Saturday, June 17, 2017

AFP bars IS allies’ escape

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 17): AFP bars IS allies’ escape


The military said containment operations on Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants who had occupied parts of Marawi City for nearly four weeks have been initiated as an official raised the possibility that some of the extremists may have slipped out of a military cordon posing as evacuees and have transferred to nearby provinces.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said security had been tightened in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro and authorities there were on the lookout for suspicious characters who might “attempt to sow some confusion or sow terror.”
“We’re not denying that there’s probably a few who may have slipped out along with the evacuees from Marawi going to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro,” he said.

The military said that up to 200 fighters, most of them from the Maute group that have pledged allegiance to IS with some foreign fighters, are holding out, using civilians as human shields and mosques as safe havens.

Padilla, however, said talk of the IS sympathizers planning attacks in neighboring towns was based on “misinformation that’s being spread by the enemies” and in fact their capacity was severely reduced. The military added those still in the town were also weakening.

“Enemy resistance continues to dwindle and enemy-held areas continues to get smaller as troops advance,” it said, but giving no indication of how long it might take to retake the town.

The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) also warned of more arrests in the coming days in connection to the implementation of martial law in Mindanao as operation against those included in the two arrests orders have intensified.

Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, spokesman of the Eastmincom for martial law, said the command has intensified security and tracking down operations to ensure that the conflict in Marawi City will not spill over to Eastern Mindanao.More arrests seen

So far, Gapay said that eight individuals, who were among the more than 300 persons ordered arrested by martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had been arrested by Eastmincom.

Among the arrested was the patriarch of the Maute clan –Cayamora Maute, who was nabbed, along with several family members, in a checkpoint in Toril District in Davao City last June 6.

Also arrested was former Marawi City Mayor Fajad Salic, who is tagged as among the supporters of the Maute group.

“As the implementation of Martial Law continues, it is expected that more arrests in the coming days as tracking and monitoring are intensified against the persons listed in the two orders of arrest issued by the Martial Law Administrator,” said Gapay.

Gapay, however, stressed that law abiding citizens should not worry with the martial law implementation –assuring that the military will put premium to human rights and the rule of law.
“EMC is assuring the law-abiding citizens that its actions will always be in accordance to the rule of law and these are being done for the benefit of everyone,” Gapay said.

“As it continues to conduct stringent security and law enforcement operations to shield its area of responsibility, EMC again asks for the continued cooperation and support as the command strives to make Eastern Mindanao safe and secure for everyone,” he added.

Gapay said that since the implementation of martial law, Eastmincom has conducted 9,480 checkpoint operations, including those that resulted in the arrest of the elder Maute and Salic, and 106 security operations –particularly to thwart attacks against vital installations in the region.
Maritime patrols were also intensified to prevent terrorists from entering Eastern Mindanao via the sea.

Currently, Gapay said that 58 towns in Eastern Mindanao are implementing curfew hours –resulting in the arrest of 53 individuals. Total gun ban is also in effect in the region. So far three gun ban violators were apprehended.

225 terrorists terminated

The death toll in the dragging Marawi City siege, now on its 26th day, continued to rise as government security forces struggled to penetrate the remaining strongholds of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists.

Based on data released yesterday by Joint Task Force Marawi, a total of 225 terrorists had been killed since May 23 when the IS-inspired terrorists, led by Isnilon Hapilon and brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute of the Maute group, launched massive atrocities in the Islamic city.

A total of 208 firearms, mostly high-powered, were recovered by government troops during clearing operations.

On the other hand, a total of 59 government troops were killed in action.

At least 26 innocent civilians also died in the ongoing conflict while hundreds of others are believed to still be trapped in Marawi City.

Maj. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, Joint Task Force Marawi commander, said that resistance from the terrorists continued to dwindle but the use of civilians as human shields and hostages is hampering military efforts.

“Enemy resistance continues to dwindle and enemy held areas continues to get smaller as troops advance,” said Bautista.

“Compounding development remains to be the use of civilians as human shields and mosques as staging areas and safe havens,” he added.

The military has vowed not to bomb mosques despite the jihadists use of them to gain advantage against government troops.

Bautista said that four out of the 96 barangays of Marawi City are still considered as “problematic areas” where there are ongoing focused military operations to flush out the terrorists.

However, the heavily built-up areas –where high rise buildings have been occupied by the terrorists and used them as machine gun and sniper nests, call for deliberate and careful conduct of military operations to avoid collateral damage.

The battle for the four remaining barangays has been going on now for several days.

“Our forces continue to execute military operations to ensure we save lives through judicious military action,” said Bautista.’

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año has been reminding operating troops to to put premium on civilian lives, respect for civilian properties during clearing operations and complete discipline among our men in uniform conducting military activities in the area.

Speedy inquest eyed vs bomb-maker

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday ordered a speedy inquest proceeding against Mohammad Noiam Maute, alias Abu Jadid, an alleged Maute group member and a suspected bomb-maker who was arrested in Cagayan de Oro City.

“I have instructed the panel of prosecutors to immediately conduct the inquest proceedings and to expedite their prosecution and hopefully, their conviction,” Aguirre said after he received a report from authorities confirming the suspected bomb-maker’s arrest.

Jadid, 22, a suspected maker of improvised explosive devices or IED, and also a cousin of Maute terrorist group leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute, was apprehended last Thursday in Cagayan de Oro City.

The alleged bomb-maker is included in the Arrest Order 1 issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator in Mindanao, against those suspected to be involved in the Marawi terror attacks.

He was captured by elements of the Martial Law Special Action Group (ML-SAG) during an operation in Sitio Sta. Cruz, Barangay Macasandig in Cagayan de Oro City at around 6:30 a.m.
“The arrest of Mohammad Noaim Maute is a very welcome development in our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators behind the attacks on the people of Marawi City,” Aguirre said.

“Only by successfully prosecuting the responsible parties can we vindicate the people of Marawi City particularly the innocent victims,” the Justice chief said.

Meanwhile, Aguirre reiterated his request to the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the proceedings of the criminal cases filed against suspected Maute members to the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

“On a related matter, the arrest of Mohammad Maute in Macasandig in Cagayan de Oro further justifies our request to the Supreme Court for the transfer of the hearing of these cases from Cagayan de Oro courts,” Aguirre said.

“Imagine, one of the personalities involved in the Marawi takeover already in Cagayan de Oro City,” the Justice chief insisted.

“This fact justifies the collective fear of our prosecutors and everyone who will be involved in the prosecution of these cases”, the Justice chief said.

Aguirre earlier sent two letters, on June 14 and 15, to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno asking that “the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Taguig City be designed as the court to try, and decide all cases and incidents arising from the Maute takeover of Marawi City.”

The SC assigned the Cagayan de Oro RTC to hear, try and decide all cases and incidents in connection with the Marawi attacks.

It also designated Camp Evangelista, headquarters of the Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division, as the detention center for Maute members who will be charged for rebellion.

Members of judiciary and national prosecution service have expressed fear for their safety in the conduct of inquest, preliminary investigation and trial of the cases involving the Maute group, Aguirre said.

He insisted that Camp Evangelista does not have proper facilities to detain Maute group members, while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “does not have adequate training to provide proper jail management.”

The Justice chief also appealed to designate the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to serve as the Maute members’ detention facility.

Canada awaits assistance request

Affirming its readiness to help in the conflict-stricken Marawi City, the Canadian Embassy in Manila said it is waiting for the instruction and request of assistance from the Philippine government’s end.

In an interview, Canadian Ambassador to Manila John Holmes said Canada has different programs already operating in Mindanao, but in terms of assistance in the case of “person-made disasters”, they “await for intruction and request from the government of the Philippines.”

“We are providing assistance already but we do that through the Canadian Red Cross, International Red Cross and the Philippine Red Cross,” he said at the sidelines of EduCanada Seminar at Edsa Shangri-La.

“We have given assistance for dealing with different events so I’m sure some of that money are being used in Marawi City,” he added.

“Normally we would respond to a request from the government of the Philippines,” he said, adding no request from the country’s end has been made yet.

No additional request from Manila, he answered, “none”.

Over the years, the Canadian government has supported the Mindanao Trust Fund, a multi-donor grant facility established in 2005 to consolidate international development assistance for the socio-economic recovery of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao, Philippines.

“It will continue,” said Holmes. “In terms of our aid program, Mindanao has been our focus the last few years and continues to be our focus. We stand ready to help.”

“The government of Canada extends its heartfelt condolences to the government and the people of Marawi City who have been affected by (the) horrible tragedy,” he said.

Marawi City and the entire Mindanao has been under Martial Law since May 23 following the ongoing clash between Maute terror group and government forces.

As of latest, army said 290 people have been killed in the more than three weeks of fighting, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.

Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman cleared that they intend to finish the fight as soon as possible, sharing that the Philippine troops were advancing toward the commercial center of Marawi City, held by the local extremists who have sworn allegiance to Islamic State.

On efforts to combat terrorism, Holmes said Canada is also prepared to cooperate with the country, “normally, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be sending troops or anything like that but we do capacity building and exchanging of information.”

Holmes said these initiatives are on ongoing.

Win seeks Marawi rehab plan

Even as government troops have yet to win its battle against the Maute group, Sen. Win Gatchalian pressed the need to come up with a rehabilitation plan for Marawi City.

“The people of Marawi are not yet confident in the government’s commitment to help them rebuild their lives when the fighting is over. We need to expedite the formulation of the rehabilitation plan so that we can restore their faith in the promise of a peaceful and prosperous future for their homeland,” he said.

The chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs emphasized the need for the government in taking concrete action and begin carrying rehabilitation efforts even as the fire fight rages on in Marawi.

“When the government finally wins the battle against the Maute group, an even more challenging battle will begin: the fight to rebuild Marawi City. We have to start preparing for this formidable task as early as now,” he said.

“Beneath the rubble of this terrible tragedy lies a golden opportunity to build Marawi City into something greater than it ever was before. With this in mind, the government’s recovery and rehabilitation plan should aim to build superior infrastructure and increase access to and quality of basic social services, with the noble vision of eradicating poverty in the province as its end goal,” the senator said.

Senate Resolution 404, filed by Gatchalian last Thursday, urges the national government to get the ball rolling on the recovery plan by conducting an exhaustive assessment of the damage suffered by the city and its residents as a result of the conflict.

The resolution stresses that it “should be a unified mission by all concerned government agencies” to immediately launch “the most effective recovery and rehabilitation program to rebuild the city.”
Therefore, the comprehensive assessment is designed to touch on key sectors: agriculture, industry, tourism, education, health, housing, cultural heritage, and public utilities and sanitation, among others.

Based on this assessment, the government will be armed with the information it needs to provide immediate humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and formulate long-term plans to rebuild infrastructure and revive key sectors.

Noting that Lanao del Sur is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, with an alarming poverty incidence of 71.9 percent among the population (more than three times greater than the national average of 21.6 percent, according to the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey), Gatchalian stressed that simply bringing Marawi City back to the status quo will not be enough.

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