Provinces around MM on alert against NPAs

Camp Crame, Quezon City/Camp Geronimo, Rizal — Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), ordered yesterday all elite police units to intensify the combat operations against the communist rebels in all the provinces surrounding Metro Manila.

“This order is in relation to the ambush carried out against our SAF (Special Action Force) in Antipolo City,” said Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, PNP spokesman, adding that the PNP Chief also ordered close coordination with the military to further improve the combat operations against the rebels.

During the ambush, six SAF commandos were wounded as the vehicle they were on was strafed in Barangay San Jose on Sunday morning.

Bulalacao also clarified that there are no missing SAF commandos after the ambush. “All the SAF personnel are fully accounted for, including their firearms,” said Bulalacao, quoting a report from the SAF Director Noli Talino.

Major General Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s Second Infantry Division (2ID), said that two of the reported missing SAF members were already rescued by government forces under the army’s 80th Infantry Battalion.

Hit by bullets were PO2 Brendo Carino, PO2 Reymar Guevarra, PO2 Mark Andrew Bwela, and PO2 Joseph Alberca. PO2 Gran Omines and PO2 Ryan Gonzales sustained bruises and wounds as a result of the attack in the remote sitio of San Joseph in Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City.

In the website, the Philippine Revolution Web Central, believed to be managed by the communists, a certain Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, spokesperson of the NPA-Southern Tagalog (Melito Glor Command) in a press statement, congratulated the Rizal-based rebels for the attack.

The entire Rizal Police Provincial Office (PPO) has since been on heightened alert, said Supt. Ruben Piquero, PPO deputy director.

5 NPAs arrested

Meanwhile, at least five New People’s Army (NPA), including the leader of training specialist of the rebel group’s demolition and explosive team, were captured in a raid by government forces in Cabisera 17-21, Barangay San Antonio, Ilagan City, Isabela.

Sr. Supt. John Cornelius A. Jambora, Isabela PPO director, identified thosee captured as Mauricio Sagun, aliases “Raul” and “Johny,” of San Mariano, Isabela, alleged training leader; Mario Turqueza, 65; Ariel Peñaflor, 48; Bernard Peñaflor, 21; and Maximiñano Domingo, 44.

3 Reds surrender

Meanwhile in Camp Aquino, Tarlac, the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) reported the surrender of three NPA guerrillas to government forces in Ilocos Sur last Sunday.

Lt. Col Isagani Nato, Nolcom public information officer identified the surrenderers as Joel Tayan Sabino, alias “Ben,” 48, of the NPA’s Begnalen Command; and Judith Balingsat Dumalig alias “Maya,” 49, and Jayson Batuli Catriz, alias “Mayo,” both of the Milisyang Bayan (MB) utilized by Komiteng Larangang Gerilya (KLG) Montes operating in Tubo, Abra. (With reports from Danny J. Estacio, Liezle Basa Iñigo, Franco G. Regala, and Mar T. Supnad)

Provinces around MM on alert against NPAs

NPA bomb training specialist,4 others nabbed in Isabela

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: A suspected training specialist of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) demolition and explosive team, and four others were arrested by police and military personnel in Ilagan City, Isabela on Sunday.

Senior Supt. Cornelius Jambora, Isabela provincial police director, said Mauricio Sagun, alias “Raul/Johny,” 65, of Barangay Old San Mariano, San Mariano town in Isabela, was arrested at around midnight on Sunday at Cabisera 17-21 in Barangay San Antonio.

Jambora said intelligence reports revealed that Sagun is the training head of the NPA’s Special Partisan Unit or Sparu Demolition and Explosive Team, Regional Operation Command in Cagayan Valley.

The other arrested rebels were Mario Turqueza, 65; Ariel Peñaflor, 48; Bernard Peñaflor, 21; all of Barangay Minanga in San Mariano; and Maximiñano Domingo, 44, of Barangay Old San Mariano.

A police report said law enforcers and the Philippine Army’s 86 Infantry Battalion, 502 Brigade of the 5th Infantry (Star) Division (5ID), and military intelligence groups served the warrant of arrest against Sagun issued by Judge Isaac de Alban of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16 in Ilagan City.

The four others who were with Sagun were found in possession of Pietro Berreta caliber .9mm pistol with magazine and ammunition, a caliber .38 revolver with ammunition and three hand grenades.

Police said the suspects have been turned over to the custody of the Ilagan City police station.

Meanwhile, three NPA members surrendered to the Philippines Army’s (PA) 7th Infantry Division (7ID) in Barangay Bugbuga, Santa Cruz town in Ilocos Sur on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) public information officer, identified the surrenderers as Joel Tayan Sabino, alias “Ben,” 48, of the armed propaganda Unit-Begnalen Command; Judith Balingsat Dumalig, alias “Maya,” 49, and Jayson Batuli Catriz, alias “Mayo,” both of the Milisyang Bayan (MB) utilized by Komiteng Larangang Gerilya (KLG) Montes operating in Tubo, Abra.

He said the rebels are from Barangay San Ramon East in Manabo, Abra.

The rebels also surrendered their high-powered firearms with ammunition and magazine – Colt M16A1 rifle and two caliber .30 Springfield Garand rifles.

NPA bomb training specialist,4 others nabbed in Isabela

Navy ships deployed in Malampaya area

THE TWO multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) and a Naval vessel were deployed to patrol the waters off Palawan, particularly the Malampaya gas field area, will also be utilized in rescue operations, the Philippine Navy said on Monday.

Lt. Junior Grade Maivi Neri, spokesman for the Naval Forces West (NavForWest), confirmed that BRP Nestor Reinoso (PC380) and the 3rd Boat Attack Division composed of two MPACs, will be under the operational control of Joint Task Force-Malampaya of the Palawan-based Western Command (WesCom).

The three ships were sent off last week by the Philippine Fleet based in Sangley Point, Cavite last week to conduct maritime patrol and surveillance; maritime law enforcement; and maritime security operations.

But Neri confirmed that the two ships will be within the Malampaya gas platform at the offshore of Palawan.


The Malampaya gas field or the Malampaya-Camago reservoir is a deepwater gas-condensate reservoir located offshore 80 kilometers northwest of Palawan island or within the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

It was discovered during the drilling of Camago-1 well in 1989 after the appraisal of Malampaya field in the 90s; the first gas flowed in 2001.

Shell Philippines Exploration developed the Malampaya gas field and is now operating it as joint venture partnerships with Chevron Malampaya LLC and the Philippine National Oil Company Exploration Corp.

The $4.5 billion project started in 2002 and power generated from Malampaya’s resources has accounted for roughly 30 percent of the energy produced in Luzon.

It also provides natural gas to the Ilijan plant of Korea Electric Power Corp. and the Santa Rita and San Lorenzo plants in Batangas.

Navy ships deployed in Malampaya area

Zubiri: Putin offered Duterte a Russian sub

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri “strongly suggested” yesterday that President Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) consider taking up an offer of Russian President Vladimir Putin to give a submarine for the country’s military hardware.

The Putin offer was revealed by Zubiri in yesterday’s Senate Committee on National Defense public hearing on the modernization program for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Sought for more details into the offer from the Russian president, Zubiri said President Duterte revealed the Putin offer during a dinner with him and others just before the President left for Russia on a state visit in May, 2017.

The submarine offer of the Russian President was actually made during a brief chance meeting Duterte had with Putin when they attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Peru in November, 2016.

Recalling Duterte’s narration of the Duterte-Putin exchange, Zubiri said that Duterte had mentioned to the Russian President that Philippines-US relations are a bit strained.

Duterte had said he felt the Philippines is too dependent on the US and is thus going to other countries for its military equipment purchases.

Putin, according Zubiri’s recollection, surprised Duterte when he said “I will give you a submarine.”

During the May, 2017 dinner, Duterte said Russia has good military equipment, best armaments and best helicopters for the external and internal defense of the Philippines.

Russia also has one of the best and affordable diesel-powered submarines compared to the US hardware, Zubiri said.

Maguindanao crime volume down

Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao – The number of crime incidents in Maguindanao have gone down from January to February, compared to the same period last year, a police official said Sunday.

“Our crime volume recorded this year has been down by 46 percent as compared last year,” Sr. Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao provincial police director, said.

Tello attributed the reduction of crime volume to massive police implementation of checkpoints and law enforcement across the province due to the implementation of martial law.

“The cooperation and coordination of the police, military and local government units were also a factor in crime volume reduction,” Tello added.

He lauded the support provided by Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to the local police, “especially his morale boosting and inspiration that guided the local police.”

With the pay hike now being enjoyed by police officers, Tello expects his men to perform better and remained disciplined.

Last year, internal cleansing was implemented in Maguindanao with 25 police officers being deployed to other provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao after they were linked to irregularities.

About 10 other police officers under Maguindanao PNP are facing charges and under preventive suspension due to their alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

Tello said he or his representative had been conducting surprise inspections in police offices across Maguindanao’s 36 municipalities.

“This is to ensure police presence and continuous implementation of checkpoints and other police operational activities,” he said, adding that a town police chief will be relieved if found to be remiss of his responsibilities.

Maguindanao crime volume down

Honasan: No evidence SAP Go influenced frigate deal

There is no evidence that President Duterte’s Special Assistant Christopher “Bong” Go influenced military officials in the acquisition of two frigates from South Korea.

Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II, chairman of the Senate National Defense Committee, issued the statement at the end of the six-hour public hearing on the multi-billion-peso Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program and the “fake news” about Go’s alleged interference in equipment purchase.

Honasan, however, emphasized that his committee would consolidate, process, and evaluate all the statements and documents submitted to his committee.

“We will not make any premature, sweeping conclusions,” he added.

The purchase of P15.7 billion worth of warships has been clouded by controversy after Go was accused of meddling in the selection of the combat managements system (CMS) for the two frigates.

Former Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado confirmed that Go never interfered in the Frigate Acquisition Program (FAP).

“Secretary Bong Go never approached me to inquire and neither did he make any form of communication to influence,” Mercado told the Senate.

Go blamed two media outfits for reporting “fake news” with his alleged interference in the frigate deal.

Aimed at Duterte

In his opening statement, Go said it was clear that the issue was aimed at destroying the reputation of the President.

“Perhaps this is their intention – to block the implementation of this important security program, and make sure that this administration will fail,” Go said.

“But we will not allow them to win because the truth is on our side. I am confident that the Senate will be a vehicle of truth than to be used to advance others’ self-serving interest,” he added.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar maintained there was nothing anomalous with the frigate deal, which he described as one of the “best” projects of the Navy to modernize its fleet. He lamented that the malicious report about Go’s alleged intervention “overshadowed” the importance of the country’s first ever frigate project.

“The negative effect of the malicious report released by an online entity is we have forgotten that both the Aquino administration and the Duterte administration agree that this project is one of the best and earth-shaking historical projects of the Armed Force of the Philippines and Philippine Navy,” Andanar said.

“There is really no problem in the project except for the malicious report that came out,” he added.

Due diligence

Former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin denied that the acquisition of the CMS happened during the Aquino administration saying the previous government did not sign the contract to avoid being accused of entering into a “midnight deal”.

the previous administration did enter with an agreement with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the contractor for the CMS but “short of signing the contract and the notice of award.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed Gazmin’s statement. He said before he took over theDND, he and Gazmin met to discuss details of the frigate project with the latter telling himto “continue the project.”

“So I asked my legal team to look over it. That’s why it took us sometime – July, August, September…When I asked the legal team to go over it, and to make sure if it is correct in form and substance, they said it is okay,” Lorenzana told senators during the hearing.

Lorenzana said he signed the notice of award in Aug. 18, 2016, then signed the contract two months later, or on October 24, 2016. He also said he did not change anything from the terms of preference or the findings of the previous bids and awards team or the technical working group.

Asked by Sen. Escudero if Lorenzana had the option not to proceed with the contract with HHI, Gazmin said yes “because he had time to review the project.”

When also asked why navy officials did not check on the background of HHI during the post-qualification process, Flag Officer in Command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad said they knew nothing about HHI’s pending case at the Supreme Court of Republic of Korea.

Relieved thru text

Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, former Flag Officer-in-Command (FOIC) of the Philippine Navy who was relieved last December “through text” for insubordination over the frigate project”vehemently” denied allegations that he was insisting to tap Netherlands-based Thales Tacticos for the ships’ combat management system (CMS) over South Korean firm Hanwha Systems.

He said it was Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the winning supplier of the frigates, who initially endorsed the Thales Tacticos in the bidding process.

Lorenzana claimed Mercado “usurped” his authority for defying orders of the DND.

He added Mercado showed a “deliberate attempt” to block the implementation of the project by insisting on choosing Thales over Hanwa for the ships’ weapon system.

He claimed Mercado even “threatened” to cancel the deal, even though Hanwha had already been found compliant with contract requirements. Mercado, likewise, supposedly prevented the Navy representatives from discussing the procurement to the South Korean firm.

“He was insisting on Tacticos, and said that he will work on the cancellation of the contract if Tacticos was not chosen,” Lorenzana said, recalling that the threat was made during a meeting of senior officers which he failed to attend. (With reports from Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Hannah L. Torregoza)

Honasan: No evidence SAP Go influenced frigate deal

Marines honor Balutan, Tan siblings

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Alexander Balutan and Lucio Tan Group of Companies executives Michael Tan and Sharon Tan, scions of tycoon Lucio Tan, were recognized by the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) for their contributions to soldiers during the Marawi siege last year.

Brig. Gen. Alvin Parreño, PMC commandant, led the recognition ceremonies for Balutan, himself a former vice commandant of the PMC, and the Tan siblings during yesterday morning’s “colors” at the Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

“The honor and recognition that we have just bestowed to our awardees signify the strong partnership we have with our stakeholders. The Corps extends our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to your unselfish support to our operating troops during the Marawi campaign,” Parreño said in his speech.

“We acknowledge that we won’t achieve our mission without your help and assistance. The Marines were able to sustain the fight even to the extent of risking their precious life because they know that they have the Filipino people by their side,” Parreño added.

Parreño, in an interview with The STAR after the ceremonies, said the PCSO had donated a drone as well as water purifying systems, among others, while the Tan Group gave the Corps thousands of liters of bottled mineral water and provided transport during the “challenging days of the Marawi campaign.”

Balutan said the recognition was timely, considering the recent controversy faced by the PCSO, referring to the P6.5-million party they held at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City last Christmas.

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He said the PMC recognition highlighted the fact that the PCSO is an active charitable arm of the government, rushing to give aid to those in crisis and in times of disaster.

“I’m back at the Marine Corps where I belong. I spent more than 37 years here. I spent most of my adult life here,” he added.

PCSO has a yearly calamity fund of P100 million approved by the Department of Budget and Management for natural and man-made disasters.

PH committed to sovereignty

The government is committed to defend the country’s sovereignty while continuing to enhance mutually beneficial relations with China, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque dispelled speculations the government was giving too much too soon in the relations with China. “The Duterte administration has certainly not given up too much too early too soon in its relations with China nor China gained more than us,” Roque said.

“On the contrary, we have upheld our national interests and produced tangible benefits for our people in pursuing friendly and mutually beneficial ties with China,” he said.

Roque highlighted that there is “peace in the region” while local fisherman have resumed fishing rights in Scarborough Shoal. Roque also cited increased arrivals of Chinese tourists as well as investments from mainland China.

“We have said in numerous occasions that we will continue to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights when we discuss our territorial and maritime disputes with China while maximizing the benefits of our people by promoting economic and other relations with China in which there are no contentious issues between us,” he said.

Duterte: West Phil. Sea, PH Rise is ours

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday asserted in front of the Filipino-Chinese community and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua that parts of the South China Sea and the the Philippine Rise in the Pacific Ocean are owned by the Philippines.

In his speech at the 10th Biennial Convention and 20th Founding Anniversary celebration of the Chinese Filipino Business Club in Manila Hotel, Duterte took exception to criticisms that he is not doing anything about China’s assertive moves.

“In so far as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, I am ready to put my presidency, my career as president, my life and all (on the line). That is ours,” he said.

He said China’s military installations in the disputed islands were intended for the United States, not the Philippines.

“It is really intended against those who the Chinese think will destroy them. And it is America,” he said.

As far as the Philippine Rise is concerned, Duterte assured that government has not allowed other countries to continue to exploit the area.

He said the Chinese markings on the islands were placed in past explorations by the Chinese.

He said maybe someday the Chinese will tie up with the Philippines in a joint exploration of resources, but reminded them that the area is under Philippine jurisdiction.

“Benham Rise is ours.  The whole of the China Sea, you have already claimed it, that is up to Japan.  But this Philippine Rise is ours, period. The continental shelf below is Philippine jurisdiction.  That is ours,” Duterte said.

He said attachments to the continental shelf below the sea is still considered owned by the Philippines even if its stretches all the way to Guam, a US territory.

Suspected ISIS recruiter, Filipina partner nabbed in Manila

A suspected member of international terror group Islamic State was arrested along with his Filipina partner in an apartment in Malate, Manila last week.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa presented Fehmi Lassqued alias John Rasheed and his partner Anabel Moncera Salipada, 32, of Upi, Maguindanao, in Camp Crame on Monday morning.

They were arrested on Friday afternoon at Room 409 of Casa Blanca apartment along M. Adriatico Street in Malate, Manila during a joint operation by the operatives of Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Special Operations Group.

The raid was conducted by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 139 judge Benjamin Pozon.

Dela Rosa said Lassqued is a recruiter for the Islamic State and was a former negotiator between ISIS leadership and local government officials in Syria and Turkey. He added that the suspect was also an ISIS commander at the Syria-Turkey border.

“Kahit hindi siya nakapasok dito sa ating bansa, via the internet he can recruit from far away place lalo na kung nandito na siya physically, magkakaron siya ng contact with possible recruits… Malalaman natin ‘yan kung ilan ang na-recruit niya after ng investigation,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP said that Lassqued entered the country in July 2016 with a fake passport. He has been travelling in and out the country and took a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Manila on July 26, 2016, and then another flight from Manila to Istanbul, Turkey on Aug. 22, 2016.

He also traveled from Istanbul to Manila on Aug. 24, 2016 then took another flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur on July 18, 2017 and Kuala Lumpur to Manila on November 9, 2017.

Dela Rosa said Lassqued is an Egyptian national, but holds a fake Tunisian passport.

The suspect’s partner was also arrested as she was also inside the apartment during the conduct of search operations, he added.

“We will subject her to investigation para malaman natin kung sino naging contact nila dito at sino na mga na-recruit nila. Dapat malaman natin ‘yan,” Dela Rosa said.

Lassqued, meanwhile, denied that he is a member of the Islamic State.

‘Yes I deny the allegations…Maybe, I was an ISIS before,” he said.

Also presented were improvised bombs, bomb-making materials and firearms seized from the couple. A black ISIS banner was also recovered during the raid.

Dela Rosa said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched the joint raid at Lassqued’s apartment in Ermita following intelligence information from their foreign counterparts.

Dela Rosa, meanwhile, assured the public that the country remains safe from terrorists.

“Ligtas pa rin. hung hindi natin ‘to nahuli, hindi tayo ligtas pero nahuli naman so ligtas pa rin tayo,” he said. —ALG/KG, GMA News