Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WATCH: Marawi residents flee clashes on Day 1 of Martial Law

From Rappler (May 25): WATCH: Marawi residents flee clashes on Day 1 of Martial Law

President Rodrigo Duterte is already threatening to expand his Martial Law declaration to cover the entire country. If there's anything we learned, he doesn't make empty threats about martial law.

It's Day 1 of Martial Law in Mindanao. Rappler multimedia reporter Carmela Fonbuena filed this report.

We’re coming to you from Iligan City in Mindanao. It is the first day of implementation of martial law which is prompted by clashes between troops and local terrorist groups in nearby Marawi City. What we’re seeing is the exodus of cars form Marawi City which is on normal days about a hour’s drive away. But this is not a regular day.
We’re here at a checkpoint and where all vehicles entering Iligan City are meticulously inspected by security forces. Passengers get off their buses so their bags are checked one by one. There’s a separate line for private vehicles, too.

Melissa Saavedra: It’s safer if there’s a checkpoint. But it’s also a hassle. They asked us all to get off the bus for additional safety purposes.

Traffic is massive. Our contact in Mindanao State University left Marawi City at 9 in the morning and did not reach Iligan until 4 in the afternoon.

Others who are desperate to flee the clashes, the black outs, and the panic that has enveloped the city opted to walk the long distance.

It is the first day of the implementation of martial law in Mindanao. According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana this means the military will take over from the police law enforcement operations. There is suport for martial law but there are also concerns that it will trample on the rights of the public.

Ali Usman, MSU professor: It’s good so the civilians are protected, the rest of the population who do not want war. Martial law serve to discipline people who are planning to do terrible things in the city.

At this point, there are a lot of questions about the way martial law will be implemented here in Mindanao. But President Rodrigo Duterte is already threatening to expand the declaration to cover the entire country. If there's anything we learned, he doesn't make empty threats about martial law.

Humanitarian crisis feared in Marawi

From the Philippine Star (May 25): Humanitarian crisis feared in Marawi

Handout photo from Datu Ali-Asgar Solaiman of the Bangsamoro International Solidarity Conference shows members of the Maute group in an armored car in Marawi City yesterday.
Vehicles packed with evacuees clog the 35-kilometer Marawi-Iligan highway. Those without vehicles are fleeing the city on foot, their children and meager belongings in tow.
The Marawi siege is turning into a humanitarian crisis as thousands of residents remain stranded while others flee amid a raging battle between soldiers and the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute group.

Traffic is crawling along the highway as vehicles and passengers are subjected to a thorough search before being allowed to enter Iligan, a security official said.
“It’s like Syria. People want to go out of Marawi City because they are afraid to be caught in the crossfire,” said Datu Ali-Asgar Solaiman, founding chairman of non-government organization Bangsamoro International Solidarity Conference that helps evacuees.
The Iligan City government enforced a thorough search following reports that some Maute fighters and their sympathizers mingled with evacuees in their bid to escape from Marawi City.

President Duterte on Tuesday night placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law for 60 days after the battle of government troops and the Maute erupted in Marawi around 2 p.m. that day.

The fighting in Marawi resulted in power outages and the death of at least three people, with 12 others wounded.

The provincial government of Lanao del Norte and the local government of Iligan City said they are ready to receive evacuees from Marawi.

Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo has instructed the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to prepare for the possible flow of displaced residents from Marawi.

The provincial government has prepared evacuation centers in the towns of Balo-i and Pantar.

Thousands flee Philippine city after rebel rampage claimed by Islamic State

From Reuters (May 24): Thousands flee Philippine city after rebel rampage claimed by Islamic State


Thousands of civilians fled fighting in the Philippines on Wednesday as troops tried to fend off Islamist militants who took over large parts of a city, capturing Christians, seizing and torching buildings and setting free scores of prisoners.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the rampage via its Amaq news agency, and President Rodrigo Duterte defended his decision to declare martial law on Mindanao, the Muslim-majority island where Marawi City is located, to prevent the spread of extremism in the impoverished region.

The violence flared in Marawi on Tuesday afternoon after a botched raid by security forces on a hideout of the Maute, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Fighters quickly dispersed, torching buildings and taking over bridges, a hospital, two jails, a church and a college. Duterte said he heard reports they may have beheaded a police chief.

He said Islamic State must be repelled from the Christian-majority Philippines and he would use all means possible to crush the Maute group and the allied Abu Sayyaf, whatever the consequences.

"Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all," said Duterte, who is from the island, after cutting short a visit to Russia and returning to Manila.

"If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there's an open defiance, you will die, and if it means many people dying, so be it. That's how it is."

Soldiers and guerrillas set up rival checkpoints and roadblocks on routes in and around Marawi as civilians fled the city of 200,000 in droves, leaving behind what one official described as a ghost town.

Long queues of pickup trucks and jeeps crammed full of people and loaded with belongings crawled along roads into nearby towns as troops searched vehicles for weapons and bombs.

The military said it had rescued 120 people from a school and a hospital and was trying to isolate Maute fighters while awaiting reinforcements that were being blocked by rebels.

Maute snipers and booby traps were hampering operations, which the army said could last three more days.


The Catholic church said militants were using Christians and a priest as human shields and had contacted cardinals with threats to execute hostages unless government troops withdrew.

Thirteen militants and seven security personnel have so far been killed and 33 troops wounded, the army said.

Mujiv Hataman, governor of the Autonomous Region in Mindanao, said militants freed 107 prisoners, among them Maute rebels.

Duterte said martial law would mean checkpoints and arrests and searches without warrant, and it would go on for as long as necessary.

He said he would consider some security measures in the central Visayas region next to Mindanao to facilitate arrests, and could even declare martial law nationwide. He was furious that militants had hoisted the Islamic State flag in Marawi.

"I made a projection, not a prediction, that one of these days the hardest things to deal with would be the arrival of ISIS," Duterte said, referring to Islamic State.

"The government must put an end to this. I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere."

Related Coverage
Little-known Maute militants becoming formidable force in Philippines

Duterte said he would not tolerate abuses of power by security forces under martial law, but critics said the military rule in all of Mindanao, an island the size of South Korea with a population of 22 million, was an overreaction.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, a group of human rights attorneys, called it "a sledgehammer, knee-jerk reaction" that would "open the flood gates for unbridled human rights violations".

The military has not explained how the raid on an apartment hideout went so badly wrong. The operation was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy, banditry and for kidnapping and decapitating Westerners.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf have proved fierce opponents for the military.

The armed forces said they were on top of the situation but residents who fled told a different story.

"The city is still under the control of the armed group. They are all over the main roads and two bridges leading to Marawi," student Rabani Mautum told Reuters in Pantar town, about 16 km (10 miles) away.

Bishops and cardinals urged Islamic leaders to persuade militants to free innocent hostages.

"We beg every Filipino to pray fervently," said Father Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

‘Truth first casualty in Marawi siege’

From the Philippine Star (May 25): ‘Truth first casualty in Marawi siege’   

“Except for the half truths, the media is on the receiving end of all the lies on what really is happening in Marawi City,” a senior military reporter said, referring to the statement released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). AP/Wong Maye-E, File

If there is a first casualty in the ongoing fighting between government forces and the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute group, it is the truth.
“Except for the half truths, the media is on the receiving end of all the lies on what really is happening in Marawi City,” a senior military reporter said, referring to the statement released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The AFP report said only 15 gunmen of the Maute group were involved in the fighting.

However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that around a hundred Maute gunmen attacked Marawi City.

The fighting in Marawi erupted on Tuesday afternoon after security forces raided a house where they believed a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf was hiding.

“We are expecting the arrest of Isnilon Hapilon. They (troops) didn’t know that he was backed up by more or less 100 armed fighters, but we will be able to contain them as we go along, by tomorrow or the next two days,” Lorenzana told a midnight press briefing in Moscow.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, Capt. Joan Petinglay, said only 15 Maute gunmen headed by Hapilon were in the city.

Petinglay also described as disinformation reports that the Maute group torched a school and the city jail and entered the city’s Amai Pakpak Medical Center.
But the National Risk Disaster Management Council has confirmed the reported takeover by the Maute group of the hospital, which is located near Marawi City Hall.

Westmincom assures respect of human rights under martial law

From the Philippine News Agency (May 24): Westmincom assures respect of human rights under martial law

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.,commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), on Wednesday assured the public that the military will respect human rights in the implementation of martial law.

“We are, however, assuring the public that we will use the current mandate to boost our campaign against terrorism. And we will enforce our mandate in accordance with the law and with respect to human rights and the International Humanitarian Law,” Galvez said in a statement.

Galvez clarified that they have yet to receive “a written guidance as to how the declaration will translate to our operations on the ground, especially here at Western Mindanao, where all threat groups are present.”

President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law for 60 days, hours after the Maute group laid siege in Marawi City Tuesday afternoon.

Galvez quoted part of Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: “A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The suspension of the privilege of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with invasion."

Galvez also assured the Moro revolutionary fronts— Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — of the primacy of the peace process in the implementation of the martial rule in Mindanao.

“To our MNLF and MILF brothers, please be reminded that the declaration is done to suppress the rebellion brought about by the Maute group in Marawi [City] and the other threat groups related to them, such as the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) and the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Figthers),” he said.

“There is no need to worry about the current situation as our soldiers will be reminded to uphold and respect the ongoing peace process between the GPH and the peace-loving MILF and MNLF,” he added.

Tension in Marawi City subsides, says mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (May 24): Tension in Marawi City subsides, says mayor

Tension in Marawi City brought by the Maute terror group dwindled Wednesday morning, City Mayor Majul Gandamra said.

The mayor, however, could not say if all the members of the Maute group, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria I(IISIS), have left his city.

Gandamra said the tension in the city is still there but gunshots have subsided.

“The situation as of 8 a.m. has been under control. Tension is down but I cannot say that the members of the Maute group and ISIS are gone. I was told some of them left the city toward the towns surrounding the city,” he said in a radio interview.

The mayor said that residents are leaving the locality towards Iligan City, causing traffic jam along the lone road to Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur, the next town from Marawi City en route to Iligan.

Gandamra said he and personnel from the Marawi City police are holed up at the city hall. “We will not allow them to come in,” he said.

The mayor said they are still validating the number of civilian fatalities.

In Maguindanao, all military personnel are on alert for the possible spillover of the hostilities, Major General Arnel dela Vega, 6th Infantry Division (ID) commander, said Wednesday.

“You have nothing to fear, the government is on top of the situation," Dela Vega said.

He said elements of the 6th ID based in Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur have put up more checkpoints along the Marawi-Cotabato highway to stop the spillover of the Marawi City incident.

He added that checkpoints have also been put up along major highways in Maguindanao, where the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which is allied with the Maute group, operates.

He said that armored personnel carriers were also deployed in strategic areas in Maguindanao, including Cotabato City.

Troops regain 'full control' of Marawi City — Westmincom

From the Philippine News Agency (May 24): Troops regain 'full control' of Marawi City — Westmincom

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) announced Wednesday that the government is now in "full control" of the situation in Marawi City, which was attacked by the Maute terror group yesterday.

“As to the Marawi incident, the government is in control of the situation. (We are) fully aware that the Maute and similar groups have the capability, though limited, to disturb the peace. (They) have shown no hesitation in causing havoc, taking innocent lives and destroying property as manifested yesterday in Marawi City,” said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief.

Galvez said they launched an operation against the members of local terrorist group Maute because of information that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Isnilon Hapilon was with them.

“We tried to contain the fighting in specific areas, but the militants attempted to conduct diversionary tactics in other areas of the city in order to ease off the pressure in the target area where IH (Isnilon Hailon) is believed to be hiding,” he said.

“Containing these terrorists could have been easier if the area is not a built-up community. As our troops have to inch closer to the enemy, they also need to make sure that the civilians are safe,” he said.

“Our soldiers and policemen are complementing each other’s efforts in order to contain and address the attacks conducted by the militants in some areas of Marawi,” he added.

Galvez confirmed that there were casualties, but refused to give details. Initial reports said three government troops were killed and several others wounded in the clashes with the Maute group.

“Yes, we have already incurred casualties from among our forces due to the skirmishes yesterday. We have also received reports of the death of some Maute members, and the death of some civilian, which we are still validating right now,” he said.

Galvez advised residents of Marawi to stay indoors and to be vigilant, and to inform authorities of suspicious individuals.

He also asked the public to refrain from posting unverified information on social media as well as the location of government troops so as not to endanger their lives.

“While it is true that we have enough forces, we still need the full support of the people in Marawi in this fight against terrorism,” he said.