AFP ready to deploy if gov’t orders evacuation of Filipinos in Middle East

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 6, 2020   •   1116

Iranians attend the funeral ceremony of Qasem Soleimani, the late Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General and commander of the Quds Forces, in the city of Tehran, Iran, 06 January 2020. Soleimanil was killed in a targeted US airstrike on 03 January 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced on Monday (January 6) that it is prepared to deploy its air and naval assets once the government orders the evacuation of Filipinos in the Middle East.

AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said they have already laid out their contingency plan to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The indicators will be determined. Pag-uusapan namin ng national government (we will discuss it with the national government) the go signal is from them especially with the DFA with all the inputs,” he said.

Among the air and naval assets available include the C-130s as well as new frigates that are able to travel to the Middle East.

The AFP chief of staff added they are still improving their plans due to the possibility that tension might spread in neighboring countries of Iran.

“We are improving our plans not only on Iran and Iraq but the whole Middle East. We don’t know; it might spread to other countries, especially if you know the history of the war. It might spread to Israel. There are probabilities like that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the AFP is monitoring a possible retaliatory act of Iran in countries allied with the United States (US).

It is also monitoring local terrorist groups who might sympathize with the Iranian militia.

“Siyempre mayroong sympathetic, either by race or by ideology, so the PNP [Philippine National Police] is profiling possible threats, possible groups who may take advantage or who might share sympathies (Of course, there will be those sympathetic, either by race or by ideology, so the PNP is profiling possible threats, possible groups who may take advantage or who might share sympathies). So our intelligence monitoring will be continuous up until medyo luminaw na iyong problema doon sa Middle East (until the problem in the Middle East clears up),” Santos said.

Tensions between the U.S and Iran rose following the death of Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani on January 3 after the US launched an airstrike on an airport in Baghdad, Iraq.

President Rodrigo Duterte called for an emergency meeting in Malacañang on Sunday (January 5).

This is to determine the possible effects of the rising tension on thousands of Filipinos in the Middle East especially in Iran and Iraq.—AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

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

3 soldiers injured in fresh Sulu clash with ASG

Robie de Guzman   •   September 21, 2020

Three soldiers were hurt in another clash with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province of Sulu, a military official said.

Lieutenant Colonel Alaric Delos Santos, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion encountered around 20 ASG members in Sitio Bud Kaha, Barangay Bungkaung in Patikul town of Sulu on Sunday afternoon.

The firefight lasted for about 45 minutes and left three soldiers injured while casualties from the side of the enemy has yet to be determined, Delos Santos said.

Military troops are now pursuing the group of bandits who retreated after the gunfight.

“We sustain our focused military operations to destroy enemy strongholds and to thwart the terror plots of the local terrorist group,” AFP Westmincom commander Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said.

“We call on our prayer warriors to continuously pray for the safety of protection of our soldiers,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Val Villaflor)

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