Mario J. Mallari

Lorenzana thinks Reds insincere

SISON INSISTS ON ‘NEUTRAL’ VENUE The communist movement may just take advantage of the proposed resumption of peace talks with the government to recruit more rebels and retake barangays it had lost to the military, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said late Thursday. Lorenzana issued the warning after President Duterte said that the government may restart formal talks with the leftist rebels in July. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison, meanwhile, said he is not confident about the prospect of the peace negotiations being held in Manila. Sison, who is also chief political consultant of the NDFP, stressed that the communist group is open to hold the formal talks in any neutral venue except the Philippines. He suggested either Oslo, Norway or Vietnam as venue for the peace negotiations. Sison, however, was optimistic of the pronouncements made by Mr. Duterte that formal talks will happen before the 60-day window the President gave lapses. “The peace talks shall have begun on June 28 in Oslo as far as the panels are concerned and as present plans indicate. That is close to July anyway but not in Manila,” Sison said. Sison said that if both parties agreed and followed the terms of the stand down agreement, he does not see any hindrance for the resumption of the formal talks. “The stand down agreement creates a favorable atmosphere for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations and the interim peace agreement to be signed in Oslo hopefully on June 28,” said Sison. In a speech in Cebu province, Mr. Duterte said he was in talks with Sison who is living in exile in The Hague, the Netherlands. “We will start the talks maybe in mid-July,” Duterte said. He did not elaborate. Lorenzana stressed that Sison should clarify what the “stand down” offer he means before the military could reciprocate such a move. “Let’s see what do they mean by stand down. Is it back to barracks for us because that is dangerous,” Lorenzana said. “We have been hit once by that stand-down when they continued operating in the barangays to regain their lost areas,” he added. “So let’s see, baka kami lang ang mag-stand down, sila hindi (because we might be the only ones who would stand down, while they do not)” Lorenzana added. Lorenzana said the defense department will closely coordinate with government negotiators before getting into any “stand-down” agreement with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). “But they should also stand down on their build-up because we heard that they have some orders to their people to continue recruiting (and that) they want to get back their lost barangays,” he said. Sison said that formal peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP may start earlier than the date stated by Mr. Duterte on June 28 if both parties agree on the stand down and subsequently ink a ceasefire agreement. Lorenzana said he is open to any peace negotiation with any and all negotiations with communist rebels. During previous ceasefires, even during the holiday season, attacks and recruitment activities by NPA partisans were reported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he said. On the other hand, the NPA also claimed that government troops continued combat operations in the guise of civil military missions in communist-infested areas. “Stand down means cease operations. Stand down for them might mean there would be no attacks but we suspect they will continue their recruitment. They also have to stop that if there is a stand-down,” he said. Lorenzana cited rebel documents showing the CPP-NDF-NPA’s alleged duplicity in “actually intensifying their expansion of their areas” during past ceasefires. “It is premature for the GRP or anyone to suggest that the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations be in the Philippines. Foreign neutral venue as mutually agreed upon in JASIG (Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee) is the best,” he added. Sison also expressed fears that the peace negotiations are exposed to risks from saboteurs if held in Manila. “Philippines venue at this time would make the peace negotiations vulnerable to control by the GRP or to sabotage by ultra-reactionary elements,” he stressed. Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said that holding the peace talks in Manila would contribute positively to the negotiations. Ending five years of impasse in the peace negotiations, the Duterte administration with the Royal Norwegian Government acting as a third-party facilitator, conducted its first round of peace talks with the NDF in Oslo from August 22 to 26, 2016. The second round of peace talks was also conducted in Oslo from October 6 to 10, 2016 while the third round of peace talks was conducted in Rome, Italy from January 19 to 25, 2017. However, the President then terminated the peace talks on February 4, 2017 after the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP-NDFP, continued to launch atrocities against government troops and even civilians. Since 1986, the Philippine government has been trying to reach a peace deal with the leftist rebels but has failed to make any headway. The leftist rebellion began in 1969 and reached its peak in 1987 when it boasted 26,000 armed guerrillas. However, the movement has since dwindled due to differences in strategy and tactics and the arrests of many of its top leaders in the late 1980s. The government estimates the number of the armed rebels at around 3,700 as of the end of 2017.

Duterte gives go signal for P289-B AFP upgrade

President Duterte has approved the acquisition of P289 billion worth of military assets, including a squadron of fighter jets, under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program. A ranking security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that President Duterte, who is also the Commander in Chief, already gave his go signal for the acquisition of modern military hardware under Horizon 2 of the AFP modernization plan. Among the big-ticket projects under Horizon 2 are two squadrons of multirole fighters (MRF) and a frigate. The AFP’s Horizon 2 is worth P289 billion — covering the period 2018-2022. “The list has been approved, the next process is to finalize the technical side,” the official said. The official said there is no timeline for the completion of the acquisition, saying “it depends on how quick our people will work and we are working on it quickly.” “It depends, it can be implemented immediately if there is go signal to the senior leaders,” the official explained. The official said there is no specific model yet for the MRF, but added the AFP is eyeing two squadrons composed of 12 units. “There is no specific aircraft or platform. The choice for platform will undergo process,” the official said. According to the source, there are still some projects under the AFP Horizon 1 (2013-2017), primarily designed just to rebuild the capabilities of the AFP and focused only on internal security operations, that are yet to be completed. Under Horizon 1, the AFP acquired 12 brand new FA50 lead-in fighter jets from South Korea –already delivered and now commissioned with the Philippine Air Force, and two frigates for the Philippine Navy. Also acquired previously were C295 medium lift aircraft. The AFP Horizon 2 is designed for the military’s shift from ISO to external defense. Among the other projects under it are the acquisition of four maritime patrol aircraft, 24 attack helicopters, another medium lift aircraft and a tanker.

No bail for 8 Israelis nabbed for online fraud

The eight Israelis, tagged as leaders of a busted internal syndicate involved in fraudulent online trading at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, are now detained without bail. Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said that government prosecutors recommended no bail for the eight foreigners while all their Filipino employees were freed. “Per report from the ACG (Anti-Cybercrime Group), all the Israelis were detained with no bail and all the other Filipino employees were released for further investigation,” Albayalde said. “That (detention without bail) is based on the findings of the five prosecutors from the Department of Justice,” he added. The suspects were charged with violation of the anti-cybercrime law and large scale estafa. Last Wednesday, elements of the PNP-ACG swooped down simultaneously on three buildings at the Freeport, arresting 484 individuals led by the eight Israelis. Chief Supt. Marni Marcos Jr., director of PNP-ACG, said the group operated on three adjacent buildings at the Freeport under the name International Brandings Development Marketing Inc. (IBD). However, Marcos said that there were no business permits found at the buildings during the raid. Marcos said that members of the group are involved in fraudulent online -- raking in millions of dollars from their victims during their two-and-a-half years operation. He said the group is changing business name from time to time to evade authorities. Marcos said the operation stemmed from reports and complaints from individuals from Australia and South Africa regarding an alleged online trading scam that victimized them.

PNP to use sticker system vs motorcycle-riding suspects

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to launch this month a sticker system on motorcycles along checkpoints as part of the government’s intensified anti-criminality campaign, particularly against motorcycle-riding suspects (MRS). PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the sticker system will be initially launched in Region 3 or Central Luzon – composed of the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Bataan and Bulacan. “We will start in Region 3. If the results are good then we will bring it to the other regions,” Albayalde said. The PNP chief stressed that the sticker system is among the pro-active measures being proposed to address crimes committed by MRS. Under the system, motorcycles passing through a police checkpoint will be given a sticker to determine that it has already undergone inspection and that the rider/owner is established. “It’s not fool proof, it’s just one way to probably prevent motorcycle-riding suspects,” admitted Albayalde, adding “but it can prevent the use of motorcycles.” “At least, those who have criminal minds would have a hard time using those with stickers but it doesn’t mean also that since you have the sticker you are already free from checkpoints,” Albayalde explained. He said the system would be introduced within this month in Region 3. The PNP high command will be issuing guidelines for the implementation of the sticker system in the coming days. Based on PNP data, a total of 880 shooting incidents perpetrated by MRS were recorded from October 2017 to May 21, 2018. Of the number, 812 were classified as murder cases while the rest were homicide. The incidents victimized 927 individuals. The PNP managed to resolve 291 of the cases. Police said that a total of 1,008 MRS are still being hunted while at least 12 suspects were killed during police operations while 51 others were arrested.

Kidnappers of two Chinese fall

Four suspects, including a dismissed policeman and a former agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), were arrested for allegedly kidnapping two Chinese and stealing the victims’ vehicles in Quezon City last month. At a press conference yesterday, Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde presented the suspects identified as ex-PDEA Intelligence Agent 1 Arnold Camayang, 33; dismissed PO1 Mark Anthony Roque, 36, formerly assigned to the PNP-Crime Laboratory; Alvin Jay Roque, 27, a traffic constable of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and Christian John Talaue, 22. The four, who were arrested one after the other during the past week, were tagged in the May 25 kidnapping of Wu Yaochui, 21, and his companion. Police said the victims were aboard a white Toyota commuter van when they were blocked by the two armed suspects aboard a gray Toyota van at around 2 p.m. and subsequently dragged the victims inside their vehicle. Later on, the two armed men, who introduced themselves as policemen, were identified as Roque and Camayang. Camayang was the one who commandeered Wu’s van. The suspects then demanded P3 million ransom from Yu but it was later lowered to P300,000. The Chinese asked the suspects to proceed to his residence on Congressional Avenue in Project 8, Quezon City where the suspects also took two more vehciles, a Toyota Fortuner and another commuter van. The victims immediately reported the incident to Quezon City Police District. Last Wednesday, QCPD director Chief Supt. Joselito Esquivel said informant told police the victim’s commuter van was spotted along Bulusan Street near Amoranto Street, prompting a stakeout. The following day, Talaue and Alvin Jay were arrested while driving the van. Subsequent operations led to the separate arrest of Roque and Camayang. Charges of kidnapping and robbery were slapped against Camayang and Roque while carnapping case and violation of the anti-fencing law were filed against Alvin Jay and Talaue.

Global poor ranking of PH riles DND, PNP chiefs

Global Peace Index’s ranking of the Philippines as Number 2 among the least peaceful countries in the Asia Pacific region is not reflective of the real peace and order situation on the ground. Thus declared Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde. Both also said the government’s all-out war against illegal drugs should not be misinterpreted as “anti-peace.” “I cannot believe that,” Lorenzana said of Global Peace Index 2018 ranking the Philippines 137th in its list--down by one notch from the previous ranking. The Philippines is only ahead of North Korea. “I think they are using some parameters that are not present in the Philippines…a lot of people are saying their lives are more peaceful now because of the war on drugs,” Lorenzana added. The defense chief branded Global’s poor ranking of the Philippines as “unfair.” For his part, Albayalde invited representatives to actually see the real situation on the ground and don’t based their list on perception. “We want these people to go to our country and see for themselves what is the peace and order situation here in our country, probably they will see how peaceful our country is now,” Albayalde said. Albayalde expressed belief the listing of the Philippines as least peaceful was based on pronouncements by human rights groups. “These are all perceptions. Probably this is one of the effects of claims by some sectors about human rights violations,” Albayalde said.

Ranking NPA leader collared in Butuan City

Another ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), tagged as head of an extortion unit of the communist group, was captured by combined police and military operatives in Butuan City. Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo identified the arrested NPA leader as Nerita Calamba-de Castro, 55, who uses the aliases Nene, Nening and Nora. De Castro was tagged as the head of the NPA’s Finance Committee in Mindanao. She was nabbed at around 12:40 a.m. at the Emenville Subdivision in Barangay Ambago, Butuan City on Thursday. Apart from being the finance head of the NPA in Mindanao, De Castro was also serving as the secretary of the NPA’s Regional White Area Committee of the North Eastern Mindanao Party Committee. Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the Army’s 402nd Brigade, said that De Castro was arrested by joint Army and police elements by virtue of an arreste warrant for murder issued by Judge Lilibeth Ladaga of the Regional Trial Court 11, Judicial Branch 28 in Surigao del Sur. “The arrest of de Castro is a big blow on the resource generation activities of the NPA in Mindanao since she is the finance officer,” said Gacal. “This would be a relief to big and small business establishments as the arrest of the NPA’s Finance officer will adversely impact on the communists extortion activities,” he added.

Senior officials at PNP shuffled

A top level reshuffle was ordered yesterday by the Philippine National Police (PNP) high command--reassigning seven senior officials to key positions. The revamp placed Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar, erstwhile director of the Police Regional Office-4A (Calabarzon), as the new head of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO). A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1987, Eleazar replaced Director Camilo Pancratius Cascolan who was appointed as new chief of the Civil Security Group (CSG). Outgoing CSG chief Director Federico Dulay Jr. was reassigned to the Office of PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde. Also affected by the reshuffle was PNP spokesman Chief Supt. John Bulalacao who was promoted as director of the PRO-6 operating in Western Visayas. Bulalacao succeeded Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag who was named as head of the Directorate for Information and Communication Technology (DICT) based at Camp Crame. Senior Supt. Benigno Durana was named as new PNP spokesman. Other police officials who were part of the reshuffle were Chief Supt. Edward Esperat Carranza who was relieved from PRO Cordillera and reassigned to PRO Calabarzon Chief Supt. Rolando Zambale Nana from NCRPO and reassigned to PRO Cordillera, and Chief Supt. Rolando Barajan Anduyan from PRO ARRM and reassigned to NCRPO.

10 Bulacan cops charged with kidnapping, robbery

Charges of kidnapping and robbery in band were filed by the Philippine National Police-Counter Intelligence Task Force (PNP-CITF) against 10 erring cops, including an officer, assigned in Bulacan. Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat Jr., CITF director, said that Senior Insp. Wilfredo Dizon Jr. and nine of his men were slapped with kidnapping and robbery in band charges before the Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday. Caramat said that the charges stemmed from the complaint filed by civilians against the former members of the San Rafael Municipal Police. Caramat said that the 10 policemen were positively identified by the victims. “They were identified by the complainants demanding and receiving )P50,000 in exchange for their release after they were arrested last May 19, 2018 for unknown crime,” Caramat said. Others charged were SPO4 Gary Santos;) SPO2 Christopher Aragon; SPO1 Dante Castillo;) SPO1 Jophey Cucal;) SPO1 Rolando Ignacio Jr;) PO3 Dennis de Vera;) PO2 Rosauro Enrile;) PO2 Nicanor Bautista; and )PO2 Chester Say-eo.))
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