Sunday, January 1, 2017

Special task group created to probe Leyte blast

From Rappler (Jan 2): Special task group created to probe Leyte blast

The task group will investigate the explosion that rocked Hilongos town in Leyte province on December 28, injuring 32 individuals

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Eastern Visayas have created Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Hilongos, following the explosion that rocked Hilongos town in Leyte on December 28, injuring 32 individuals.
The task group is composed of PNP Regional Director in Eastern Visayas PCSupt Elmer Beltejar as the supervisor, PSSupt Allan Cuevillas as SITG Commander, and PSSupt Franco Simborio as assistant commander. Also included as members are the following police officials:
  • Chief Inspector Bella Rentuaya
  • PSupt Jojie Tabios
  • PSSupt Arcadio Janor Jr
  • PSupt Dominador Matalang
  • PSupt Mario Abrenzosa
  • PSupt Jose Melvin Tamaca
  • Chief Inspector Alberto Renomeron Jr
  • PSupt Carlo Centinaje
  • SPO2 Angleo Del Pilar
  • SPO4 Fortunato Colibao.
Lawyer Jerry Abiera, Regional Director of the National Bureau of Investigation in Region 8, and Captain Jay Dayap of the 802nd Brigade were also requested to assist Police Regional Office 8 in the investigation of the incident.
According to Beltejar, the task group was created to spearhead and coordinate the investigative efforts of the police for the speedy resolution and successful prosecution on the explosion incident that occurred in Hilongos, Leyte.
"It is the responsibility of the SITG to properly manage the case and ensure its resolution by applying the best investigative techniques and utilizing all its available resources," he said.
The PNP also encouraged the public to immediately report suspicious people and items, and to help provide information that will lead to the identification and arrest of suspects.

4 BIFF patay sa bakbakan

From Philippine Star Ngayon (Jan 2): 4 BIFF patay sa bakbakan (4 BIFF killed in clash)

Apat na miyembro ng Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) ang napatay makaraang muling sumiklab ang matinding sagupaan ng militar na nag-umpisa bandang alas-7:40 ng gabi hanggang alas-5:20 ngayong umaga sa Maguindanao.

Ayon kay 1st Mechanized (light armor) Brigade Commander Colonel Felicisimo Budiongan, sunud-sunod na sinalakay ng BIFF ang mga detachment sa bayan ng Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Dahil sa rami ng mga re­belde ay nagpakawala ng mga bala ng 105mm Howitzers cannon ang military at tumulong na rin ang dalawang MG-520 attack helicopters ng Philippine Air Force (PAF) para bombahin ang BIFF.

Maraming sibilyan din ang nagsilikas sa takot na maipit sa kaguluhan patu­ngo sa mga ligtas na lugar sa bayan ng Datu Piang at Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

Nabatid na ang sunud-sunod na pagsalakay ng BIFF ay ganti ng mga rebelde sa pagkasawi ni Tamarin Esmael alyas Kumander Tamarin, vice chairman ng Internal Affairs ng Bangsa­moro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM).

Maliban sa pag-atake sa bayan ng Datu Salibo, inatake rin ng BIFF ang mga detachment ng sundalo sa mga bayan ng Pigcawayan at Midsayap sa North Cotabato.

Gayunman, may mga inisyal na ulat na nasa apat na BIFF ang napatay at marami ang sugatan sa magkabilang panig dahil sa nagpapatuloy na panaka-nakang sagupaan.

4 Moro rebels killed, 4 more hurt in Maguindanao clashes with soldiers

From GMA News (Jan 1): 4 Moro rebels killed, 4 more hurt in Maguindanao clashes with soldiers

Four members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have been killed and four others wounded in clashes with government soldiers that lasted 10 hours in Datu Salibo town, Maguindanao, a military official said Sunday morning.

In an interview on dzBB, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that initial information from the field indicated that four members of the BIFF were killed and four others from the group were hurt in skirmishes that started 7:40 p.m. Friday and ended at past 5 a.m. Saturday.

Padilla also said that while no casualties were reported on the government side, soldiers in Datu Salibo welcomed 2017 at the camps in full-alert mode to thwart more retaliatory attacks by the Moro rebel group.

Moreover, he said that last Friday's attacks on military detachments in Maguindanao were retaliatory, driven by rage over the death of BIFF's leader and the soldiers' success in the anti-drug campaign against the group.

A GMA News report on Saturday quoted Col. Felicisimo Budiongan, commander of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, as saying that government forces were forced to use 105 mm Howitzers Cannon and two MG-520 attack helicopters from Philippine Air Force (PAF) because of the huge number of rebels that staged the attacks.

Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians have fled to Datu Piang and Datu Saudi Ampatuan towns for safety, he said.

Aside from attacking military detachments in Datu Salibo, the rebels also attacked military positions in the towns of Pigcawayan and Midsayap in North Cotabato.

3 Army soldiers nabbed after firing guns during New Year revelry

From GMA News (Jan 1): 3 Army soldiers nabbed after firing guns during New Year revelry

Police arrested three members of the Philippine Army for indiscriminately firing their firearms during the New Year revelry in Oriental Mindoro.

A radio dzBB report identified the soldiers as Privates First Class Kevin Fajilgutan, John Rey Calansa and Leonard Magro, members of the 514th Engineering Construction Battalion of the 51st Engineering Brigade.

The report said that according to Oriental Mindoro police chief Senior Superintendent Christopher Birung, the three soldiers fired their .45 pistols to celebrate the New Year in Barangay Roma.

A villager, however, was hit by a stray bullet fired from one of the soldiers' firearms. Investigations are ongoing against the three soldiers

BIFF attacks soldiers in North Cotabato, Maguindanao on New Year's Eve

From ABS-CBN (Jan 1): BIFF attacks soldiers in North Cotabato, Maguindanao on New Year's Eve

Suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked two military detachments in North Cotabato and Maguindanao on New Year's Eve, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

Around 40 armed men believe to be members of the BIFF harassed an Army detachment of Alpha Company of the 34th infantry battalion based in Barangay Nabalawag in the town of Midsayap in North Cotabato Saturday night.

It resulted in a 30-minute exchange of gunfire.

Norsel Bulaybulay, wife of a soldier, was slightly wounded in her hand after she was hit by shrapnel from a blast near the Army detachment.

Armed men believed to be members of BIFF also harassed the detachment of the 21st Mechanized Company in Barangay Elian in Datu Saudi-Ampatuan, Maguindanao at around 6 p.m. Saturday night.

No casualties were reported in the incident.

Lieutenant Colonel Warlito Limet, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said they have received information that BIFF members will disrupt new year celebrations.

Limet, however, said the Army is on alert and is prepared to prevent any untoward incident.

Editorial: In the open, a government effort to make our country communist

Editorial from the Manila Times (Dec 31): Editorial: In the open, a government effort to make our country communist

There is more than abundant reason for this newspaper and the nation to be concerned that a reported paper by former Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on how to deal with the Duterte government in the next 18 months has now provided President Rodrigo Duterte and his Leftist colleagues in the Cabinet not only a convenient excuse to intensify their political attacks against the United States, which remains a friendly government, but more than that, a smokescreen to cover concrete and dangerous moves to fast-track the intended communization of the six-month-old government.

We take very seriously the observations made in his Friday column by Times columnist Francisco S. Tatad, a former senator and Cabinet minister, who has identified Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. as the moving force behind this extremely dangerous project. Evasco is an ex-priest, ex-rebel and ex-mayor (of Maribojoc, Bohol), who served as Duterte’s campaign manager in the last election, and ended as Cabinet Secretary after the position of Executive Secretary went to a lawyer-friend from San Beda College of Law, Salvador Medialdea.

The position of Cabinet Secretary is in principle an innocuous one. And for a while Evasco looked perfectly powerless, harmless and purely ornamental in that position. But in one dramatic move, Duterte put him in charge of the “supervision” of 12 strategic agencies, with access to billions of pesos in operational funds and a direct constituency of millions of people, notably the poor. These included the Cooperative Development Authority, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, the National Food Authority, the National Youth Commission, the Presidential Action Center, Office of the President, the Philippine Commission on Women, the Philippine Coconut Authority, the Philippine Commission on the Urban Poor, the Technical Education Skills Development Authority.

These agencies used to function directly under the President, who, under the Constitution, exercises “control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices.” By putting Evasco on top of these critical agencies, including the HUDCC, which was headed by Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo until she was sacked from the Cabinet, Duterte made him more powerful than any Cabinet member—-more powerful than the Vice President. This did not necessarily make him a dangerous man. What made him a dangerous man——in fact the most dangerous man in the administration——is his command and control of the communist cluster within the government, and his unimpeded effort to make this group the dominant force in government.

In the beginning, the public was made to believe only four communists or communist recommendees had been appointed to the Cabinet, without the benefit of a peace agreement with the CPP/NPA/NDF. These included Evasco, Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Silvestre Bello of the Department of Labor. Tatad’s subsequent expose revealed that even the Executive Secretary Medialdea was also a full CPP member, and several undersecretaries and heads of agencies, like Delfin “Dale” Cabrera, were also CPP members. Tatad’s latest expose has revealed that all of the regional coordinators of Evasco’s Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change), which has begun its open organizational activities nationwide, are also CPP members.

There is nothing clandestine about any of these. Evasco’s organizing activity is out in the open. Government funds and facilties are being used to support the KP’s nationwide activities. Duterte has openly proclaimed his preference for a revolutionary government and the methods he has used in his war on drugs are fully in accord with his preferred government. A communist coup by Evasco is a declared objective. All these must be clear to us at this stage.

Because of the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991, and China’s shift to market economics even before that, most people, including Filipinos, no longer seem to think the communist danger still exists. But the recent parade by some 2,000 armed communist warriors in Davao to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, plus the demand for the release of communist prisoners by the government, tells us we cannot take anything for granted. Evasco himself has begun sending to his friends photos of himself sporting a Soviet cap with a red star in front, with all the implied message.

Unless and until Duterte deals accordingly with Evasco and his activities, we have no choice but to hold him responsible for their consequences.

Maneuvering the country’s foreign policy

From the Business Mirror (Jan 1): Maneuvering the country’s foreign policy

In Photo: The Foreign Affairs building on Roxas Boulevard

It was a tumultuous 2016 for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as President Duterte seemed to conduct his foreign policy on the fly, while Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. tried to make sense of it all.


Since assuming office in June, Duterte has announced historic changes in the country’s foreign-policy direction. In his own words, he broke ties with the United States (US), threw expletives at the United Nations (UN) and flatly rejected the Tribunal’s favorable decision for the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Critics compared Duterte to Machiavelli, who would not blink upsetting the apple cart to get what he wants.

“I have realigned myself in your [China] ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines and Russia. It is the only way,” he said during his state visit to China in October last year.

“With that, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States. I have separated from them. So I will be dependent on you for all time. But do not worry. We will also help as you help us.”

Duterte made this earthshaking statement in Beijing, where he called a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally the US deteriorates.

Yasay, who is a political appointee, thus finds himself having to defend his boss, a job that calls for a seasoned diplomat with foreign-policy skills and unparalleled diplomatic savvy.

Yasay is a lawyer, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and was Bangon Pilipinas Party’s vice-presidential bet in the 2010 Philippine elections, running alongside Eddie Villanueva. He accepted the offer of Duterte to join his Cabinet in May, shortly after the elections.

Yasay tried to explain the meaning of the President’s pronouncements in China, saying that what Duterte said was the result of a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“It was really a follow through in China, where we were able to sign numerous agreements,” Yasay said in a televised interview.  “These are not self-executory. We want to make sure specific agreements and objectives would be executed so they can be implemented.”

In New York Yasay expressed his delight in seeing his old friends and colleagues, and recalling his time there during a Town Hall gathering in September 2016,   at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center in Manhattan.  He is a member of the Bar of the US Supreme Court, and the US Circuit Court of Appeals.

While in New York, he was managing director of the Maceda Philippine News from 1983 to 1987 and senior partner at two law firms—Maceda, Yasay & Tolentino, Esqs., and Yasay & De Castro, Esqs.—from 1979 to 1990.

The former Big Apple resident compared the Filipino community’s dynamics during his time to how it is today, and expressed his pleasure in the solidarity the Filipino-Americans show in increasing the visibility of the Philippines in the US.

He urged the more than 180 community members in attendance to give back to the country and be partners for social change to make a positive impact on their home country.

But the things Yasay actually wanted to say was not delivered during that Fil-Am gathering.

He said the United States has failed the Philippines  in the eyes of Duterte and added that  the country should end its subservience to the United States’s interests.

Yasay added that the US cannot even assure the Philippines that it will promptly come to the country’s defense under the existing military treaty and agreements.

This was an offshoot of the Scarborough Shoal incident in 2012 to 2013, when the US failed to support the Philippines against China’s superior naval forces.

A traditional Filipino fishing ground just 147 kilometers away from Zambales, China’s forceful occupation of Scarborough Shoal riles the Filipinos no end. The incident also has shown the limits of the US support for the country.

The Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) could only be activated if there is an attack on Philippine territory. The Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal were deemed outside of this defense perimeter.

In subsequent statements, the Philippines claimed that under a 2012 deal mediated by the US, China and the Philippines promised a bilateral withdrawal of their forces from the shoal until a deal over its ownership could be reached.

The Philippines complied with the agreement and withdrew. China, however, did not abide by the agreement and maintained its presence at the shoal, effectively militarizing it.

China claimed that no such deal had been reached, and that it was open to talking to the Philippines provided that non-regional entities, such as the US, stayed out of such talks.

By July 2012, the DFA said China had erected a barrier to the entrance of the shoal with fisheries law-enforcement command observed in the nearby disputed shoal.

It was under these circumstances that Duterte finds the MDT useless and, from then on, said he is aligning the country’s interests with China.

Meanwhile, the UN got Duterte’s goat after criticizing his war on drugs and the many death resulting in alleged extrajudicial killings and human-rights abuses.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned President-elect Duterte’s apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings.

Ban said in a statement then that he was extremely disturbed by Duterte’s recent remarks regarding attacks against Filipino journalists.  The UN chief also pledged to continue to stand up for the rights of journalists.

Ban made the statement during the UN Correspondents Association Directory Reception following Duterte’s controversial remarks on the killing of corrupt journalists.  Duterte countered that corrupt journalists were to be blamed if they were killed.

Prior to Ban’s statement, UN special rapporteurs criticized Duterte for his statements on the killing of journalists. Duterte defended himself, saying that their statements were based on the wrong premise. He also denied saying corrupt journalists deserved to die.

Before Ban issued his statement against Duterte, the incoming president had already criticized the UN for failing to stop killings in the Middle East and Africa.  He also said the UN should not force its code of conduct on him.

 The President heaped expletives on the UN for focusing its attention on the Philippines while it has failed to stop the bloodshed in Syria and other troubled spots in the Middle East.

Yasay tried to soften the blow. He said the Philippines continue to engage the international community within the framework of the guiding principles of the UN and according to its time-honored processes and protocols.

Yasay also said the UN and the Philippines must remain relevant and responsive to the needs of countries and peoples for enduring peace, security and stability.

Yasay added that the Philippine government is firm on its war against drugs, while also emphasizing its adherence to due process and strict observance of the rule of law. He said the government acts for the general welfare of the Filipinos.

Meanwhile, Duterte’s issues with the US were reignited when he was criticized in the press by President Barrack Obama for the many deaths that resulted in his unrelenting war against the drug menace engulfing the country.

As a result, Duterte has declared a pivot in Philippine foreign policy that will separate it from the US and bring it closer to China and Russia.

Earlier in his presidency, Duterte had exposed America’s carnage in the Philippine during its occupation of the country early in the 19th  century.

At the East Asia Summit leaders’ meeting in September last year, Duterte veered off of his prepared remarks and launched into an emotional speech that included a reference to the 1906 massacre that took place near Jolo’s Bud Dajo Volcano in Mindanao.

During that incident, US troops, on the orders of Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, killed over 600 Moros—including unarmed women and children—sparking outcry not just among the Moros, but even anti-imperialists in the US, such as Mark Twain.

He also indicated that he will reevaluate and, perhaps, rescind the 2014 US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that allows the Americans to rotate troops and assets through bases in the Philippines.

Shortly after his return from China, Duterte said one of the concessions he was able to get from Xi was to allow Zambales fishermen, who used to be shooed away from Scarborough Shoal by Chinese maritime ships, to again fish in the contested area.

As for putting the Tribunal’s decision on the back burner because the country, at this stage, could not deal with China militarily,   Yasay admitted that the Philippines is helpless against a vastly superior force if it is, indeed, militarizing the Spratly Islands in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Yasay was in Singapore last December  to accompany Duterte on a state visit. There, Yasay said other countries like the US, Japan, and the European Union are concerned about the activities of China, which could impact on the freedom of navigation.

Yasay added that efforts have paid off as Filipino fishermen, for example, now have free access and are able to fish in the disputed waters.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario reacted sternly to pronouncements by the current administration over the Philippines’s disposition in the South China Sea spat with China.

Del Rosario warned that three recent positions taken by the government, based on pronouncements by Duterte, could set back hard-won gains by the Philippines in batting for a rules-based solution in order to safeguard its maritime rights, especially given recent reports of China’s moves to militarize several of the disputed islands.

Del Rosario noted three key pronouncements by Duterte, followed up by Yasay, including:
The government’s position that it will not protest China’s latest blatant violations of international law by its deployment of missile systems in the South China Sea, setting aside the arbitral ruling, and unwinding of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

Del Rosario said such utterances are being made after the country had taken a firm rules-based position to defend its territory.

It took the Aquino administration three years to get its complaint against Beijing’s encroachments in the West Philippine Sea processed for admission, heard and deliberated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague before the July 12, 2016, ruling was finally handed down in favor of Philippine entitlements under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The July 12 ruling invalidated China’s expansive claim over the disputed waters.

Yasay apparently sought to apply damage control by clarifying that the government was simply working hard on building confidence in its relations with China in order to make bilateral discussions easier somewhere down the road, where, in Manila’s view, the UN ruling would be a very helpful guide.

But for del Rosario, this meant that the Philippines was on its way to placing its future on the hands of China and has weakened the country’s stand for upholding the rule of law.

Amid this exchange of words come the surprising revelations that  China has apparently installed significant defensive weapons on artificial islands in the Spratlys.

The latest images of the Spratlys, released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, showed a series of hexagonal structures now in place on each of seven islets that appear to be large anti-aircraft and close-in weapons systems.

Arrested to force his son to surrender

From the pro-CPP/NDF/NPA online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Jan 1): Arrested to force his son to surrender

CAMP BAGONG DIWA, Taguig City – For nearly two years now, Cenon Sambola has been detained for being the father of a person being sought by the military.

Sambola, 61, was arrested on Jan. 28, 2015 while he was cooking dinner inside their home in barangay Pasay, Del Gallego, Camarines Sur. Authorities brought him to Camp Nakar, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command in Lucena City. Soldiers told Sambola to ask his eldest son Gerson to surrender to authorities.

“They said my son is a NPA [New People’s Army],” Sambola told Bulatlat in an interview. “They said they would not release me until my son surfaces.”

Sambola was charged with the murder of a certain Master Sargeant Reynaldo Valdez who was killed in an armed encounter on April 30, 2004 in barangay Bayanihan, San Narciso, Quezon.

“I told the soldiers, ‘Should Juan be made accountable for the sins of Pedro’?” Sambola recalled.
Gerson himself was arrested in 2011 but was eventually released in 2013 after posting bail for a rebellion case.

His father, a longtime peasant leader in the community, was the easy prey. Sambola had been in Del Gallego town since 1990s, taking care of the two youngest of his eight children.

Sambola spent a year at the Gumaca District Jail where 80 detainees were cramped in a cell suitable for only 25. He was transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City early this year.

Sambola is among the political prisoners slated for release when peace talks resumed between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Besides being an elderly, Sambola has hypertension.

“Since October, we were expecting to be released,” Sambola said. “Then, the government took back its promise.”

When paralegal volunteers from Karapatan checked out his record in different jails, Sambola was surprised to know that three more cases were filed against him. The charges include murder, robbery, homicide, kidnapping and multiple murder for incidents which allegedly occurred as far back as 1989 and 2003.

Sambola said the newly discovered cases from various courts aim to prolong his detention.

As 2016 is about to end, Sambola remains hopeful that all political prisoners would be released.

The old petite farmer does not pin his hopes on Duterte but on the continuing struggle of the Filipino people for justice.

AFP suspects Reds killed tribal leader, brother in Davao Oriental

From GMA News (Jan 1): AFP suspects Reds killed tribal leader, brother in Davao Oriental

An indigenous people (IP) leader and his brother were killed by suspected communist rebels in Davao Oriental province two days before New Year's Day, the military said Sunday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Cuper Banugan, likid or chieftain of the Mandaya tribe, and his brother were slain during an attack by armed men on their houses at the CADT-01 area in Caraga around 11 p.m. last December 30.

Padila said the identifies of the armed men, who boarded two vans, were still undetermined though "all indications and motives point to the New People's Army due to prior incidents."

Banugan was the chief of the tribal council in CADT-01 area and was also the proponent of the village peace zone that prohibits the entry of armed groups in the area.

The military said that last June, about 200 NPA members from New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province; Cateel, Boston and Baganga, all in Davao Oriental, entered the CADT-01 area and knocked on the doors of residents including that of Banugan.

Banugan reported the incident to the media, including the alleged meddling of the NPA in purely IP matters.

In November, a similar incident happened but the tribal council and its elders decided not to have the media report it to prevent the situation from worsening.

The attacks were said to be due to claims by the NPA that Banugan and the whole council are military assets.

The council had already insisted it was not taking sides, but merely supports peace and development efforts in their community.

There are three existing organizations organized by Banugan for the IP leaders and elders; for women; and for the youth.

The NPA is reportedly against the three organizations that Banugan had organized for the IP leaders and elders, for women, and for the youth.

The NPA is also reportedly opposing the decision of the tribal council on the land claims of two families in Sitio Sabang, where the communist group favored the losing family.

AFP backs Duterte amid oust plot – DND chief

From the Philippine Star (Jan 1): AFP backs Duterte amid oust plot – DND chief

Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana said the morale among troops remains high, noting how the President, as commander-in-chief, made the effort to visit as many military camps as he could to boost the morale of the military in his campaign against illegal drugs. AP Photo/Aaron Favila, file

Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana has assured the public the entire 125,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remains supportive of President Duterte.

Lorenzana said the morale among troops remains high, noting how the President, as commander-in-chief, made the effort to visit as many military camps as he could to boost the morale of the military in his campaign against illegal drugs.

Lorenzana made the statement even after Duterte ordered all military camps open for communist rebels after he declared the holiday ceasefire.

Lorenzana shrugged off the reported ouster plot ‘blueprint’ of  former US ambassador Philip Goldberg. He said military intelligence units would continue their job of protecting the integrity of the Republic.

Lorenzana gave the assurance in the wake of reported ouster plots against Duterte.

He said he did not believe the report of the plot outright. He noted the US State Department had also denied the supposed plot.

I would not even believe it at face value,” Lorenzana said.

Upon consulting with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Lorenzana said they agreed to dismiss the ouster rumors.

China's Xi says won't let anyone make 'fuss' about its territory

From InterAksyon (Jan 1): China's Xi says won't let anyone make 'fuss' about its territory

Reuters file photo of Xi Jinping.

China will never allow anyone to "make a great fuss" about its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, President Xi Jinping said in his New Year's address, while China's top official in charge of Taiwan ties warned of risk ahead in 2017.

China's increasingly assertive moves to push its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, including building artificial islands, has unnerved its neighbors.

"We adhere to peaceful development, and resolutely safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests," Xi said, in comments carried by state media late on Saturday.

"Chinese people will never allow anyone to get away with making a great fuss about it," he said, without elaborating.

China claims most of the South China Sea. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

While Xi made no direct mention of self-ruled Taiwan, aside from extending New Year's greetings to them, the head of China's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office in his New Year's message said that 2017 would see uncertainty.

"Looking ahead to 2017, the situation in the Taiwan Strait is complex and serious, and the development of relations are facing many uncertain factors and risk," Zhang Zhijun said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China hopes that people on both sides can show resolve and courage, to ensure the "correct direction" of the peaceful development of ties and work to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, he added.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Saturday that Taiwan will be "calm" when dealing with China, but uncertainties in 2017 will test the island and its national security team, even as she recommitted to maintaining peace.

China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province.

US President-elect Donald Trump angered China last month when he spoke to Tsai in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration's commitment to Beijing's "one China" policy.

China's military has become alarmed by what it sees as Trump's support of Taiwan and is considering strong measures to prevent the island from moving toward independence, sources with ties to senior military officers said.