the peace process to attain durable peace agreements. Working for peace is always a joint effort between our government and our people. Our peace and development roadmap directs us to a shared peace and prosperity.”

“As we celebrate National Peace Consciousness Month, we call on every Filipino to support and participate in building a peaceful and progressive country. May we always allow unity to triumph over diversity; understanding and respect despite disagreements; and justice for all those who have been wronged. We invite you to walk the extra mile with us for peace".

“May we always be instruments of peace and agents for positive change wherever we are and in whatever we do, not only for this month, but also for the days and years ahead.”

"This year’s celebration is a hopeful reminder that lasting peace is possible, especially if we all contribute towards its attainment,” Pabayo added.

Army issues new combat trucks to field units in Caraga

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): Army issues new combat trucks to field units in Caraga

A newly acquired 27 KM450 and seven KM451 purchased from South Korea were recently issued to supplement the existing operational military trucks and to enhance the mobility capability of the army troops deployed at the battalion headquarters in Caraga region.

Rev. Fr. Joshue Cadorna, rector of Order of Discalced Augustinians and Fr. Catalino Mabale led the ceremonial blessing of the 34 newly-acquired military vehicles held at the Advance Command Post, Camp Bancasi, this city.

The provision of the conveyance assets also aims to upgrade the capability of the military personnel as they perform internal and external operations and to provide operation convenience of medical staff and patients.

The KM451 units, which serve as military ambulance will be utilized not only by the soldiers but also by the civilian patients.

It is fully airconditioned and complete with emergency medical treatment equipment and drugs.

According to MGen Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division, Phil. Army, aside from acquisition of the new military trucks they have also improved the coordination with the hospitals through a memorandum to provide a speedy medical response in order to save more lives.

“It is part of the continuous modernization program in which these vehicles will serve as transportation equipment for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” said Madrigal.

Meanwhile, Lt Col Rey Pasco, commanding officer of the 4th civil-military operations battalion, Phil. Army was grateful for the additional KM units.

He assured that they will see to it that the vehicles will be mobilized accordingly to really serve its purpose, and that proper maintenance and driving protocols will be observed by the personnel incharge.

5 NPA rebels surrender in Surigao del Sur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): 5 NPA rebels surrender in Surigao del Sur

Five members of the New People’s Army (NPA) went back voluntarily to the folds of the government after realizing how tough and distressful the many struggles they had faced staying with the communist group.

The former rebels claimed that they were members of the Komiteng Rebolusyonaryo sa Munisipalidad (Municipal Revolutionary Committee) established by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - NPA in the outlaying localities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

With the help of the 75th Infantry (Marauder) Battalion, said former rebels had the better opportunity to return to the mainstream society. They were able to turn over to the government six M16 rifles, 22 magazines, five bandoliers and bullets in the presence of MGen. Benjamin Madrigal, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army.

When asked on how would they handle those former rebels who have pending cases, MGen. Madrigal bared that legal proceedings will continue to be carried out. “On the other hand, those who desire to join the army service must first qualify with the requirements and comply everything that is necessary,” said Madrigal.

As expressed by alias "Dodong," they withdrew without letting anyone from their comrades know about the plan because they were tired of the illegal and criminal operations conducted by the NPA group.

Meanwhile, 402nd brigade commander Col. Isidro Purisima also expressed that they respected the order of ceasefire. “We are in support of peace talks because as Filipinos we are here to help our fellows to transform them from being unlawfully armed,” he added.

Col. Purisima said that their peace development operations had contributed in convincing the NPA members to surrender and start a new peaceful life.

The former insurgents will be given support through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) as they go back to their respective communities. They will receive each a P15,000 immediate cash assistance and P50,000 livelihood aid. Another P5,000 will also be given from the office of the provincial governor of Surigao del Sur.

Brace for threats, Luzon military commander tells troops in DavOr

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): Brace for threats, Luzon military commander tells troops in DavOr

Away  from his Mindanao-assigned soldiers,  Major General Angelito De Leon, commander of the 7th Infantry Division reminded his troops to brace for other security threats while enjoining cooperation and collective efforts of everyone.

While the government is undergoing peace talks with  the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front  (CNN), “we are not letting our guards down for there  are threats to security that we have to contend with”,  De Leon said in his address during the 8th Reactivation Anniversary of the 701stInf“Kagitingan Brigade on Sept. 16 at its camp in Brgy Don Martin Marundan, City of Mati, Davao Oriental.

Citing terrorism, criminal activities and lawless violence as threats to the country, he enjoined everyone’s cooperation and collective effort.

“The government is doing its duty and the military is giving its best effort. And you must continue as usual, with all that you have started,” he said.

Commander of the 7th Inf. Division of the Philippine Army, De Leon visited the camp 701stInf “Kagitingan” Brigade as guest of honor and speaker of the occasion. Coming along were Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Maj Gen Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Inf “Agila” Division.

He thanked his fellow AFP officials for “taking care”  of the Kagitingan Brigade while operating far from the 7th Inf Division mother unit based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.

De Leon also noted with gratitude the active support of the non-government and civic organizations and of the Davao Oriental local government units officials extended to  the Kagitingan Brigade. He cited them as  source of strengths of his troops.

“Ang inyong presensiya at pakikiisa ay nagpapatunay  na hindi lamang pakikidigma at paghawak ng sandata ang kakayahan ng ating mga kasundaluhan, kundi ang makapaglingkod ng tapat sa ngalan ng kapayapaan.  (Your presence and alliance has proven that engaging in war is not the only competence of our soldiers but  also faithful service in the name of peace),” he said.

Meanwhile, De Leon congratulated 701stInfBde commander, Col. Bienvenido Datuin for  opening up doors of cooperation and alliance with various stakeholders in the community, paving for achievement of non-traditional accomplishments such  as  organizing youth as support group to  community peace-building, networking with  media practitioners, tree-planting, gift-giving, waging of illegal drugs campaign with the Police and the Drugs Enforcement agency, among others.

“And under his able leadership, I know that the 701st Brigade will overcome whatever challenge that will come its way,” he said.

However, he challenged the 701st Inf. “Kagitingan” Bde to carry on its work and to give public strength for people to push meaningful changes and progress  to  every corner of its area of responsibility.

The AOR of Kagitingan Brigade covers the entire Davao Oriental and portions of Compostela Valley.

"Study the terrorist" Pres. Duterte tells military

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): "Study the terrorist" Pres. Duterte tells military

COMPOSTELA VALLEY - President Rodrigo Dutertetold officials and elements of the Philippine Army to closely study the profile of a terrorist as he geared them to  prepare for possible terror offensives.

He told them not to ask at what instance a terrorist will come but he said “It will come”.

“Start to profile a bomber or a terrorist. Naka “cap”; naka “shades”. Pag-aralan, lalo na ang mata. Malikot ang matang terorista,” he said during his visit at the headquarters of the 10th Inf Division of the Philippine Army at Camp General Manuel Yan Sr in Barangay Tuburan, Municipality of Mawab, Compostela Valley.

He also told them to study crime and detection and “how to deal with them”, referring to the terrorists.

Along with the task to gear up against terrorism, President Duterte reassured them that those in the military will “get everything that you need”.

The President was applauded by the troops present during his visit when he said that they will be provided with Glock 30, a type of .45 caliber sidearm.

The President wanted to strengthen the military alongside with the  police in his campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism.

Sabi ko nga (As I have said) I  cannot run a country with a weak armed forces,” he said. 

After his 45-minute speech at , President Duterte joined the troops in a series  of photo-sessions before leaving for the next engagement  with local government officials in an event dubbed as “SulongPilipinas Local Government Dialogue” held at SMX Convention Center in Davao City.

Celebrating years of service in touching lives, defending peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): Celebrating years of service in touching lives, defending peace

The men and women of the 701st Brigade of the Philippine Army have celebrated their years of rendering genuine service in touching the lives of people and defending the peace and freedom of the country.

During the Brigade’s eight-year reactivation anniversary on September 16, the 701st Brigade received applause from top officials of thePhilippine Army and various sectorsfor playing a huge part in the preservation and sustaining of peace in Davao Oriental.

Guest-of-Honor and Speaker Major General Angelito M. De Leon, Commander of the 7th Infantry Division, lauded the leadership of the 701st Brigade, under Col. Bienvenido R. Datuin, Jr. who successfully led his troops to become“instruments in the many campaigns of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in winning over the threats and obstacles to the development of the country”.

“Napakapalad ninyo at kayo ay nagkaroon ng isang aktibong masigasig na commander na buong tapang hinaharap ang mga bagay para sa inyong kapakanan,” he told the men and women of the 701st Brigade.He lauded Datuin’s leadership for successfully continuing the programs of his predecessors which paved the way for the strengthening of peace here in the province.

“Binabati ko si Col. Datuin sapagkat binuksan niya ang pintuan tungo sa mabuting pakikipag-ugnayan sa mga mamamayan ng kanyang nasasakupan,” he said, citing the brigade’s partnership with the different sectors leading to a lot of groundwork that has reached the people in the communities.

He also listed several accomplishments and milestones the brigade has gained over the recent years. Among these was the prestigious Gawad sa Kaunlaran Award for its successful implementation of the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) which relentlessly pursues socio-economic development and other non-violent means in winning against insurgencies.

This was conferred by no less than the commander-in-chief of the military, President Rodrigo R. Duterteduring the anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command.Just recently, the brigade also received a Command Plaque from the Army Reservist Command for efficiently tapping reservists in the activities of the military which has been boosting themilitary’s gains in preserving peace.

“You were recognized because of your valuable performance in taking the non-traditional military road to gain support from stakeholders in its exchange. This brigade has gained the accomplishments and progress in terms of civil military operations that significantly made impact in peace and development in this part of the country,” said De Leon.

“The 701st brigade has undoubtedly succeeded in touching and defending lives. Your courage is worthy without any reservations. You have served the people well with sincerity and gave them the freedom to perform their functions free from being cursed and intimidated.”

“Alam kong hindi madali ang inyong tungkuling itaguyod ang kapayapaan, ngunit sa kabila ng lahat ng balakid kayo ay naging matagumpay sa pagpoprotekta sa mga naninirahan dito,” he said, noting the brigade’s efforts in implementing programs that uplifted the lives of the people. “The 7th Infantry Kaugnay Division is proud and honor all of you,” he said.

Working directly on the ground, the military knows first-hand the plight of the people, particularly those in the hinterlands. Working closely with the people led to the entry and efficient delivery of government development programs and services.

The military does a lot more than just preserving the peace. The extent of how strong and formidable the collaboration and partnership between the military and the Provincial Government that was forged was tested when Super Typhoon Pablo struck the province of Davao Oriental. The quick response and hard work that the military extended at the height of the disaster had saved the lives of many typhoon victims.

Governor Nelson L. Dayanghirang praised the 701st brigade’s partnership with the Provincial Government in the implementation of the Bayanihan Program PDOP, which he says, has been changing the face of governance that was able to regain for the government the trust and confidence of communities.

“Working with scarce resources but driven by a sense of purpose, the people behind the Bayanihan program in the province have definitely redefined local governance and development that dramatically changed the lives of people,” he said.

For his part, Brigade Commander Col. Datuin thanked the military’s partners from the Local Government Units and various sectors ‘for believing and collaborating for the army’s covenant of peace and development’. “You are our strength and allies in accomplishing our vision and very core of existence.

“There were challenges, constraints and obstacles but we were able to do the job guided by our mantra of“building character, enhancing competence and strengthening convergence.

”We were focused, determined and motivated to deliver our core purpose of serving the people, securing Davao Oriental and parts of Compostela Valley Province.

Throughout its illustrious history, 701st Infantry Brigade has been a bastion and standard of excellence in both operational and administrative fields of performance. It has strived to contribute in 10th Infantry Division’s mission accomplishment and succeeded in modestly contributing in all lines of effort,” said Datuin.

Welcoming another page in the history of the brigade, the 701st Brigade Anniversary ended in a high note, ready to face another challenges to pursue the goals and vision of the Philippine Army in protecting and serving the people.

1CAV, PIA-9 recognized during 10th Mechanized Infantry Division anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): 1CAV, PIA-9 recognized during 10th Mechanized Infantry Division anniversary  

CAPAS, TARLAC – The 1st Cavalry (Tagapanguna) Squadron was awarded this year as the “Best Cavalry Squadron” by the  Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army during the division’s 10th Activation Anniversary on Tuesday at Camp O’Donnel here.

Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of the Department of National Defense (DND), the event’s guest of honor and speaker presented the 1st Cavalry Squadron Streamer to Lt. Col. Charlemagne F. Batayola Jr., the commanding officer of 1CAV for its significant contributions to internal peace and security in Zamboanga Peninsula.

The 1CAV garnered the highest point in the field of personnel, intelligence, combat operations, logistics, civil military operations, and the judicious use of its resources from among the 12 units of the mechanized infantry division.

In receiving the award Batayola said: “I am overwhelmed to receive the ‘ extremely historic award’. I have been greatly overwhelmed by the support of the officers and men of the unit and most especially to our stakeholders.”

He attributed the unit’s success to the efforts of the officers and men who performed well in their duties and responsibilities.

Batayola said he did not expect that the unit would receive the award for it had received already the same award in the past two years.

With this award, Batayola said, it encouraged us to be more effective and efficient in reaching the unit’s mission- to protect and defend our nation.

“While the recognition is truly great, we won’t rest on our laurels. Going forward, we pledge to work even harder to continue bringing peace and stability that our people expect from us,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-IX, received the “Best Civilian Stakeholder” award for supporting the government’s peace initiatives.

The PIA has been an active partner of the unit in promoting peace in the region for a couple of years now.

Director General Harold Clavite personally received the plaque with PIA-9 Regional Director Noemi B. Edaga.

Clavite said he was extremely honored and appreciative for receiving the significant award. “We were humbled by a great compliment from our partner in peace and development especially the Mechanized Infantry Division,” Clavite concluded.

The 10th anniversary of the Mechanized Division has for its theme, “Celebrating a decade of relevance and sustaining the momentum towards a more, capable, reliable and modern mechanized force.”

MNLF helped in release of 6 kidnap victims, successful operations vs Abus – military official

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): MNLF helped in release of 6 kidnap victims, successful operations vs Abus – military official

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has been of help in the recent successful intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu and Basilan which resulted to the release of 6 kidnap victims – a Norwegian, 3 Indonesians and 2 Filipinos over the weekend, a military official here said.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson for the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) told the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) that the MNLF’s cooperation in the focused military operations has been instrumental in the release of the ASG kidnap victims Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Indonesian fishermen Lorence Koten, Teo Doros Kofong and Emmanuel Arakian.

On Sunday (September 18), kidnapped Filipino telephone company contractors Daniela Taruc and Levy Gonzales were also freed.

“We coordinate with the MNLF, we inform them of our operations, and they would cooperate by leaving the areas so that there will be no misencounter,” Maj. Tan explained, “which has been very helpful in our focused military operations.”

He said that the military has already been expecting the recent release of the kidnap victims because “the ASG is already being pressured too much” due to the continuous “land, air, naval and police operations.”

“Takbo ng takbo na sila, we expected this,” he said. (They are on the run.)

According to Maj. Tan, the MNLF has been known to be helpful to the military. “They have been engaged in encounters with the ASG, even resulting to the death of one ASG commander.”     
The ASG still has 16 remaining hostages, according to Maj. Tan.  

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar clarified earlier that the government maintains the no ransom policy, and that they are not aware if an alleged Php100-million ransom for Sekkingstad’s liberty was paid by the family.

It can be recalled that Sekkingstad’s companions, Robert Hall and John Ridsel were beheaded in April and June by the ASG. They were kidnapped by the terror group in Samal Island together with Filipina Marites Flor last year.

Ceasefire holding on, GRP gearing for next round of peace talks

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 22): Ceasefire holding on, GRP gearing for next round of peace talks

Close to a month after the Philippine government and the communist rebels reopened peace negotiations, the unilateral ceasefires declared by both parties appear to be holding on with no reports of major clashes and incidents.

Government (GRP) chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre ‘Bebot’ Bello III said he is optimistic a bilateral agreement will be reached and put in place when the second round of peace negotiations is resumed on October 4-10, also in Oslo, Norway.

“It is indicative of the sincerity of both parties in the (peace) process which augurs well for peace,” Bello said of the lull in the fighting.

It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte restored a unilateral and indefinite ceasefire on the eve of the formal resumption of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) on August 21 to create a favorable condition for the negotiations.

The NDF in return extended its 7-day goodwill ceasefire (August 21-27) to also declare its own unilateral and indefinite ceasefire when the first round of talks in Oslo ended on August 26.

This indefinite unilateral ceasefire from the NPA is considered “historic and unprecedented.” The NPA said it is inspired by the release of the 22 detained NDF consultants, the most number of prisoners released by the government to date.

In the 30-year history of government peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF, the talks have been disrupted for at least 15 times. The breakdown in the talks was mainly due to two issues: the release of detained NDF consultants and declaration of ceasefire. With both issues addressed, the formal resumption of peace talks on August 22-28 in Oslo was made possible.

Ceasefire was one of agenda items taken up by both panels during the Oslo talks.

Both parties agreed to submit drafts for the formal bilateral ceasefire agreement when the negotiations resume in the first week of October.

“Hopefully, this will ripen to a bilateral and permanent ceasefire and finally the end of hostilities,” Bello said.

In close to 50 years of guerrilla war launched by the NDF, through its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA), more than 150,000 people have been killed in armed clashes and violent incidents.

The Philippine military said the NPA has been reduced to less than 4,000 armed regulars scattered all over the Philippine archipelago.

But in Oslo, NDF panel chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni claimed they have 10,000 armed regulars operating in more than 120 guerrilla fronts that cover more than 72 provinces.

The GRP-NDF formal talks are entering the more substantive phase of the peace negotiations with both parties submitting outlines and drafts on social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms in the next round.

Both parties will also take up a proposed amnesty proclamation for all listed detained NDF members.

The cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces will also be tackled simultaneously during the talks.

The parties earlier agreed to accelerate the peace process with the government peace panel expressing confidence that a final peace agreement will be signed within a year.

The GRP and NDF panels agreed to move the Oslo second round of talks earlier from the original date of October 8-12 to October 6-10. (OPAPP)

US Navy warship fires NATO missile in Philippine Sea

From Update.Ph (Sep 21): US Navy warship fires NATO missile in Philippine Sea

160918-N-BB269-036 PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 18, 2016) The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) fires a Sea Sparrow missile during a missile exercise during Valiant Shield 2016. Valiant Shield 16 is a biennial, U.S.-only, field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. Germantown, part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is participating in Valiant Shield in an effort to increase naval integration and joint capabilities in the event of conflict, contingency, or disaster relief. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III/Released)

United States Navy Wasp-class Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) successfully engaged a target drone with a NATO Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile during a fleet firing exercise in Philippine Sea off the coast of the United States territory of Guam as part of the exercise, Valiant Shield 2016 (VS16), September 18.

The Philippine Sea is a marginal sea east and northeast of the Philippines occupying an estimated surface area of 5 million km² of the western part of the North Pacific Ocean.  
It is bordered by the Philippine archipelago (Luzon, Catanduanes, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao) on the southwest; Halmahera, Morotai, Palau, Yap, and Ulithi (of the Carolines) on the southeast; the Marianas, including Guam, Saipan, and Tinian, on the east; the Bonin and Iwo Jima on the northeast; the Japanese islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyūshū on the north; the Ryukyu Islands on the northwest; and Taiwan in the west.
“It’s been five years since the last time we fired our NATO system and it operated perfectly,” said Bonhomme Richard’s combat systems maintenance manager Senior Chief Fire Controlman Joshua Patat. “I’ve seen four NATO launches in my career, and I have to say this was the best and smoothest one I’ve ever seen. The drone ran its course as we planned, the system tracked it the whole way, and NATO killed it just as the system was designed to do.”

US Navy gathered its forces from the Pacific Command (USPACOM) to participate in exercise VS16 from September 12 to 23 on Guam and around the Marianas Island Range Complex.

According to USPACOM, Valiant Shield is a biennial field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training in a blue-water environment exclusively for US force.

“This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas,” USPACOM said. “The range of capabilities include maritime security operations, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, amphibious operations, and other elements of complex warfighting.”

Duterte to give pistols to all 120,000 PH soldiers

From Rappler (Sep 21): Duterte to give pistols to all 120,000 PH soldiers

Over 120,000 new pistols will be purchased from Israel, says the President

 PROMISES TO MILITARY. President Duterte visits the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley on September 20, 2016. Photo by Karl Normal Alonzo/PPD

PROMISES TO MILITARY. President Duterte visits the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley on September 20, 2016. Photo by Karl Normal Alonzo/PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte is giving additional guns to all 120,000 soldiers in the Philippine military.

“I have decided to arm you all, all enlisted men and women, side arms. It’s the Glock caliber .45, Glock 30,” Duterte said on Tuesday, September 20, during a visit to a military camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley.
His announcement was greeted with applause from his audience of soldiers.
The Glock 30 .45 caliber pistols will be purchased from Israel, said Duterte. He did not explain where the funds for this will come from.
“You should get it as fast as Israel can produce it. I am buying so ilan kayo? Almost 130…120,000 plus. So that’s 120,000. Bibilin ko ‘yan para sa inyo,” he said. (I am buying so how many are you? Almost 130…120,000 plus. So that’s 120,0000. I’ll buy them for you.)
Duterte previously said he had instructed Department of National Defense officials to go to China and Russia to buy military equipment. This time, he added India and Israel as possible sources of defense assets.
Ngayon, lahat ng anti-terrorism equipment, marami na ang nagpunta: China, India, Israel. Sabi ko there will be only at least one or two source sa ating intelligence equipment,” he said. (Now, all our anti-terrorism equipment, many have gone to China, India, Israel. I said there will be only at least one or two sources of our intelligence equipment.)
Duterte has been visiting military camps all over the country since his 3rd week in power. During these visits, he speaks to soldiers assuring them of his loyalty, explaining the need for the government to talk to communist and Moro rebels, and making promises to take care of the military.
The President has promised to raise their salaries and add 20,000 more soldiers to the armed forces, to buy state-of-the-art military equipment, to improve military health facilities, and to protect soldiers from jail time should cases be filed against them for their actions while “performing their duty.”
He has also visited military hospitals, giving cash assistance and medals to soldiers wounded in action.

Duterte to troops: Massacre criminals, I’ll promote you

From Rappler (Sep 21): Duterte to troops: Massacre criminals, I’ll promote you

In the same speech, Duterte tells soldiers he will never order them to do anything illegal

TALK TO TROOPS. President Duterte speaks to troops of the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley. Photo by Karl Norman Alonzo/PPD

TALK TO TROOPS. President Duterte speaks to troops of the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley. Photo by Karl Norman Alonzo/PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte reminded Philippine soldiers that no matter how many criminals they kill in the line of duty, he will pardon them and even give them a promotion.

“For as long as there is the power to pardon sa Constitution, ‘yan ang weapon ko (that’s my weapon) against crime. Mag-massacre kayo ng isang daan, isang daan din kayo, eh di pardon lahat kayo (Massacre 100 people, I’ll pardon all of you) – restore to full political and civil rights plus a promotion to boot,” said Duterte on Tuesday, September 20.
He was speaking to soldiers of the 10th Infantry Division in a military camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley. (READ: Why has Duterte visited 14 military camps in less than a month?)
Itaga ninyo ito sa puso ninyo (Carve this into your hearts): For as long as I am the president, nobody but nobody – no military man or policeman will go to prison because they performed their duties,” he emphasized.
Duterte instructed soldiers to kill criminals whether or not they pull out a gun. Previously, he had said to shoot criminals only if they violently resist arrest.
Pagka bumunot, patayin mo. Pag hindi bumunot, patayin mo rin putang ina para matapos na. Eh kaysa mawala pa ‘yung baril. Ako na ang bahala sa inyo,” he said.
(If they pull out a gun, kill them. If they don’t, kill them, son of a whore so it’s over, lest you lose the gun. I’ll take care of you.)
No 'illegal' orders
But Duterte later on said he would never order the military to do something illegal.
Hindi ako mag-order ng illegal. ‘Wag kayong maniwala diyan. (I won’t order anything illegal. Don’t believe that.) I did not order you and the police to perform punitive police action. I have declared war against the drug syndicates in this country. You know what is war. War is war,” said the President.
Duterte’s colorful threats against criminals have led critics, including international bodies like the United Nations and the European Parliament, to raise concern over what the Philippine government's policy is when it comes to extrajudicial killings.
THEIR COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF. Soldiers listen to President Duterte deliver his speech on September 20, 2016. Photo by Karl Norman Alonzo/PPD
THEIR COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF. Soldiers listen to President Duterte deliver his speech on September 20, 2016. Photo by Karl Norman Alonzo/PPD

As early as the 2016 campaign season, Duterte had already said he would pardon military and police officers if they are charged for deaths that occur as they perform their duty.
Asked to comment on Duterte’s conflicting messages to soldiers and police, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said on September 15 that Duterte’s messages are “layered.”
He also said that despite Duterte’s verbal threats, “There is no written order that states that. What is stated is that they can shoot in order to protect themselves.”
The Palace has clarified that extrajudicial killings are not sanctioned by the Duterte administration. 
Duterte’s war on drugs has killed at least 3,295 people since July 1, a day after he took office. Of this number, 1,167 have been killed in legitimate police operations as of September 20.
Meanwhile, 2,128 have been slain in extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings as of September 18.

AFP chief vows to 'decimate' Abu Sayyaf in 3 months

From Rappler (Sep 21): AFP chief vows to 'decimate' Abu Sayyaf in 3 months

AFP chief General Ricardo Visaya says he intends to meet his target before he retires in December

DECIMATE. AFP chief General Ricardo Visaya vows to 'decimate, neutralize' the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf before he retires on December 8, 2016. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

DECIMATE. AFP chief General Ricardo Visaya vows to 'decimate, neutralize' the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf before he retires on December 8, 2016. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

Armed Forces chief General Ricardo Visaya vowed to “neutralize” and “decimate” the Abu Sayyaf group before he retires on December 8.

Visaya, who was the Army battalion commander during the 2004 bloody clashes with Hacienda Luisita workers, was appointed on July 1, 2016. He is set to retire on December 8, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 for the military.

Despite the short stint, Visaya is confident he can neutralize the terrorist group based in Mindanao which has been mostly involved in kidnap-for-ransom activities. He said he would channel all his energy in his last 3 months as AFP chief to fight them.

“Not really drive away (Abu Sayyaf) but neutralize them. That’s why...most of our resources are dedicated to them,” Visaya said after his confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments on Wednesday, September 21.

“Ang goal namin diyan (Our goal there is) no more hostages; Abu Sayyaf will be decimated,” he said, saying that is the "tall order of the President."

At present, Visaya said the terrorist group still has 16 hostages under its custody – 6 Indonesians, 5 Malaysians, 4 Filipinos, and one Dutch.

Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad was released on September 16, a year he and 3 others were abducted in Samal Island in Davao del Norte in September 2015.

Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Deruza said Moro National Liberation Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari and former Sulu governor Sakur Tan, "and other volunteers" helped facilitate Sekkingstad's release. There are unconfirmed reports that ransom was paid.
Visaya said a third of the Philippine Army has beend eployed to Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Jolo to eliminate the terrorist group.

"With the rate we are going ano na eh, nagiging we are towards that end eh. Kasi biruin mo, starting last August we have neutralized 57 (With the rate we are going, it's like we are towards the end. Just imagine, starting last August, we have neutralized 57)," he said.

The Abu Sayyaf, he said, has about 400 forces on the ground.

Short stint enough?

Visaya is staying as chief-of-staff for only 5 months, amid the government’s intensified fight against illegal drugs and terrorism.

Asked if his short stint would jeopardize this, Visaya acknowledged the need to extend the term of office of AFP chiefs.

“Kaya after this, inaano ko rin naman 'yan na it should be longer 'yung term ng chief of staff. Although the law says you can continue not beyond 3 years that’s the prerogative of the President,” Visaya said. (That's why after this, I am pushing that the term of the chief of staff should be longer. Although the law says you can continue not beyond 3 years, that's the prerogative of the president.)

He, however, pointed out the President has the discretion to extend his appointment not more than 3 years past retirement age.

He noted that out of 47 chiefs-of-staff of the AFP, there were “about 10” generals whose terms were extended by the sitting president.

Is he expecting to be extended by President Duterte? “No naman… kasi (Not really because) that is always prerogative of the President," he said.

Beyond Hacienda Luisita, Visaya is said to be an effective counter-insurgency commander. He was closely associated with his superior at the time, the now detained Major General Jovito Palparan, who was 7th Infantry Division chief in charge of Army units in Central Luzon. Palparan faces various charges of human rights violations allegedly committed under the Arroyo government.