AFP confident of strong security in Mindanao after martial law lapses

Robie de Guzman   •   December 31, 2019   •   649

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday expressed confidence that strong security is in place in Mindanao as the martial law in the region lapses on New Year’s eve.

“As martial law expires at 11:59 tonight, we are confident of an improved security climate in Mindanao that will work for the benefit of fellow Filipinos,” Marine Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP Spokesperson, said in a statement.

“Specifically, where ML [martial law] was an issue, it is expected to boost economic activities due to added investors’ confidence,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he has decided not to extend the martial law in Mindanao following the assessment and recommendation of his security and defense officials on the situation in the region.

Mindanao has been under martial law since May 2017 after the Maute Terror group attacked Marawi City.

The martial law was initially set for 60 days, but it was extended until the end of 2017, then until the end of 2018 and until December 31 of 2019.

Arevalo said that “while the Daesh-inspired local terrorist groups continue to decline, we urge local chief executives (LCEs) and their constituents to press on and build from the gains of ML to maintain the strong security posture now in place.”

He also appealed to local government officials to “continue their robust partnership with government security agencies.”

In the event that isolated incidents of violence and lawlessness erupt in Mindanao after martial law has ended, Arevalo said Proclamation No. 55 is still in effect in the region.

“Under such declaration, President Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence,” he said.

He also assured that the military will deploy its forces to curb any form of lawless violence “to prevent them from spreading and escalating not only in Mindanao but elsewhere in the Philippines.”

“[Our] fellow Filipinos can expect that the AFP will continue to push for the amendment of the Human Security Act especially with Senate President Vicente Sotto III assuring the passage of the new Anti-Terrorism Law,” he added.

Abu Sayyaf kills Indonesian hostage in Sulu, AFP says

Robie de Guzman   •   October 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – An Indonesian national believed to have been held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was found dead in Sulu, the military said Thursday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said members of the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion found the body of the Indonesian on Sept. 30 at Barangay Maligay in Patikul, Sulu during a pursuit operation.

The military said soldiers were tracking the ASG members after a clash when they stumbled upon the body. It was found at least 300 meters from the encounter site.

Reports gathered from the ground said the Indonesian was killed after he allegedly attempted to escape during the gunfight.

The AFP said the victim is one of the five Indonesian nationals held captive by the local terrorist group since January 2020.

The body has been brought to Zamboanga City for DNA testing and identification process. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Val Villaflor)

AFP condemns accusation against army member over fake Facebook accounts

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 25, 2020

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has condemned the accusation against one of their members over several fake accounts recently shut down by Facebook.

United States-based Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research (DFR), identified Philippine Army Captain Alexandre Cabales as operator of the social media pages that Facebook took down for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” targeting domestic audiences in the Philippines.

AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgar Arevalo said Facebook and the said digital forensic group should review their policies on privacy carefully since identifying Cabales violated his privacy. Arevalo said this has placed the reputation and safety of Cabales at risk.

“This is a breach of his personal identity and personal security, dahil po sa paglabas na ito ng kanyang pangalan at hindi naman sya nabibigyan ng pagkakataon na ipaliwanag ang kanyang panig, (because they released his name and [Cabales] was not able to explain his side)” he said.

The AFP also defended Cabales by explaining that the information posted in official accounts linked to the Philippine Army is legitimate and authentic.

Cabales heads the social media center of the AFP and is reportedly connected to ‘Hands Off Our Children’ page which has been taken down by Facebook.

“Sa pagtake-down nito ang naapektuhan ng malaki at parang napaboran pa ay itong pagre-recruit ng communist terrorist group, (By taking down these pages it will greatly favor the recruitment of the communist terrorist group),” Arevalo said.

Facebook took down over 100 accounts and pages in their social media due to violation in their policy. These include 31 pages and 77 Facebook and Instagram accounts allegedly linked to individuals affiliated with the Philippine military.

“They posted in Filipino and English about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, the pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines […] our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police,” Facebook said in a statement. AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

Facebook removes fake accounts allegedly linked to PH military, police

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 23, 2020

Facebook has removed over hundreds of fake accounts for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

In a statement, the social media giant said it removed 155 accounts; 11 Pages; 9 Groups and 6 Instagram accounts. These networks reportedly originated in China. It also removed 57 Facebook accounts; 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts where its networks originated in the Philippines and focused on domestic audiences.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said these accounts and pages posted about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)and its military wing the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday (September 23) clarified that none of their maintained accounts were shutdown but is still looking into Facebook’s report.

“There are no accounts that the AFP maintain that were shutdown or removed by Facebook. All of them are up and running. The AFP upholds truth and accountability of network and SocMed account managers as to the contents of postings in our websites, pages, and accounts,” their statement reads. AAC

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