CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City-- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), with General Ricardo Visaya at its helm as Chief of Staff, has attained substantial gains in its quest to combat terrorism and support the anti-llegal drugs campaign. General Visaya presented to the Secretary of National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana, the AFP’s accomplishment in President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s (PRRD) first 100 days as President of the Republic of the Philippines and Commander-in-Chief (CinC) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

During the same period, the AFP has likewise gained headway in support to PRRD’s quest for a just and lasting peace. It has caused the observance of measures for a unilateral ceasefire and the institution of incipient conditions conducive to a “peacetalk” between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The AFP has ensured that all the orders, instructions, and guidance of the Commander-in-Chief reach all AFP units forthwith and by all means possible. Through its initiatives, it has paved the way for Twenty One (21) visits to the AFP’s major services, Unified Commands, and Division headquarters throughout the archipelago—a feat unparalleled and never before made possible and undertaken by a Commander in Chief.

In all those visits, the CinC was given full capability and situation brief by the respective commanders and provide the opportunities for face-to-face interactions with Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Civilian Employees of the AFP.

Following through the visits, the AFP through various ways and means, cascaded and localized the message of the CinC.

Gains in counter-terrorism

In view of President Duterte’s resolve to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the AFP embarked on Five Hundred Seventy Nine (579) massive focused military operations four hundred twenty six (426) of which were meant to end the atrocity and notoriety of these bandits and allied terrorist groups. The operations led to fifty four (54) armed engagements resulting to the neutralization of 94 ASG bandits either killed, wounded, apprehended, or surrendered. (56 killed, 21 surrendered, and 17 apprehended/captured).

Key ASG leaders Nelson Muktadil, Braun Muktadil, and sub-leader Mohammad Said were among the terrorists killed and bodies recovered in intense combat and ensuing search and retrieval operations. At least 3 other ASG Leaders were also killed but were not identified by name because their bodies were dragged by their fleeing comrades. They were nonetheless reported by reliable informants to have been buried in known locations following customary practice of the Moros.

The AFP’s sustained combat and non-combat military operations backed by Police, government officials, and local residents led to the release or escape of fourteen kidnap victims leaving only twelve.

The AFP had launched a similar crackdown against terrorist groups in Central Mindanao. Forty Four (44) combat operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other foreign and local terrorists particularly the Maute Group resulted to the neutralization of a total of 50 personalities and the confiscation of a large cache of high powered firearms, ammunition, and various other materials and equipment for making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

The incessant drive to ferret out and bring to the bar of justice the perpetrators of the dastardly bombing in the Davao City Night Market in September 2 yielded breakthrough results. In October 4—or 32 days after the incident— three of its members were arrested. TJ Tagaya Macabalang, Wendel Apostol Facturan, and Musali Mustapha collared in a checkpoint operations in Cotabato City.

At 2 AM of same day, Teng Mustafa, father of Musali, was arrested as an incident to a lawful search by combined military and police operatives armed with search warrant. Confiscated from the unlawful possession of the elder Mustapha were high powered firearms and IED materials.

With the declaration of State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence, the AFP has committed a substantial number of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen as principal and reserve components doing mobile check points, visibility patrols, and other activities to ensure suppression of lawless violence and preventing it from spreading in key cities of Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Zamboanga, and cities in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

Meanwhile, a tripartite agreement among Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines was forged to address the maritime security concerns like kidnapping, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, and other transnational crimes in southern Philippines. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of Zamboanga, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu are vital sea lines of communication.

Headway in counter-insurgency and peace process

Armed confrontation between the AFP and the NPA finally ceased after PRRD restored the declaration of ceasefire on August 21 after lifting it noting violations from the rebel group. The gesture of PRRD in restoring the erstwhile unilateral ceasefire declaration effectively reimposed the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) earlier issued by General Visaya to all field commanders.

Further, peace-building efforts were exerted to ensure that line units are aware of the advocacy of the Commander in Chief, including the dissemination of the proposed reconstituted JASIG list and the release of detained alleged political prisoners. The original JASIG list was meant to identify communist members who will figure in the peace negotiations with the CPP-NDF and will aid in the implementation of the ceasefire with the rebels.

On the other hand, the AFP attended the workshop of the combined Secretariat of the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Davao City on August 28. The workshop reviewed the signed agreements/guidelines of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities that will aid refresh talks with the MILF as well as the MNLF to come up with a more inclusive peace plan.

War on drugs

The AFP’s anti-illegal drugs campaign was propelled by the signing of the Joint Letter of Instruction on August 24, prescribing the mission, concept, and tasks of the AFP and the Philippine National Police in the war on drugs. It also activated on July 24 with the PNP, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies also activated Task Force Noah mandated to conduct intelligence and counterintelligence operations.

These interagency efforts enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of the steps taken to implement PRRD’s order to end the proliferation and use of illegal drugs in the country. To manifest its adherence to the campaign, the AFP conducted random drug testing within its ranks. Through Task Groups Jacob, Midas, Joshua, and Salamander, the AFP conducted random drug tests on 19,163 military and civilian personnel, allowing the identification of 44 individuals who tested positive to the use of certain illegal drugs.

With the purpose to establish a drug-free country leading towards a peaceful and secure environment conducive for sustainable development, the AFP also supported the implementation of OPLAN TOKHANG of the PNP through the conduct of 169 anti-illegal drugs operations, resulting to the arrest and apprehension of 191, surrender of 689, and killing of eight drug suspects.

Meanwhile, three AFP personnel offered their lives in this campaign while five others were wounded during the joint operations with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency against the group of Moks Masgal in Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap, North Cotabato in August 14.

The AFP opened its camps to host the rehabilitation facilities for drug dependents. The Philippine Army committed areas in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal; Camp Alfredo Santos in Calauag, Quezon; Camp Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz; Camp Kibaritan in Kalilangan, Bukidnon; Camp Lucero in Carmen, North Cotabato; Camp Paulino Santos in Alamada, North Cotabato; and the 401st Brigade Headquarters in Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur.

The construction of the drug rehabilitation facility in Fort Ramon Magsaysay on a 10-hectare land in Nueva Ecija is nearing completion. The project, a joint venture of the Department of Health and the Army Real Estate Office, is expected to accommodate around 1,200 individuals.

AFP Modernization

The AFP also received its third Del Pilar Class Frigate on 21 July 2016. Named and commissioned as BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF17), the new weather high endurance cutter is currently being prepared for its voyage to the country from the US. Its crew is also undergoing training and preparations prior its departure from California in November 2016.

The second Strategic Sealift Vessel BRP Davao Del Sur was also launched in September 29 and is meant to add to the amphibious warfare capability of the AFP, as well as an alternate disaster response platform.

Five pilots and nine airmen from the Philippine Air Force also flew to the US on September 30 to inspect the newly acquired C-130T Hercules transferred to expand the AFP’s airlift capabilities.

The Philippine Army received additional 32 engineering equipment last August 30.


Conclusion

The AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo R Visaya reiterates, “The AFP will be unwavering in its commitment to sustain its gains during the first 100 days of the PRRD. It is my vow to lead the professional AFP that is fully committed to support the Commander-in-Chief in his advocacy against terrorism, illegal drugs, criminality, and graft and corruption.”

“The next 100 days and beyond will be as challenging, but we will steady the course. The Commander-in-Chief has embarked on the voyage and set the waypoints towards our destination, we just have to adjust the sails accordingly. Our President and our people can count on the AFP’s unwavering support,” General Visaya said.