Sunday, September 28, 2014

Filipino ISIS supporters gather anew in Marawi

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 26): Filipino ISIS supporters gather anew in Marawi

Some 100 supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) openly gathered anew in Marawi City and pledged loyalty to the ISIS ideology, which moderate Islam and Christian leaders tag as a “religious extremism.”

The group declared their presence during a congregational prayer in one of Marawi City’s grand mosques Friday last week, Sept. 19, a belated report reaching the Manila Bulletin said. The local fanatics, led by Jamil Yahya, pledged their allegiance or bai’ah to the khilaffah governance of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the ISIS.

Last Friday’s gathering of local khilaffah fanatics was their second open convergence in Marawi City. The first gathering was last July when dozens of them, bearing their signature black flags and banners, joined an indignation rally against the Israelis aggression on Palestinians.

ISIS THREAT – Supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) converge at a mosque in Marawi City openly waving the dreaded black flag of the organization and pledging allegiance to its leadership. (Ali Macabalang)

ISIS THREAT – Supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) converge at a mosque in Marawi City openly waving the dreaded black flag of the organization and pledging allegiance to its leadership. (Ali Macabalang)


Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr. confirmed the latest meeting of the ISIS supporters.  The governor was on official function in Metro Manila at the time of the gathering. He said his staff and some concerned residents sent him photos of the gathering.

“Some of those people (khillaffah ideologues) started surfacing openly. I just arrived from Manila and we will look into it,” Gov. Adiong told the Manila Bulletin by phone on Tuesday.

The governor said he will consult moderate Muslim clerics for a possible formation of a group that can deal with the local fanatics in “peaceful and persuasive” negotiations.


He said local law enforcement authorities could not take punitive action against the fanatic group because the members did not have weapons or firearms and the meeting was peaceful.

“We can think of initial peaceful and persuasive efforts to deal with the ideologues… We certainly cannot allow religious extremism to escalate into armed movement,” Gov. Adiong said.

The governor is a grandson of the late former Senator Domocao Alonto Sr., a renowned moderate Islam advocate who was involved in the creation of the Malaysia-Philippines-Indonesia (MAPHILINDO) alliance and the Rabitatul Alam (World Muslim League) in the early 1960s.


Local military and police establishments have also confirmed the emerging khilaffah ideology in some parts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), saying they were keenly observing the situation and would prevent the fanatic ideologues from resorting to armed movement.


Khilaffah is an Arabic term for caliphate, a kind of Islamic ideology and governance exemplified by four caliphs anointed by Prophet Mohammad to succeed him in the advancement of Islam.

Caliphs Abubakar, Omar, Ali, and Usman enjoyed Divine anointment through the prophet. There can be no other caliph after them because there is no more Prophet alive to endow Divine anointment, according to local Islamic theology experts.


Local Muslim clerics believe that the emergence of the so-called “extremists” or “jihadists” stemmed from extreme emotion against perceived modern persecutions against Muslim nations or communities.

Some Muslim theologians claimed that the United States-backed operations against Iraq and Syria and the continued offensives of Israelis in Palestine have fueled the emergence of the khilaffah movement.


According to media reports attributed to former President Fidel Ramos and Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, some 100 Filipino youngsters volunteered and went out of the country to fight with the forces of ISIS.

The reports said those youngsters were “recruited” but verifications showed that they volunteered and left the Mindanao through the “southern backdoor” on their way to Iraq and Syria.


In a forum in Berlin last week, President Aquino said that there has been no evidence that Filipinos have been recruited by the ISIS.  He said that his administration would ensure that Filipinos are benefitting from the country’s economic gains in order to prevent them from being “disenchanted or disillusioned.”

But local Muslim and Church sources argued that materialistic remedies cannot resolve an ideology issue, suggesting that respected moderate theologians should immerse with people known for extremist ideas or tendencies.

MILF: SAWC holds General Meeting

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 28): SAWC holds General Meeting

To organize the functions of their organization, the Special Agency for Women Concerns (SAWC) officers held a general meeting at Tapodoc, Aleosan, Cotabato on Sept. 14, 2014.
Led by their Chairwoman, Ustadza Zahara Zumbaga-Taya, officers and members discussed Educational Advocacy, Crime Monitoring, Sinful Acts and Health and Sanitation as functions of SAWC.

Members were grouped into four to discuss each function.

Islamic orientation for men and women also graced the meeting since few male officers of the Information Committee were present.

The said orientation emphasized the giving of Sadaqa, essence of Jihad and Higuabol Mar’a.

Several North Cotabato Information officers gave updates on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) status.

“Apiya makapila pan ka-apruban na senado atawa congress so BBL o di pengguway-guway i Agama Islam, na di tanu pedtelen.” Mads Timpolok relayed the words of Mohagherr Iqbal, Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

“Tahajud (prayer done after midnight)  and sincerity of the heart are the ways to achieve our goal,” Zumbaga conveyed the words of Iqbal.

“Malaking pag-asa pero hindi sigurado,” Sir Omar, another Information officer, repeated Iqbal’s statement.

Zumbaga also assured that the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who support SAWC are reserved members and that their contributions are properly documented.

Moreover, Zumbaga announced that the next SAWC General assembly will be held this coming December 2014.

MILF: Prof. Ferrer: IPs Rights and fusaka inged assured in BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 28): Prof. Ferrer: IPs Rights and fusaka inged assured in BBL

Speaking at the 2014 Inter-Tribal Peace Summit held on September 26 at Upi, Maguindanao, a predominantly Teduray municipality, Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH Chief Negotiator gave updates on the latest progress of the peace process between the GPH-MILF peace panels. She said that another round of meeting is slated this September 27 to 29 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on normalization.
During the open forum, she elucidated on the Parliamentary System of government for the Bangsamoro. She explained that counting of votes during the referendum for the core territory will be by province, for the 6 municipalities in Lanao Del Sur, by municipality and for the 39 barangays in North Cotabato will be by barangay.

The 2014 Inter-Tribal Peace Summit is part of the project “Building Peace in Mindanao through Public Participation in Governance”, supported by the European Union and being implemented by the Conciliation Resources (CR) in partnership with the Teduray Lambangian Womens Organization Inc. (TLWOI), Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK).

The summit co- sponsors were the Local Government Units (LGU) of Upi and South Upi, the Indigenous Peoples Technical Working Group (IP-TWG) and other IP’s Civil Society Organizations.

The objective of the peace summit is to foster better understanding of the peace process from the inception of Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the submission of the draft Basic Law to the Office of the President and the turn-over of the BBL to congress by President Benigno Aquino III last September 10, 2014.

The summit also aims to come up with collective efforts in influencing the Congress to expedite the enactment of the BBL into law.

IP’s within and outside the core area of the Bangsamoro would like to achieve common understanding in upholding their rights to distinct identity, territory, customary rights among others.

The summit was attended by hundreds of IP’s from the core and contiguous areas of the proposed Bangsamoro Political Entity that includes Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan Manobo, Higaonon and Erumanon Manobo. 

The consensus points on the thematic   issues among IPs in the core area particularly the outputs at Samal Island, Davao dialogue was presented.
Power point presentation was also made on the scale map of the Mamalu and Tabunaway territorial claims through Googles satellite maps.

Poe calls for Senate probe on ISIS recruitment in Mindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 28): Poe calls for Senate probe on ISIS recruitment in Mindanao

Senator Grace Poe FILE PHOTO

Senator Grace Poe FILE PHOTO

Senator Grace Poe wants the Senate to investigate the reported recruitment of Filipinos into the Islamic State to thwart any plans of the group to take root in the Philippines.

Poe has filed a resolution asking the Senate committee on national defense to look into the matter, in aid of legislation, in order to find ways to combat these developments and to affirm the country’s zero tolerance for any act of terrorism, extremism, and violence.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been condemned worldwide for its brutality and lack of regard for the lives of its victims. Its most abhorred actions include its beheading of its hostages, which it even videotaped and uploaded on the Internet.

“The Philippines cannot afford to sit idly by while the ISIS continues to end lives of people worldwide in the most inhumane means imaginable,” Poe said in her resolution filed last week.

She said there have been reports that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group have pledged allegiance to the IS, as shown by videos uploaded to YouTube. BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama has also reportedly called up the Armed Forces of the Philippines to announce its allegiance to the IS.

MalacaƱang has said it is taking the group seriously, and has sought the help of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and of civilians to keep tabs of developments on the ground and to help stop the possible entry of ISIS fighters into the country.

Poe said the government should not be passive about efforts to recruit Filipinos into the IS and about statements pledging support to the group. The group’s beliefs should not be allowed to prosper in the country, she added.

“The Philippine government, in its mandate to protect the State and our Filipino brethren, regardless of religion or belief, should actively prevent the seeds of the ISIS’ technology and teachings from being sown into Philippine soil and thwart any efforts of said group to influence and/or recruit our Filipino brothers and sisters in any and all parts of the country,” she said.

A military official has said that the Islamic State has no direct ties with the Abu Sayyaf Group and described the latter as just sympathizers of the group at the most, and who are jumping into the fray in order to elicit popular support.

Nevertheless, Philippine authorities are on the lookout for the group’s members, with immigration officials keeping a close watch on foreigners coming from the Middle East and Africa, especially from its troubled areas.

Immigration chief Siegfried Mison, in a television interview Saturday, said the bureau has gotten in touch with international organizations to get a list of people associated with the Islamic State.

Congress urged to probe Abra clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): Congress urged to probe Abra clash


Congress is looking into allegations that government soldiers violated the rules of engagement when they clashed on Sept. 4 and 5 with communist rebels in Lacub town in Abra province.

On the request of the wife of a slain member of the New People’s Army (NPA), Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on Saturday said he and several lawmakers began drawing up a resolution for an inquiry on the combat operations that left a soldier, seven rebels and two civilians dead.

Zarate, on Sept. 25, received a letter from Cynthia Dacanay Jaramillo, who cited an autopsy report from the Cordillera office of the National Bureau of Investigation that suggests her husband, NPA rebel Arnold Jaramillo, was killed “in a brutal and inhumane manner.”

Her letter was sent to several representatives, including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., whose children were schoolmates of Arnold.

The NBI autopsy report, Cynthia said, indicates that Arnold was riddled with bullets at the back, including a wound that suggests it was from a gun fired at close range.

“If he died in a legitimate gun battle with the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), we would not be raising these issues, as the risk of untimely death was expected given the path [Arnold] had taken,” she said.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) is also seeking an investigation on the deaths of Baguio City-based engineer Fidela Salvador and Lacub resident Noel Viste, who were found at the clash site.

The CHRA said Salvador was in the area to visit projects being implemented by Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services.

But the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), in a Sept. 11 statement, said Viste was a civilian caught in the crossfire when rebels attacked a group of soldiers and civilians transporting a slain rebel on Sept. 5.

The Nolcom said Salvador was found dead with the rebels when the firefight ended.

On Sept. 13 at the Philippine Military Academy, the Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, said their investigation showed that nothing anomalous happened during the encounters.

Catapang said the clash site in Barangay (village) Guinguinabang, being a crime scene, was examined by police forensic investigators.

Photo of wanted Malaysian jihadist found on dead terrorist’s phone

From the Star Online (Sep 28): Photo of wanted Malaysian jihadist found on dead terrorist’s phone

Amin Baco
PETALING JAYA: A photograph of Malaysian terror suspect Amin Baco (pic), who is linked to Islamic State (ISIS) militants, has been found in the mobile phone of a dead Abu Sayyaf gunman in southern Philippines.

The photograph shows Amin holding a pistol in his right hand and a dagger in his left, standing before a black flag with Arabic words. On Amin’s t-shirt are the words “I love Islam”.

The Manila Times, which published the photo of Amin, 31, from Tawau, reported Sunday that the terror suspect was hiding with the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, in the southern Philippines.

Amin and another Sabah Darul Islam militant Jeknal Adil, 30, also from Tawau, are among five militants, including lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad and shop owner Mohd Najib Hussein, 30, who are wanted by Malaysian police.

They are reported to have fled to southern Philippines following police crackdowns on militant activities.

Quoting a Philippines intelligence officer speaking on condition of anonymity, the Manila Times report stated that Amin, who goes by the alias Abu Jihad, may have been involved in several bombings in Mindanao.

The officer who provided Manila Times the photo, said Amin was also a member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

The report, quoting the source codename “Pokemon”, stated that Amin has been in the Philippines for a long time and had a hand in past bombings in Basilan and Sulu.

It also stated that the officer had showed the newspaper a chart of the structure of the Khilafa Islamiyah Movement (KIM), which, like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Amin’s photo and the flow chart were extracted from the mobile phone of one of the ASG members killed during a recent battle with government security forces in Sulu, according to the report.

It also quoted the source as saying that Amin was one of the five JI members who had been hiding in Sulu under the protection of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen that had threatened to behead a German couple held hostage since April.

Last week, Abu Sayyaf posted online a threat to kill one of the German hostages if two demands were not met by Oct 10.

The Abu Sayyaf had demanded a ransom of 250mil pesos (RM18mil) for Stefan Vicktor Okonek, 71, and his partner Herike Diesen, 55, who were reported missing while sailing their yacht from Palawan island to Sabah on April 25.

Okonek and Diesen – AFP

Okonek and Diesen have been held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf since April – AFP

The terror group also demanded that Germany stop supporting the current American-led bombings in Iraq and Syria.

Security analysts have viewed the threat to behead the German couple as a move by the Abu Sayyaf to rebrand itself globally from a criminal kidnap gang to part of the Islamic State caliphate.

Signed by one Abu Rami, the posting was accompanied by three photographs of the German couple, one of which showed masked gunmen surrounding them with one of them brandishing a bolo (parang) while grabbing the shirt of a terrified looking Okonek.

Manila Times also quoted the intelligence officer as saying that the Abu Sayyaf might carry out of the beheading as a show of sympathy to ISIS.

“The Abu Sayyaf is a supporter of ISIS, they have already pledged allegiance to ISIS and they (Abu Sayyaf) are waiting for the reply.

“It could be that they threatened to behead the German hostages so they would be noticed,” the officer was quoted as saying.

Editorial: Brutal, simplistic

Editorial from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): Editorial: Brutal, simplistic

The threat posed by the so-called Islamic State is no longer confined to Iraq and Syria, or to Iraq and the Levant (as the alternative names of the insurgency-movement-group once suggested). Now the IS, or its brutally simplified ideology, may be taking root in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Officials are careful to say that, while they take the new development seriously, there is as yet no hard evidence that IS is in fact in our part of the world. National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia belittled the act of an Abu Sayyaf group swearing allegiance to the IS on YouTube as a “shallow show of support,” and argued that there was nothing more to that disturbing video. “We don’t think there is an organizational link between [IS] and [the Abu Sayyaf], or any Philippine terrorist jihadi group for that matter.”

The Armed Forces spokesperson, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, said much the same thing: “We believe that there is no direct link, that they are possibly sympathizers jumping on the bandwagon to gain popular support…. To directly say that [IS] is here—there are no indications of that.”

But the Abu Sayyaf has threatened to kill one of two German hostages it has abducted by Oct. 10 if Germany did not withdraw its support for the ongoing air war waged by United States-led forces on the Islamic State. And Malaysia, with whom the Philippines shares a porous border, arrested three “aspiring jihadists” at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Thursday.

The frightening thing: These Malaysians, ready to die for the IS cause, were recruited only three months ago, on Facebook. Here we may see the true extent of the borderlessness of the IS threat: Beyond Iraq or Syria or indeed the geographical limits of the Middle East, the sweeping brutality of the IS cause (an absolutist distortion of Islam that justifies the wholesale slaughter of innocents, publicized in large part through the release of stark video of high-profile beheadings) seems to have an appeal that extends to, or is extended through, social media.

An exclusive report in the Star of Malaysia, a partner of the Inquirer in the Asia News Network, drew a bleak portrait: “Three would-be Malaysian jihadists … were enlisted into the Islamic State (IS) terror group by a senior Malaysian militant who used Facebook to lure members. The architect and a technician, both 26, and a 42-year-old shopkeeper were part of a wider network, all of whom joined IS to achieve martyrdom in their ‘false’ jihad.”

The idea of a wider network coincides with the analysis of security specialists which posit that “more than 100 people” from Malaysia and Indonesia have already gone to Syria to join the IS, and with the report from the American admiral who heads the US Pacific Command that “around 1,000 recruits from India to the Pacific” may have already joined IS.

What has drawn these recruits from our part of the world to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq? The lure of jihad, even of the false kind, has not been limited to IS. Some of the founding members of the Abu Sayyaf, for instance, had fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, drawn (like Osama bin Laden of Saudi Arabia) by the opportunity to fight beside other Islamic fighters in a war against the heathen.

The clarity of alternative that IS seems to project is another strong source of attraction. In the black-and-white world of the Islamic State, there is no room for doubt or confusion; either you are with them or against them. And if you are with them, you are permitted any act of violence. Or, rather, any violence, even the mass killing of children, is justified. To those who think that nuance is a bad word, or uncertainty an ostentatious luxury, or democracy a messy process, this simplistic brutality can seem attractive.

There may be a third factor. IS may be recruiting through Twitter or Facebook because social media as well as digital media make such recruitment possible. Instead of opening the digital citizen’s world to diverse sources of information and attitudes, platforms like Twitter and Facebook can also drastically narrow a citizen’s range of options. What academics call group polarization happens often online, and results in partisan or ideological views being vigorously reinforced. In other words, sometimes the openness of online life can result in closed systems.

That makes many of us vulnerable to media-savvy “senior militants.”

Editorial: The ISIS threat

Editorial from the Philippine Star (Sep 29): Editorial: The ISIS threat

In the conflict zones of Mindanao, Islamic extremism is just one of the many security threats that residents have faced for a long time. It won’t be a big surprise if the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, whose members have a penchant for decapitating captives and recording the inhumanity on video, manages to recruit supporters in the Philippines.

The original members of the Abu Sayyaf fought against foreign invaders in Afghanistan. Before discussing peace with the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front also opened its camps to bomb makers and trainers of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian terror cell loosely linked to al-Qaeda.

The government, with MILF support, is said to be working with the US government to prevent ISIS from gaining a foothold in the Philippines. The success of this effort calls for the same approaches in neutralizing other armed threats in Mindanao: even as extremists are hunted down, they must be deprived of public support by addressing the root causes of discontent.

ISIS militants will find kindred brethren in communities where poverty, social injustice and weak government feed extremism and insurgencies. The ongoing peace process with the MILF holds the promise of improvement in the quality of life in the conflict zones in Mindanao. But the road to the creation  of the Bangsamoro is still long and arduous.

The government need not wait that long to speed up development in the conflict zones. With the support committed by the MILF leadership, the government can improve the security situation sufficiently to enhance the environment for luring investments and creating meaningful jobs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and contiguous areas that may be included in the Bangsamoro.

Alongside development efforts, security forces must step up their operations to consolidate the gains of the peace process and improve public safety. More effort must be made to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf, the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as well as rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front.

The Philippines has been included in a list of about 40 countries believed to have ISIS presence. Terrorists operate in many parts of the planet, with several of the richest and most powerful nations among the prime targets. The difference lies in the way countries deal with the threat. The Philippines must show that it can effectively contain Islamist terrorism. This includes depriving extremists of reasons for winning recruits.

DVIDS: Joint Task Force Enabler leads the way for PHIBLEX 15

From DVIDS (Sep 27): Joint Task Force Enabler leads the way for PHIBLEX 15

Joint Task Force Enabler leads the way for PHIBLEX 15

U.S. Marines Cpl. Arthur Chou and Lance Cpl. Jeremy Briggs operate a very small aperture terminal-large satellite dish Sept. 21 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Forces West Headquarters, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. Chou and Briggs are with Joint Task Force Enabler which provides all required communications capabilities to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and III Marine Expeditionary Force during operations and exercises. It takes the VSAT-Large satellite operators roughly 11 hours to prepare the satellite dish and ensure it is operational. Chou is a Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania native and an engineer with the JTFE. Briggs is a Dallas, Texas native and a satellite technician with the JTFE. Both are assigned to the 7th Communications Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matt Myers/Released)

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES NAVAL FORCES WEST HEADQUARTERS, PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN, Philippines – U.S. Marines with Joint Task Force Enabler, 7th Communications Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF set-up communications equipment in preparation for Amphibious Landing Exercise 15 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Forces West Headquarters, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.

The equipment will provide essential communications to commanders and staff which will allow fluid coordination of events throughout PHIBLEX.

“The commanding general cannot deploy his troops if he does not have the ability to talk to them, so our job is very important,” said 2nd Lt. Jeffrey B. Edwards, the JTFE platoon commander. “We provide communications support to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade for any exercise or operation 3rd MEB participates in.”

To ensure strong connections in the remote areas where parts of the exercise will take place, the Marines will use a very small aperture terminal-large satellite dish that intercepts and distributes communication signals.

“We are providing satellite transmission services for internet, telecommunications services that allow us to video conference, and radio services,” said Edwards, a Houston, Texas native. “The most important capability is the virtual teleconference which is like a tactical Skype system that allows the commanding general to speak with his subordinate commanders.”

The VSAT-Large satellite dish is only one component of the gear set needed to allow the JTFE to operate.

“We brought more than six tons of equipment,” said Cpl. Arthur Chou, a satellite technician with the JTFE. “[The equipment] ranges from walkie-talkies to laptops to generators, and is all required for everything to work. We need independent electricity from the generators to power our satellite dish, and the computers to intercept the information from the satellite, plus all the wiring and components that are necessary.”

Additionally, the task force is often deployed in advance of the main body of the brigade so it must be a self-sustaining force.
“We were one of the first units here for PHIBLEX 15,” said Chou, a Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania native. “We bring technicians, engineers, electricians and communications specialists so we can be prepared for any issues since we cannot rely on [main body] support.”

With only four days to establish and ensure all of the equipment is in place and operational prior to the main body arriving, Marines from the JTFE recognize the expectations and added pressure, according to Joseph D. Budinger.

“As soon as we arrive in country, the pressure is instantly on to get things set up,” said Budinger, the JTFE maintenance chief. “We advertise to 3rd MEB and III MEF that we have the capabilities to get all communications up and running 96 hours after we get into the country.”

Because maintaining communications is a constant process, there is always an engineer and technician awake and ready to respond to a problem.

“This equipment is running 24 hours a day so we are running 24 hours a day as well,” said Budinger. “At the end of the day we are the ones who ensure everyone can communicate and get their jobs done. It’s a heavy responsibility but most of us wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Asean joins war on ISIS

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 29): Asean joins war on ISIS

Renews vow to campaign vs radicals, extremists

THE foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Sunday issued their first joint statement against the Islamic State and supported United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that members suppress the flow of terrorist fighters and financing.

“Asean denounces all acts of destruction, violence and terror in all its forms and manifestations,” the 10-nation bloc said in a statement that was released after a ministerial dialogue with the United States at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“Asean renews its commitment to work with the international community to fight against extremism, radicalism and terrorism and address its root causes,” the bloc added.

Asean “expressed concern over the rise of violence and brutality committed by terrorist/extremist organizations and radical groups in Iraq and Syria, noting that these groups [pose a threat] to the rest of the world,” the statement said.

Terror fugitive Marwan
While President Benigno Aquino III declared while he was in New York last week that the Philippines supports the allied attacks on IS targets in Iraq and Syria, no Asean country has yet announced plans to participate in military operations.

But as many as 200 Indonesians and at least 30 Malaysians have traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and other rebel groups via countries such as Egypt and Turkey, according to a report last month by New York-based Soufan Group, which provides strategic analysis to governments.

The extremists Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has also claimed that it sent 200 Filipino fighters  in a “do or die” mission to fight alongside Islamic State rebels and were led by a leader identified only as Mohamad Husin Aljabouree.

BIFF leader Samer Samsudin claimed the BIFF fighters were able to slip out of the country from their hideout in Maguindanao by using the country’s backdoor to Malaysia, where they boarded a plane bound to the Middle East.

Also in July, videos of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon showing him pledging allegiance to the Islamic State appeared on YouTube, but security officials said it was only a ploy to raise money and there was no proof that IS is indeed Filipino youth to their cause.

But Malaysia had earlier warned the Philippine governments that five suspected IS jihadists have slipped out of Sabah and are believed to be hiding in Mindanao, according to Sabah security chief Abdul Rashid Harum.

It is not the first time Malaysia terrorist would seek refuge in Mindanao after Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, alias Marwan, sought refuge from the BIFF where he is believed to be teaching Filipino jihadists how to make bombs.

The Philippine military had earlier claimed it was able to kill Marwan in a US-backed air raid on the Sulu island in 2012, but Marwan was confirmed to be still alive earlier this year.

Marwan carries a $5 million reward for his capture offered by the United States government along with Isnilon Hapilon, who was recently shown in a propaganda video pledging allegiance to the IS.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Kuala Lumpur fears that should there be an Islamic State strike in Malaysia, it will be along the Sulu Straits, between Sabah on the island of Borneo and the southern Philippines, The Star of Malaysia reported on Sunday.

The paper quoted Hishammuddin as saying he will be meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss allocating funds to safeguard the country’s waters.

The Bureau of Immigration on Saturday asked the armed forces to help identify persons of interest so that they can be blocked from entering or leaving the country.

Former police intelligence chief Rodolfo Mendoza urged security officials to take terror threats seriously, no matter how remote they think they are.

“They should established effective security that will not only evaluate the ISIS threat but put up sub-systems of tactical and intelligence strategy as well,” Mendoza said .

To boost border security between Malaysia and the Philippines, Hishammuddin said
Kuala Lumpur will deploy a container freighter vessel, MT Mas Lima to the waters off Sabah to serve as a forward base from which they can interdict militants and criminals trying to enter Sabah.

In Indonesia, security forces have been put on alert after Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists in Syria formed a military unit for Malay-speaking ISIS fighters, a move that could spread to other parts of Southeast Asia.

Called the Katiba Nusantara Lid Islamiyyah, the unit supposedly already has 22 members and they are station at a Syrian town called Al-Shadadi in Hasaka province. The group has threatened to demolish the Borobudur temple in Java, Indonesia.

“Governments and Muslim community organizations must maintain vigilance against attempts by misguided leaders to spread propaganda to recruit Muslim youth to extremism and violence,” said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“Governments should criminalize by law its nationals advocating, supporting or participating in fighting overseas.”

DFA: Report Filipino jihadist recruits training in Iran ‘ridiculous’

From the Manila Times (Sep 28): DFA: Report Filipino jihadist recruits training in Iran ‘ridiculous’

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) called “ridiculous” the report that 100 Filipinos trained in Iran to fight alongside the anti-government group in Syria and to engage in extremist activities, the Iranian Embassy in Manila said.

In an interview last week, Iranian Ambassador to Manila Ali Asghar Mohammadi said his office submitted a note verbale to the department, clarifying a Camp Crame leaked report that cited a memorandum from the Foreign Affairs agency to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

Mohammadi said that during his embassy’s discussion with the DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Middle East and African Affairs, the agency rejected the reports and said they were “ridiculous.”

The department is investigating how it was leaked to the media, the envoy added.

“We asked them [DFA] about these accusations. Of course, we deny any sort of reports which are all accusations by any standards. The DFA itself said [in] the conversation we [had] that they are totally rejecting this in any manner. They said it’s ridiculous,” Mohammadi said.

He denied the memo that said Iran has been the training ground for some 100 Filipinos recruited by the jihadist movement in Syria.

NPA claims attacks in Davao City

From the Manila Times (Sep 28): NPA claims attacks in Davao City

THE New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for recent attacks on government troops in Davao City.

Ka Parago Sandoval, a spokesman for the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion, said the attacks were in retaliation to abuses of government troops as well as the rebel group’s separatist campaign in Mindanao.

He said six soldiers were killed in clashes at Paquibato and Calinan districts in July while an Army vehicle transporting troops in the village of Malabog was ambushed resulting to many casualties.

Just this week, two soldiers were also slain in sniper attacks in Sumimao and Dominga villages. Earlier this month,  NPA rebels killed a soldier and wounded three more in Fatima village and seized military backpacks and vests, including munitions, from a detachment of the 69th Infantry Battalion near Mapula village.

“The Army’s rights abuses, ranging from harassment, red tagging, psychological warfare, encampment in civilian populace and intimidation, have earned them the ire of the masses. Despite being hated by Paquibato peasants and Lumads, and despite suffering from a high number of casualties, they continue to serve their corrupt and fascist masters in the AFP echelons and the landlord-bourgeois comprador class,” said Sandoval.

“Their blind allegiance to corrupt generals and superiors at the 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command only makes them more easy targets of the New People’s Army, people’s militia and the revolutionary movement,” Sandoval added.

The rebels are also targetting the Philippine National Police and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit which are supporting Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP’s anti-insurgency campaign.

There was no immediate statement from the Eastern Mindanao Command on the NPA claims, but the outskirts of Davao City are known stronghold of the communist rebel group.

The NPA has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a separate state in the country.

Meanwhile, around 30 heavily-armed NPA rebels attacked an Army detachment in Camarines Sur on Friday.

Reports reaching Camp Crame said soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Battalion at Sitio Dinumpilan in Barangay Malinao, Libamanan town, clashed with the rebels at around 2:30 a.m.

The rebels withdrew towards Sitio Danawan and headed to to Sitio Canamuan, the reports said

No casualties were reported on the government side, while the rebels sustained an unknown number of casualties based on traces of blood seen on the rebels escape route, the police reports said.

‘Development alone does not reduce conflict’– international adviser

From the Manila Times (Sep 28): ‘Development alone does not reduce conflict’– international adviser

AS Congress deliberates on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), legislators may want to consider other solutions besides development in the establishment of the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao because “development alone does not reduce conflict and it can actually exacerbate conflict,” an international adviser said in a recent forum.

Sam Chittick, International Adviser of the United Nations-World Bank-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) partnership called Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC), said sub-national conflicts (SNCs) in Asia present a major challenge to the common assumptions about the drivers of conflict.

“Development alone does not reduce conflict in SNCs. Improvements in economic growth, state capacity, regime type and level of development do not necessarily reduce or end SNCs. Development can exacerbate conflict in SNCs. In some cases, development, growth and expanding state capacity can exacerbate conflict in SNC areas,” said Chittick during a forum titled “Development Opportunities and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” in Makati City (Metro Manila).

While policymakers are conducting consultations on stakeholders for the legislation of the BBL, he added that they may want to find the answers to these questions: “How can the “growth hubs” of Mindanao like Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos City be a trigger for Bangsamoro growth? How can the Bangsamoro take advantage of an above per capita share of the international remittances that flow into the Philippines? How can recent improvements in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governance provide a “head start” for the Bangsamoro? What changes will the average Mindanaoan want from the Bangsamoro? What difference will it make in their lives?”

Citing the 2011 World Development Report, the international adviser also emphasized  strengthening legitimate institutions with an aim to provide citizens security, justice and jobs is crucial to break such cycles of violence, fragility and weak development.

“Expectations are high that the Bangsamoro entity will deliver security and prosperity to long-suffering population. Delivering on these expectations requires legitimate institutions,” Chittick said.

Large-scale Philippine-US war games begin in Palawan

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 29): Large-scale Philippine-US war games begin in Palawan

The Philippines and the United States begin today the annual, large-scale military exercise called “Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015” (PHIBLEX 15), which aims to bolster interoperability between the two nations’ troops and promote security cooperation in the region.

The opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the Naval Forces West (Navforwest) headquarters in Barangay San Miguel, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. PHIBLEX 15 will run until Oct. 10.

U.S. WARSHIP IN SUBIC – Children watch the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) as it docks at the Alava Pier of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Subic, Zambales, yesterday. The Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship will be one of two US Navy vessels taking part in the Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 (PHIBLEX 15) which will be launched today in Palawan. (Jonas Reyes)
U.S. WARSHIP IN SUBIC – Children watch the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) as it docks at the Alava Pier of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Subic, Zambales, yesterday. The Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship will be one of two US Navy vessels taking part in the Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 (PHIBLEX 15) which will be launched today in Palawan. (Jonas Reyes)

Approximately 3,500 US Marines and sailors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3rd MEB) and Commander, Task Force 76 have arrived in the country to participate in this year’s 31st iteration of PHIBLEX.

The US troops, together with some 1,200 Philippine sailors and Marines, will work shoulder-to-shoulder conducting a command post exercise to practice communications throughout the battle space.

They will also hold field training exercises, which include small arms and artillery live-fire training.

Amphibious operations, ship-to-shore movement, combined arms training, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects will likewise be conducted.

The focus of the command post exercise, a new training event for PHIBLEX 15, “will increase the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) capability to conduct planning and effective execution of bilateral maritime security and territorial defense operations,” AFP officials said.

The exercise comes at a time when the AFP is shifting focus from counter-insurgency operations to external threats.

AFP officials, however, emphasized that the exercise has nothing to do with China or the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

In preparation for the conduct of the exercise, the US Marines have set up communications equipment, including the very small aperture terminal-large (VSAT-Large) satellite dish at the Navforwest headquarters.

The VSAT-Large satellite dish, which intercepts and distributes communication signals, will ensure strong connections in the remote areas where parts of the exercise will take place. This will provide essential communications to commanders and staff which will allow fluid coordination of events throughout PHIBLEX.

In addition to the VSAT-Large satellite dish, the US troops brought more than six tons of equipment including walkie-talkies, computers and generators.

Two US Navy ships, the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) and the USS Germantown (LSD-42), have also arrived in Subic Bay, Zambales, Saturday to participate in PHIBLEX 15.

The AFP, on the other hand, is sending BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-16), one of the three Jacinto-class patrol vessels in Philippine Navy (PN) service, for the exercise.

Prior to the official kickoff of PHIBLEX 15, US forces along with their Filipino counterparts, have been engaged in various humanitarian and civic assistance projects such as construction of new classrooms in Palawan and Zambales and providing medical services to local communities.

Military not hiding casualty numbers

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 28): Military not hiding casualty numbers

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here debunked claims by the New People’s Army (NPA) that the military sustained casualties in a recent clash between the 69th Infantry Battalion and communist insurgents in the districts of Paquibato, Calinan and Malabog.

“The AFP has  no reason to hide its casualties, if ever there are, to the public,” asserted Army Captain Ernest Carolina of the information office of the 10th Infantry Division of the AFP in Southern Mindanao.

Carolina was reacting to a Sept. 26 statement made by Leoncio Pitao, popularly known as Kumander Parago and spokesperson of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion, claiming gains on the series of military actions they launched against the Army in the areas of Davao City.

Parago said that military offensives on September 24, 23, 20, 9 and 3 had inflicted casualties and damage to properties on the side of the 69th Infantry Battalion in the districts of Paquibato, Calinan and Malabog.

He alleged that four soldiers were killed when their military vehicle hit a command-detonated explosive while two others were taken out by NPA snipers.

Parago said the military had concealed this to prevent demoralization among its soldiers.

Parago added that last September 3, the NPAs were able to confiscate 8 military vests, pack bags and ammunitions from an unguarded 69th IB detachment in Kilometer 5, Barangay Mapula here.

But Carolina belied all these.

“We are the legitimate Army of the people, hindi namin pwedeng itago ang sinapit ng mga kasama namin sa kanilang mga pamilya at kamag-anak (We cannot conceal the fate of our soldiers from their family and relatives)”, Carolina pointed out.

He added that the sacrifices and heroism of soldiers who had fallen during clashes, including those wounded are recognized by the leadership of the AFP, the reason why there is no truth to the allegations of concealment.

“It’s the NPAs who conceal their casualties,” Carolina stressed, adding that NPAs are notorious for not revealing the real figure of their deaths because these affect their recruitment.

“Marami ang matatakot sumama sa kanilang kilusan kung malalaman ng taong bayan na marami sa kanila ang namamatay sa labanan (A lot would be scared to join them if they learn that many of them will just die)”, he emphasized.

Carolina added that the military had been consistent in returning the bodies of slain NPA combatants to their respective families after they are left behind by comrades during battles. “But (the dead) they bring with them during their withdrawals are just buried in shallow graves in the remote hinterlands of Davao,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Davao Occidental, about 1,800 members of Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVOs) from various towns recently took their oath before Governor Claude Bautista and Lt. Col. Patricio Ruben Amata, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion.The mass oathtaking was facilitated in Barangay Demoloc in Malita town. In his message, Governor Bautista expressed optimism that the influence and recruitment of the NPAs in the area will weaken with the installation of the new members of the CVOs.

Pinoy UN peacekeepers to guard Pope’s RP visit

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 29): Pinoy UN peacekeepers to guard Pope’s RP visit

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has assigned two military battalions, one of them figured in a firefight with Syrian rebels while deployed in the Golan Heights, to augment security forces to secure Pope Francis when he visits the country in January next year.

AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. particularly picked the 7th and 8th Philippine Contingent to the Golan Heights to form part of the security group for the papal visit.

The 7th Philippine Contingent to the Golan Heights (PCGH) arrived last week after the government ordered the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers from the strife-torn region due to worsening security situation.

Members of the 7th PCGH figured in a standoff that led to a seven-hour firefight with Syrian rebels late August while members of the 8th Philippine Contingent to Golan Heights were supposed to replace the 7th PCGH this October but the government has suspended sending of peacekeepers.

Each contingent is a battalion-sized composed of around 300 soldiers.

Catapang said the military battalions will be supporting the Philippine National Police (PNP) in securing the papal visit.

“These units will be put under the operational control of the PNP who is in charge of the overall security for the pontiff’s four-day visit to the country,” the AFP-Public Affairs Office said in a statement.

The military is banking on the peacekeeping training of the soldiers in performing their tasks as part of the security group for the visit of Pope Francis.

“The peacekeepers’ experience beyond Philippine borders may serve them well as many people from all walks of life are expected to come to the Philippines to see the Pope,” the AFP-PAO said.

“We believe that their exposure and experience in peacekeeping operations in Syria will be beneficial toward the successful security of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines,” it added.

President Aquino has tasked the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to take the lead in the security of Pope Francis while he is in the country.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said Pope Francis will be in the Philippines from January 15-19 and will visit the survivors of Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” which left about 7,300 people dead across the Visayas in November last year.

Politicians have said Filipino Islamic militants, some of who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria, could pose a threat during the papal visit.

The government has said there are no known links between the two groups, and that the Filipino militants are merely associating themselves with the jihadists to elevate their profile and for financial gain.

MILF starts disarming process

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 29): MILF starts disarming process

The difficult process of disarming rebels after a decades-long insurgency has started, Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiators yesterday said, with the decommissioning of a first batch of firearms expected before year-end.

Negotiators started meeting in Malaysia last Saturday to discuss the disarmament process, key to ending the insurgency in Mindanao and sealing a peace deal.

The two sides have appointed three foreign experts — from Brunei, Turkey and Norway — to join the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) that will oversee the decommissioning process, together with four local experts who are yet to be nominated.

The IDB shall perform functions that include the conduct of inventory, verification and validation of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members, arms and weapons; develop and implement a schedule of decommissioning of BIAF forces; plan, design, and implement techniques and technologies for weapons collection or retrieval, transport, and storage and putting weapons beyond use in accordance with  the ?agreement of the parties; and report on the progress of its work and submit its report to the government and MILF panels.

Aside from the IDB, the two other bodies integral to the normalization process include the Joint Normalization Committee which will coordinate the different normalization processes and mechanisms; and the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission which will undertake a study and recommend to the panels the appropriate mechanisms for transitional justice and reconciliation.

“Decommissioning is a delicate and difficult component of any peace settlement. It must be done effectively and sensitively. It is an affirmative support to the normalization process and will contribute to advancing collective security in the future Bangsamoro region and the country as a whole,” chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

The meeting will continue until today.

Chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal had said earlier that 75 assorted firearms, including high-powered rifles, would be stored and padlocked in a warehouse as part of the “normalization” process that will see the rebels trade their weapons for a chance to join mainstream society.

“Decommissioning firearms is really very difficult, but you have to undertake the ultimate sacrifice just to have the Bangsamoro,” Iqbal stressed.

Bangsamoro is the southern region on Mindanao island where the country’s Muslim minority will have self-rule under a pact they signed with the Aquino administration last March.

The peace deal seeks to end four decades of fighting that left tens of thousands killed and stunted development in the mineral-rich area.

Ferrer had said “the first order of business” for the meeting would be for the MILF to submit a list of weapons and combatants.

Military estimates place the strength of the MILF at 10,000. The group has not disclosed the size of its force or the number of weapons in its arsenal.

Decommissioning will be phased, depending on the delivery of government commitments under the peace deal, Iqbal said.

Ferrer said there was enough “goodwill” to push through with normalization after a bill that will grant the country’s Muslim minority self-rule was submitted to Congress earlier this month.

Legislators said the Bangsamoro bill had bipartisan support and would be passed early next year, giving President Aquino time to set up an autonomous government before his term ends in mid-2016.

Troops deploy after Abus threaten German hostages

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 29): Troops deploy after Abus threaten German hostages

The military has dispatched an estimated 1,000-plus extra soldiers to Mindanao to strengthen security after Islamic militants threatened to kill one of two German hostages.

A military statement yesterday said an Army brigade, a unit that usually comprises between 800 and 1,500 troops, was flown to the remote Sulu island group, where the Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding the two German tourists.

Two other Army battalions were deployed in nearby southern areas, it added.

“This is a redeployment that is part of an ongoing plan which is anchored on our mandate to address internal and external security situations,” it said without elaborating.

The reinforcements will allow Philippine Marines who have been fighting the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu as well as in Basilan, another southern island, “to concentrate on
their main tasks,” Philippine Army 5th Infantry Division (ID) spokesman Maj. Calixto told Agence France Presse.

He declined to disclose the exact number of troops sent to Mindanao, citing operational security. One of the smaller units was flown to the South last Saturday, he added.

The statement said all three units that were sent to Mindanao had come from Nothern Luzon where security officials said a long-running communist insurgency has largely petered out.

Maj. Gen. Benito de Leon, commander of the military’s 5th ID, for his part, said the redeployment of the 501st Brigade was decided by higher headquarters as part of the efforts to attain “inclusive development.”

“Since Northern Luzon is no more a problematic area compared to Mindanao, we have to balance and help in maintaining peace in Mindanao so that we can have inclusive development and inclusive stability,” he added.

De Leon urged the troops to continue performing well as he cited their contributions to the internal peace and security operations in Northern Luzon.

“Today is the best time to be a soldier. In the fulfillment of duty, one is called to serve. Service to the nation becomes every soldier’s creed as he enters the military institution. It encompasses the various roles and challenges you will yet to face,” he said.

“As soldiers, it is a part and parcel of our job to be apart from our families. We pledge to put service to our nation before ourselves. It is our commitment until we retire,” he added.

The redeployment of additional troops to Mindanao came amid continuing reports of recruitment activities by ISIS which has occupied large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

No less than former President Fidel V. Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte confirmed that ISIS has already recruited Filipino Muslims.

The AFP has consistently downplayed the information.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last Friday announced that, to “stop the Abu Sayyaf once and for all,” Army troops will be dispatched to Sulu to help the Marines there.

Gazmin has stressed the government would not negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf over its demands for about $5.62 million in ransom for the Germans.

Abu Sayyaf has threatened to kill one of two German hostages unless a ransom is paid and Berlin halts its support for the US-led campaign against the IS group.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loose band of several hundred Islamic militants originally organized with Al-Qaeda funding in the 1990s.

The group has been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including kidnappings, abductions and beheadings of foreign and local hostages.

It is believed to be currently holding several other hostages, including two European birdwatchers abducted in February 2012.