Sunday, June 4, 2017

MARAWI: WAKE UP CALL | Malaysian defense minister says, ‘If we do nothing, they get a foothold in this region’

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): MARAWI: WAKE UP CALL | Malaysian defense minister says, ‘If we do nothing, they get a foothold in this region’

Soldiers mosque Marawi City

Government troops walk past mosque in Marawi City. Photograph from Reuters.

MARAWI CITY – At the beginning of the battle that has raged for the past 12 days in Marawi City at the southern end of the Philippines, dozens of Islamist militants stormed its prison, overwhelming the guards.

“They said ‘surrender the Christians’,” said Faridah P. Ali, an assistant director of the regional prison authority. “We only had one Christian staff member so we put him with the inmates so he wouldn’t be noticed,” he said.

Fighters from the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), menaced the guards and shouted at prisoners: but no one gave up the Christian man. “When they freed the inmates, he got free,” said Ali.

It was a brief moment of cheer, but over the next few hours the militants took control of most of the city, attacked the police station and stole weapons and ammunition, and set up roadblocks and positioned snipers on buildings at key approaches. The assault has already led to the death of almost 180 people and the vast majority of Marawi’s population of about 200,000 has fled.

Map from Reuters depicting the major elements in the Marawi conflict. Officials say all four of the country’s pro-Islamic State groups sent fighters to Marawi with the intention of establishing the city as a Southeast Asian ‘wilayat’ – or governorate – for IS.

Biggest warning yet

 The seizing of the city by Maute and its allies on the island of Mindanao is the biggest warning yet that the Islamic State is building a base in Southeast Asia and bringing the brutal tactics seen in Iraq and Syria in recent years to the region.

Defense and other government officials from within the region told Reuters evidence is mounting that this was a sophisticated plot to bring forces from different groups who support the Islamic State together to take control of Marawi.

The presence of foreigners – intelligence sources say the fighters have included militants from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chechnya and Morocco – alongside locals in Marawi, has particularly alarmed security officials.

“If we do nothing, they get a foothold in this region,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, the defense minister of neighboring Malaysia.

For some time, governments in Southeast Asia have been worried about what happens when battle-hardened Islamic State fighters from their countries return home as the group loses ground in the Middle East, and now they have added concerns about the region becoming a magnet for foreign jihadis.

“If we do nothing, they get a foothold in this region,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, the defense minister of neighboring Malaysia.

Southeast Asian ‘wilayat’

Defense and military officials in the Philippines said that all four of the country’s pro-Islamic State groups sent fighters to Marawi with the intention of establishing the city as a Southeast Asian ‘wilayat’ – or governorate – for the radical group.

Mindanao – roiled for decades by Islamic separatists, communist rebels, and warlords – was fertile ground for Islamic State’s ideology to take root. This is the one region in this largely Catholic country to have a significant Muslim minority and Marawi itself is predominantly Muslim.

It is difficult for governments to prevent militants from getting to Mindanao from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia through waters that have often been lawless and plagued by pirates.

The Combating Terrorism Center, a West Point, New York-based think tank, said in a report this week that Islamic State is leveraging militant groups in Southeast Asia to solidify and expand its presence in the region. The key will be how well it manages relations with the region’s jihadi old guard, CTC said.

Commander fired

 The Maute group’s attack is the biggest challenge faced by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte since coming to power last June. He has declared martial law in Mindanao, which is his political base.

His defense forces were caught off guard by the assault and have had difficulty in regaining control of the city – on Saturday they were still struggling to wipe out pockets of resistance.

On Monday, Brigadier-General Nixon Fortes, the commander of the army brigade in Marawi, was sacked.

An army spokesman said this was unrelated to the battle. But a military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Friday that Fortes was dismissed because not all his forces were in the city when the rebels began their rampage, even though military intelligence had indicated that Islamist militants were amassing there.

The assault came just months after security forces attacked the mountain lair of Isnilon Hapilon, a long-time leader of Abu Sayyaf, or “Father of the Sword”, a notorious Islamist militant group known for kidnapping.

He swore allegiance to Islamic State in 2014, and quickly got other groups to join him. Most important among them was the Maute group, run by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute from a well-known family in Marawi.

In a video that surfaced last June, a Syria-based leader of the group urged followers in the region to join Hapilon if they could not travel to the Middle East. Hapilon was named IS leader in Southeast Asia last year.

The Philippines military said Hapilon was likely wounded in the raids but managed to escape to Marawi, where he joined up with the Maute group.

According to a statement on a social media group used by Maute fighters, the group wants to cleanse Marawi of Christians, Shi’ite Muslims, and polytheists – who believe in more than one God. It also wants to ban betting, karaoke and so-called “relationship dating.”

Mountain lairs

 Some officials said Philippines security forces became complacent about the threat from IS after the January raids.

“We did not notice they have slipped into Marawi because we are focusing on their mountain lairs,” Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.

Over the past few months, Philippine and Indonesian intelligence sources said, Hapilon’s forces were swelled by foreign fighters and new recruits within Marawi. Many of the outsiders came to Marawi using the cover of an Islamic prayer festival in the city last month, said Philippines military spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera.

Lorenzana said that Hapilon brought 50-100 fighters to join Maute’s 250-300 men, while two other groups, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, together brought at least 40 militants with them.

On May 23, four days before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, they launched their attack when Philippine forces made an abortive attempt to capture Hapilon inside Marawi.

After the military retreated in the face of a phalanx of armed guards, about 400 militants quickly fanned out across the city, riding trucks mounted with 50-calibre machine guns and armed with rocket-propelled grenades and high-powered rifles.

Within hours, they attacked the jail and nearby police station, seizing weapons and ammunition, according to accounts from residents.

The Dansalan College, a Protestant institution, and the Catholic Cathedral of Maria Auxiliadora, were both razed, and a priest and about a dozen other parishioners captured. They remain hostages.

A Shi’ite mosque was also destroyed, and a statue of Jose Rizal, the Philippines hero of the uprising against Spanish rule, was beheaded.

Snipers on rooftops

 Herrera said the attack had the hallmarks of a professional military operation. “There was a huge, grand plan to seize the whole of Marawi,” he said.

After the initial battle, IS flags flew across the city and masked fighters roamed the streets proclaiming Marawi was theirs, using loud-hailers to urge residents to join them and handing out weapons to those who took up the offer, according to residents.

The military brought in helicopters to fire rockets at militant positions as ground troops began to retake key bridges and buildings, though some residents this has also led to the deaths of civilians.

“ISIS people were running on the street, running away from them. They were bombing them in the street (but) it hit our house and the mosque. Many other houses too,” said Amerah Dagalangit, a pregnant 29-year-old in an evacuation center near Marawi.

“Many people died when the bomb exploded,” she said, adding that a Muslim priest and children were among the victims.

Military officials said they had not received any report of the incident. Reuters could not independently verify the account.

The military has said 20 civilians have been killed in the fighting and that all were at the hands of the militants. It also says 120 rebels and 38 members of the security forces have been killed, including 10 soldiers who died from friendly fire in an airstrike.

‘People will get killed’

Officials in neighboring Indonesia worry that even if the Filipinos successfully take back Marawi in coming days, the threat will still remain high.

“We worry they will come over here,” said one Indonesian counter-terrorism official, noting that Mindanao wasn’t very far from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

More than 2,000 people remain trapped in the center of Marawi, with no electricity and little food and water. Some are pinned down by the crossfire between the military and the militants, while others fear they will be intercepted by the militants as they flee, according to residents.

The bodies of eight laborers who had been shot in the head were found in a ravine outside Marawi last Sunday. The police said they had been stopped by the militants while escaping the city.

There will most likely be more civilian casualties in retaking the city, the military said.

“We are expecting that people will get starved, people will get hurt, people will get killed,” said Herrera, the military spokesman. “In these types of operations, you can’t get 100 per cent no collateral damage.”

Duterte administration ‘has practically terminated’ peace talks with NDF – Joma

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): Duterte administration ‘has practically terminated’ peace talks with NDF – Joma

NDFP peace consultant Wilma Austria and her husband, Benito Tiamzon, member of the rebel peace panel, are seen in Kodao Productions file photo.

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison said the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte “has practically terminated” peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and is “no longer interested” in seeking a negotiated end to the almost 50-year old insurgency.

Sison’s observation came two days after Duterte said he was “not so keen” about the NDFP’s offer to help the government combat extremism and reiterated an earlier demand that “either we continue to talk about peace but we have to stop fighting.”

The government panel refused to participate in the fifth round of talks, supposed to open May 26, over the CPP’s order for the New People’s Army to intensify attacks following Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Although the government said martial law was not targeted against the communists, the rebels pointed to pronouncements by defense and military officials that repeatedly identified them as among the problems Duterte’s declaration is supposed to address.

Duterte has also threatened to arrest Philippine-based rebel negotiators and consultants when they return to the country.

In a statement, Sison, who is also chief political consultant of the NDFP, also noted that the “Duterte regime has been carrying an all-out war policy against the CPP-NPA-NDFP since last year even when there were supposed to be unilateral but simultaneous and reciprocal ceasefire declarations.”

He said martial law, which covers the whole of Mindanao, including areas “where the NPA is present and even where the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups are absent,” has aggravated the “all-out war.”

Sison also pointed to what he called “public statements to insult and attack the revolutionary movement of the people” as proof the government “is no longer interested in peace negotiations.”

He said, “The language of abuse somehow reflects the barbarism of the regime and the AFP in raining bombs and artillery fire on communities, forcing people to evacuate and occupying communities.”

Sison also accused the government of seeking only the “surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces and people,” and not the “social, economic and political reforms” needed to solve the root causes of rebellion, while implementing a “policy of mass murder.”

Sison said the “revolutionary movement can never agree to a surrender and pacification scheme under the guise of a protracted and prolonged ceasefire that is one-sided and lays aside the demands of the people for social, economic and political reforms.”

He warned that “the revolutionary forces and the people in the Philippines can best make the response in words and deeds” to Dutere’s perceived scuttling of the peace talks.

Gunfire mars 4-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Marawi; 2 soldiers injured

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): Gunfire mars 4-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Marawi; 2 soldiers injured

Marines outside a mosque in Marawi City. (file photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters)

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Thousands of civilians hoping to flee fighting in the besieged city of Marawi remained trapped on Sunday after a four-hour cease-fire to evacuate residents was marred by gunfire.

Only 134 were freed on Sunday, less than on previous days, despite government hopes that more than 1,000 would be able to leave a city battered by 13 days of intense fighting.

Two soldiers involved in the humanitarian operation were injured by gunfire from the opposite side while they were trying to extract trapped civilians, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera confirmed.

This prompted the AFP to question the readiness of the Maute-led forces to talk peace, albeit temporarily, for humanitarian purposes like freeing civilians and retrieving bodies that had begun to decompose.

The AFP was not sold on the idea of a temporary cease-fire because it doubted the sincerity of the otehr side, and feared that the lull would allow the enemy to rest, regroup and find better vantage points to attack government troops.

Moreover, the cease-fire would cause the soldiers to lose their momentum in the relentless push to knock down the last vestiges of the Maute-led forces, believed holed up in reinforced buildings.

As of press time, Herrera said the enemy still controlled 10-15 percent of Marawi. Still, he added, the military had cordoned off the area where the last holdouts are believed to be hiding.
MILF helped govt in cease-fire
Cadres of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the predominantly Maranao main Muslim rebel group that in 2014 forged a peace accord with the government, organized Sunday’s cease-fire, which was to run from 8 am until noon. They roamed the streets with loud hailers urging residents to leave.

But by 9am, gunfire had broken out, apparently deterring residents from joining a mass exodus.

Marawi City’s mayor Majul Gandamra, told reporters on Sunday morning he was expecting “more or less 1,000 plus to be rescued today”. In the end, 134 were evacuated, less than previous days when there were no ceasefires. About 2,000 civilians remain in the city.

Irene Santiago, appointed by President Duterte to organize the “peace corridor”, said the effort had been a success, noting the fighting was several kilometers away from where the evacuation took place.

She said negotiations were continuing with the Maute Group for another temporary ceasefire on Monday.

‘Over in 3 days’

Earliler, President Rodrigo Duterte predicted the siege would be over within days despite fierce resistance by fighters aligned to Islamic State in the dense urban heart of the southern Philippines city.

“This will be over in about three more days,” Duterte said on Saturday after visiting a hospital in Cagayan de Oro where wounded soldiers were being treated. “I will not hesitate to use every power available.”

About 400 local militants reinforced by about 40 foreign fighters stormed Marawi on May 23, using sophisticated battlefield tactics to take control of large swaths of the lakeside city.

They have been pushed back to the city center by Philippines forces over the past week after some 4,000 ground troops were bolstered by helicopters and aircraft deploying rockets and bombs.

Many residents have told Reuters that the airstrikes caused extensive property damage and dozens of civilian deaths.

Authorities lifted the civilian death toll from 20 to 38 on Sunday – but said all those deaths were caused by militants.

A presidential spokesman said 120 militants had died, along with 38 government forces.

Duterte said the use of air power had been restrained so far. “I can end this war in 24 hours,” he said. “All I have to do is to bomb the whole place and level it to the ground.”

Duterte has asked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamic separatist movement based on the Philippines island of Mindanao, to help negotiate a peace settlement with the Islamist fighters, who are predominantly drawn from the Maute Group based in and around Marawi.

Marawi, dubbed the “Islamic City of Marawi”, is also located on Mindanao, which has a large Muslim population in a predominantly Catholic country and been destabilized by separatist insurgencies for decades.

Firearms hidden by rebel returnees found by army

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 5): Firearms hidden by rebel returnees found by army

TROOPS of 67th Infantry Battalion recovered high-powered rifles in Sitio Casunogan, Barangay Mahan-ub, Baganga, Davao Oriental around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Capt. Andrew Linao, civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 701st Infantry Brigade, told TIMES yesterday that the troops were verifying information volunteered by a rebel returnee about an armed cache in the area.
They recovered four AK47 rifles and one M653 assault rifle in the vicinity of Bagras, Casunogan.

Linao said the firearms were hidden by the rebel returnee prior to his surrender.

Meanwhile, five high-powered firearms believed to be by communist rebels were also recovered by troops of 73rd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Pangaleon, Malita, Davao Occidental.
The guns included an M16 rifle, Springfield Garand rifle, two M1 carbines and one M203 grenade launcher.

“The rebels are now on the run and have no choice but to hide their firearms to cover themselves as civilians, With the discovery of these high-powered firearms, the NPA’s capability would definitely be depleted,” Lt. Col. Marion Angcao, commander of 73rd Infantry Battalion, said.

They are also encouraging the other communist rebels to lay down their arms and avail of the comprehensive local integration program of the government.

New BBL draft ready for submission to PRRD 3rd week of June

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): New BBL draft ready for submission to PRRD 3rd week of June

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will submit the new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to President Rodrigo Duterte by the third week of this month.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) first vice chair and Chair of the 21-member BTC Ghazali Jaafar said they are into the finalization of the draft BBL.

The BBL, once it becomes a law, will chart the future of the Bangsamoro government in the Bangsamoro ancestral homeland.

”Halos patapos na ang pagsulat ng mga honorable commissioners Bangsamoro Transition Commission sa batas (The honorable commissioners are almost finish in writing the draft law). Maybe in few days time the BTC will finish its work,” Jaafar said during a press conference after the breaking of the fast on Saturday night.

Jaafar said the draft BBL enshrines the legitimate aspiration and interests of the Muslims, Christian settlers, Moro and non-Moro Indigenous Peoples of the Bangsamoro.

He said it has been the aspiration of the Moro people to establish a government that is “genuinely asymmetric in relationship with the central government, and consistent with their belief and historical experience.”

He said the BBL does not contravene to the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

According to Jaafar, the interests of the Bangsamoro people are well reflected in several articles that clearly establish its powers over political and fiscal matters, including the control over the exploration, development and utilization of resources.

Jaafar said the Preamble and Articles 1 up to VIII essentially vest the Bangsamoro government with powers that make it more autonomous than the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) while Article XII and XIII make the Bangsamoro government less dependent on the central government in revenue generation and control over the use and disposition of the natural resources.

He said the draft BBL also reflects the interests of the Christian settler communities for the protection of their rights and welfare. These are reflected in the general principles and polices and in the article of basic rights.

It also guarantees their participation in governance as well as the no-Moro IPs with the reserved seats in the Bangsamoro Parliament.

They are also guaranteed of their human rights and vested property rights.

As for women, youth, traditional leaders and other sectors, which are not identified, Jaafar said they will have the right for participation in governance even in the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) and the Bangsamoro government. Traditional leaders will be represented in the Council of Leaders, which will be created once the BTA is formed.

These are indicated in the articles of intergovernmental relations, Jaafar said.

Jaafar also emphasized on several other articles in the BBL the respect for fundamental and sacred rights of Muslims, Christians or IPs.

He said the BBL is truly democratic because it will undergo a process of ratification wherein all affected residents of the core territories and contiguous areas shall be asked to freely join the new political entity. This is indicated in Article XV, the Preamble and Article 1 while Section 2 or Article V speaks of the democratic political system.

Without the BBL, Jaafar emphasized that there can be no implementation of the negotiated political settlement to the issue of the Bangsamoro.

Jaafar said the BTC is committed to submit the proposed BBL as mandated by President Duterte, who assured them that the BTC is not affected by the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

The expanded BTC is created by an Executive Order tasked to draft the enabling law in establishing a Bangsamoro government in Mindanao. It is composed of eleven members from the MILF, including the chair of the BTC while 10 of its members are nominated by the government. Three of the government’s nominees are from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

President Duterte visits Japanese escort Flotilla in Subic

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): President Duterte visits Japanese escort Flotilla in Subic

President Rodrigo Duterte visited on Sunday, June 4, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Escort Flotilla One comprised of helicopter carrier JS Izumo and guided missile destroyer JS Sazanami berthed here for a four-day port visit to the Philippines.

In an interview with media, President Duterte said he was happy to board the JS Izumo, noting the state-of-the-art ship that can respond to both conflict and humanitarian missions.

Duterte added that he is the first head of state to board the JS Izumo, which was commissioned in 2015.

Japan has been a historical friend of the Philippines helping the country in different ways particularly through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Japan is also providing the Philippines with defense assets such as ships and trainer planes, he said.

"Our ties with Japan is historical and I know that we will be with them for all time. They can count on our gratitude for helping us and also our friendship to fight with them," he told reporters.

"We have so many problems in this world and I said we are friends, historical ones. We have a lot to say thank you to you. And I’d like Japan to know that we are a people of gratitude," he added.

Aside from visiting JS Izumo, the President also met Katsuyuki Kawai aboard the Japanese helicopter carrier. Kawai is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's special adviser.

The Japanese contingent is headed by Rear Admiral Yoshihiro Goka, the commander of the JMSDF Escort Flotilla One. The JS Izumo together with several patrol helicopters and 800 officers and crews are here for a goodwill visit to the Philippines prior to its participation to the Malabar Naval exercise in India.

The four-day visit includes a series of confidence building activities between the Philippine Navy and the JMSDF personnel.

The Escort Flotilla One's port visit is expected to enhance the strong relationship between the Philippine Navy and the JMSDF.

Remaining Maute terrorists now on the verge of defeat — AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): Remaining Maute terrorists now on the verge of defeat — AFP

The remaining Maute Group terrorists, holed up in Marawi City, are now on the end on their rope and are on the verge of being defeated by containing military units.

This was stressed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla who noted that the surviving lawless elements are now fragmented and seeking refuge in four areas in the city.

In those sanctuaries, the terrorists are hard pressed to find food, water and ammunition as their movements are closely monitored by military units.

Padilla said that these forces are deployed to ensure that the terrorists will not be able to make up any desperate moves like taking of hostages and other atrocities.

With this development, the AFP spokesperson is urging the surviving Maute Group members to surrender so that they can live and be reunited with their families.

As of this posting, terrorists dead are placed at 120, government security forces at 38 and 20 civilians executed in the more than two weeks of fighting which started last May 23.

Recovered enemy firearms are placed at 98 and rescued civilians at 1,271.

73IB recovers arms cache, high-powered firearms in Malita

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 3): 73IB recovers arms cache, high-powered firearms in Malita

Troops from 73rd Infantry Battalion unearthed on Thursday morning (June 1), an arm cache believed to belong to the New People’s Army of Guerilla Front 71, Far South Mindanao Regional Command.

With the help of a former NPA rebel who surrendered to the unit, the 73IB troops discovered the said cache in the hinterlands of Barangay Pangaleon in the municipality of Malita.

Seized firearms included one (1) M16 rifle, one (1) Springfield Garand rifle, two (2) Caliber 30 M1 Carbine and one (1) M203 Grenade Launcher.

“The rebels were on the run and have no choice but to hide their firearms to cover themselves as civilians,” said 73IB Commander Lt. Col. Marion Angcao.

“With the discovery of these high-powered firearms, the NPA’s capability would definitely be depleted. Not with standing, we are still encouraging them to lay down their arms and surrender themselves peacefully to the law and avail the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP),” Angcao stated. (73IB)

Joint GPH-MILF peace corridor

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): Joint GPH-MILF peace corridor

On Monday this week, President Duterte approved the creation of a Peace Corridor, a safe and secure corridor for women, men and children fleeing the crisis in Marawi as well as a reliable space for humanitarian assistance to pass through.

The Peace Corridor is being jointly implemented by the Implementing Panels of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It is a testament to how far the Bangsamoro peace process has come and the partnership that has been established between the government and the MILF.

On behalf of Secretary Jesus Dureza, I am pleased to announce that today the Peace Corridor has been set up by a composite team of the AFP, PNP and MILF who are, as we speak, travelling from Malabang to Marawi to set up the Joint Coordinating, Monitoring and Assistance Centre or JCMAC. There will be two Centres, one in Marawi and one in Malabang and a mobile centre plying the corridor. More than 300 trained members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams are being deployed throughout the length of the corridor and will be augmented as the need arises.

The government and MILF Peace Panels are supervising the peace corridor. On the part of the government, we have designated Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso, a retired colonel of the Philippine Army, who has been a pioneer in setting up this effective ceasefire mechanism, tried and tested for more than 12 years now. The JCMACs will be cooperating with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM which is tasked with delivering humanitarian assistance in these areas.

This ceasefire agreement remains in effect to this day and the ceasefire mechanisms are in place and working to prevent any armed conflict between the two parties.

Under this ceasefire agreement, prohibited hostile acts are “terroristic acts such as kidnapping, hijacking, piracy, sabotage, arson, bombings, grenade throwing, robberies, liquidations/assassinations, unjustified arrest, torture, unreasonable search and seizure, summary execution, as well as burning of houses, places of worship and educational institutions, destruction of properties, and abuse of civilians.” Also prohibited are “aggressive action such as attacks, raids, ambuscades, land mining, and offensive military actions.” Under prohibited provocative acts, on the other hand, include “providing sanctuary or assistance to criminal or lawless elements.”

The ceasefire agreement states that the MILF does not condone and, in fact, rejects all kinds of terrorist acts. It has also committed to not provide sanctuary or assistance to terrorists and other lawless elements. The fact that no major violations have been reported in the last three years is a testament to the effectiveness of the mechanism.

It is significant to point out that Malabang is considered the oldest settlement in mainland Mindanao. Malabang comes from the Maranao word “mala” meaning big and “bang” meaning call to prayer. It is where the Arab missionary, Sharif Kabunsuan, arrived in the 14th century to Islamize the people of mainland Mindanao. Malabang is also known in history as a place that resisted conquest from the Spanish to the Americans to the Japanese.

At the Monday meeting, President Duterte assured the MILF and the Bangsamoro people that he will honor all signed peace agreements and implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro starting with the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Today, I am pleased to report that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is holding plenary sessions in Davao to finalize the draft law which will be submitted to the President by mid-June.

The Peace Corridor is a manifestation of the shared vision of government and MILF of what our society should look like — one that is open, inclusive, compassionate, just, and cooperative. This is the complete opposite of the kind of society the terrorists want in Marawi — a closed, isolationist, violent, ruthless society ruled by fear with total disregard for human life and the integrity of our government and our diverse Philippine society.

The Peace Corridor is more than a safe passage way for people and goods. In working jointly to deal with this humanitarian crisis, the government and the MILF are also building a major corridor to peace. (OPAPP)

Army sets outreach program to locals of Brgy. Bit-os in Butuan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 5): Army sets outreach program to locals of Brgy. Bit-os in Butuan

BUTUAN CITY -- The 4th Civil-Military Operations (CMO) Battalion, 4th Infantry Division of Philippine Army is all set for the conduct of outreach program on June 6, 2017 in San San Roque Elementary School, Barangay Bit-os, this city.

According to 4CMO commanding officer LTC Manuel Valdez, said activity is in collaboration with the religious sector and other partner stakeholders in the city.

“The highlights of this outreach program include the distribution of school supplies, feeding program, free haircut, and free massage,” disclosed Valdez. Valdez added that the populace would also enjoy film showing.

Said activity is anchored on the theme “Kaugmaon Mo, Ampingan Ko”.

Feature: Fighting the plight against the spite of Maute terrorists

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): Feature: Fighting the plight against the spite of Maute terrorists

The untroubled and typical daily grind of life among the ordinary people who were working in Marawi City from different neighboring towns was put to test when violence broke out caused by the Islamic-State-linked Maute group on May 23, 2017.

For an 18-year old lad, Tito Abringab, who labored as a gasoline boy in Gadungan, Marawi City, it was a breakneck instance when a horrible scene exposed before his eyes at around 2:00 p.m. of that day.

“I had witnessed the hostile acts of the terrorists while I was doing my usual job. They flagged down the vehicles along the lanes and aggressively made harassments to the fearful civilians,” expressively recalled Abringab.

Adrenaline made his shake harder at the thought of getting his life into undeserved trouble. But with the mindfulness of Abringab’s employer, he and his co-workers were immediately brought to the former’s residence to take safe refuge.

As the worst situation progressed, the Philippine Army troupe was in swift response. In less than a day, Abringab heard them knocking the door where he hid and helped him withdraw from that dangerous spot. He was brought to the detachment of 103rd Brigade for safekeeping.

The rescue operation was even strengthened when President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Martial Law over Mindanao.

The same help was accorded to the family of Arman Suoong, his wife Lyn-Lyn and five months old daughter.

“In our eight years of habitation in this city, this is the first time when we are terror-struck at the apprehension of losing not only the humble and tangible properties we gained out from our hard work but of losing our lives,” he admitted.

Suoong sadly described their fate of keeping awake in a pitch-black experience while hearing the ear-piercing shriek of his hungry baby in the midst of power outage.

“We are very thankful to the government and Army forces for faithfully doing their job to assist us in this time of crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lina Cabanilla, a 28-year old mother of a 2-year old child, expressed her indebtedness to 2nd Lieutenant Junrey Villamor and his troupe for providing them food and granting them appropriate treatment during their stay in the detachment.

“I salute our soldiers for protecting us and upholding our human rights,” said Yuri Cabanilla, a rice mill worker and husband of Lina.

Public servants at work

In the midst of continuing state of conflict and tragic rebellion, the innocent civilians’ ordeal was quelled after temporary taking shelter at the Army detachment for eleven days.

On Saturday morning of June 3, the successful coordination of the Naawan and Initao local disaster risk reduction and management office (LDRRMO), its local government unit (LGU), Philippine Army and PNP personnel, the civilians were rescued after experiencing the terrible fright from the violence and inhumane acts of the Maute.

Given the clearance for safe passage, they were transported at around 10:30 a.m. traversing a safe route in going back to their respective town of origin.

They also claimed that they were given sacks of rice for consumption by their thoughtful rice mill employer as they have lost their jobs due to the prevailing situation in Marawi City.

According to Naawan Municipal Mayor Jaime Roa, they are working hand-hand to help save and secure the lives of their affected constituents.

“We cannot afford to abandon our brothers and sisters and deprive them from their right to be defended by the rightful authorities,” enunciated Roa.

At around 10:00 p.m. a convoy of two forward cargo trucks safely arrived in Iligan City, an area free from Maute infestation, and proceeded directly to Naawan and Initao, all of Misamis Oriental.

“We are relieved to see them arrived and we promptly look after their needs by providing them food for dinner from a long travel. We deeply appreciate the good-hearted employers who lend their vehicles to be used in transporting them. After the profiling of these 14 displaced individuals, we will endorse them to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development for debriefing,” said PSInsp Jay Francis Estigoy of Naawan, Municipal Police Station.

More or less 87 individuals were rescued and were sent back to their respective municipalities and more are still to be rescued.

“Coordination is still ongoing to our counterparts. It’s good to note that none of them has sustained injuries,” said Paul Cezzane Abrea, Naawan Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer.

For the displaced individuals, survival from the warfare can be made possible by risking without firing a bullet against the enemy.

The administration is incessantly directing its efforts toward relieving the plight and fright from the terrorist attacks in parts of the country.

78 Marawi residents rescued by gov't forces

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): 78 Marawi residents rescued by gov't forces

About 78 individuals from Marawi City were rescued on Saturday night, June 3, 2017 by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and fetched by the local government unit of Naawan thru the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC), together with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The evacuees arrived in Iligan City at around 10:00 p.m. and immediately proceeded to Naawan and Initao Municipal Police Stations while others went to their respective municipalities.

The PNP personnel have also conducted profiling of the evacuees.

It was learned that out of the 78 rescued evacuees, 14 were able to get back home in Naawan, and more than 20 individuals in the municipality of Initao, while others were from the different areas in Mindanao.

Naawan Mayor Jaime Roa of Naawan relayed that the rescued evacuees were provided with food packs and other assistance. Some of the evacuees were lactating mothers.

Paul Cezzane Abrea, MDRRM officer of Naawan also shared that the evacuees from Marawi City have sought refuge from a detachment of the 103rd Brigade, Philippine Army for days and wanted to move out from Marawi City.

They also claimed that they were given sacks of rice for consumption by their thoughtful rice mill employer as they have lost their jobs due to the prevailing situation in Marawi City.

Also, Lina Suoong, one of the rescued evacuees and a mother of a 2-year old girl expressed that the existence of the Maute group in Marawi City has forced them to leave their homes, along with their relatives.

She further elaborated that they have been hearing gunshots from outside the detachment, but decided to take the risk and move out from the area.

“Pila mi kaadlaw nag-stay sa sulod sa detachment sa Philippine Army para lang masegurado among safety. Pasalamat mi sa mga army nga nag-atiman namo maski paman sa delikadong kahimtang namo sa Marawi (We stayed for days in a detachment of the Philippine Army just to ensure our safety. We are thankful that the army in-charge accommodated us well despite the risk in Marawi),” prompted Suoong.

It was also learned from the statements of the evacuees that there are still several individuals and families left to be rescued in Marawi City until this time.

NCMF Caraga leads relief distribution to Marawi families

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): NCMF Caraga leads relief distribution to Marawi families

Heeding the call for assistance by the Muslim brothers and sisters in Marawi City, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Caraga led the distribution of relief goods to some 420 families affected by the armed conflict between the Maute local terrorist group and the Philippine Army.

NCMF Caraga regional director Atty. Nadzma Ameril-Naga, who led the team from Caraga, bared that this is their first time to conduct relief goods distribution to the affected families of Marawi City and other parts of Lanao del Norte.

“We were able to gather and prepare some 420 relief goods for our Muslim brothers and sisters consist of canned goods, detergent bars/soap, coffee, noodles, biscuits, and a kilo of rice, among others. We have coordinated with other government agencies and more donations are expected to come,” underscored Naga.

Atty. Naga also expressed that the commission is saddened with the crisis that the Muslim community and Christians are facing right now who are greatly affected by the shameless acts of the Maute group.

“We may be in Caraga region, but we feel the same way that our brothers and sisters in Muslim community are feeling. We Filipinos have established close family ties, that’s why we also expect that more of the evacuees would want to stay in their relatives’ houses outside Marawi City while others will stay in the evacuation centers that are provided by the government,” Naga underlined.

Duterte visits Jap helicopter carrier

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 4): Duterte visits Jap helicopter carrier

President Rodrigo R. Duterte visited Sunday afternoon the Japanese helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) at the Alava Pier.

The vessel is part of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Escort Flotilla One which is currently on a four-day goodwill visit in Subic Bay area. Also part of it is guided-missile destroyer JS Sazanami (DDG-113).

"The four-day visit seeks to enhance the already strong relationship between the Philippine Navy (PN) and JMSDF. It will also further sustain promotion of peace, stability, and maritime cooperation between the two countries through naval diplomacy and camaraderie," PN said in a statement.

"It will include series of confidence building engagements between PN and JMSDF personnel such as shipboard tour aboard Japanese vessels, reciprocal receptions, goodwill games, and fun run," PN added.

Rear Adm.Yoshihiro Goka heads Escort Flotilla One. It has 800 Officer and Enlisted crewmembers.

The June 4-8 goodwill visit in Subic Bay is prelude to Escort Flotilla One’s participation in the Malabar Naval Exercise in India.

Photos of Maute group members disseminated

From the Sun Star-Cebu (Jun 4): Photos of Maute group members disseminated

Family ties. While assuring everyone that no terrorist has been spotted in Cebu, the Cebu City Police Office released photos of several suspected terrorists, including (top row, from left) Cayamora Maute, Farhana Maute, Abdullah Maute, Omarkhayam Maute and (bottom row, from left) Mohammadkhayam Maute, Abdulrahman Maute, Abdul Azis Maute, and Hamza Maute. Anyone with information about them is advised to call 231-0018 or 0998-598-6269. (Contributed Fotos)

THE Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) released more than 90 official portraits of personalities who belong to the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group to the public after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered their arrest for rebellion in the ongoing siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

Chief Insp. Cristopher Navida, chief of the City Intelligence Branch, encouraged the public to report to the police possible sightings.

"They have not been sighted here but we appeal to the people of Cebu to help us in monitoring these personalities. Please report to the nearest police station if you see any of these persons so that we can conduct validation," Navida said.

Johanna Marie O. Bajenting

BREAKING NEWS: The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) released the official portraits of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group.

Chief Insp. Cristopher Navida, chief of the City Intelligence Branch, said that these persons have not been sighted yet in the city but the public is advised to report to the nearest police stations if they have credible information of the whereabouts of these personalities.

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Among the photos released were those of Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah and their mother Farhana.

The photos with hotline numbers of the CCPO were plastered in the city's 11 police stations and also disseminated on the police's different social media accounts.

"This is just a precaution. They have no presence in Cebu City as of this time because we don't want the attack in Marawi to happen here," Navida said.

The intelligence official said that they are coordinating with counterparts in western and northern Mindanao in monitoring movements of Maute group members to prevent any spillover from happening anywhere.

Hotels, pension houses and establishments were also given copies.

Security in Cebu was tightened after a lone gunman attacked Resorts World Manila in Pasay City on Friday. The CCPO convened with various security officers to discuss security measures.

It also said that coastal barangays will also be protected to prevent possible entry of terrorists.

 "We're not only focusing on the Maute group but also (on) other local terrorists like Abu Sayyaf," Navida said.

Regional intel: ISIS fighters in Mindanao triple PH's estimate

From Rappler (Jun 4): Regional intel: ISIS fighters in Mindanao triple PH's estimate

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu says intelligence pegs the number of ISIS fighters in the Philippines at 1,200, including 40 Indonesians, a stark contrast from the Philippines' 250-400 estimate

Intelligence reports from the region give a higher estimate of the number ISIS fighters currently in the Philippines, compared to the Philippine government's own numbers.

On Sunday, June 4, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu says the intelligence that reached him pegged the number of ISIS-linked fighters in the Philippines to more than a thousand.

"There are 1,200 ISIS in the Philippines, around 40 from Indonesia. This information I will inform to our counterparts in ASEAN," he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit.

The number surprised Undersecretary for Defense Policy Ricardo David of the Philippine Department of National Defense. David said there were 40 foreign fighters total that joined the Maute Group – not just Indonesians.

"We need to coordinate," he told Rappler. "That is new to me."

David said the Philippines' estimate of the total number of ISIS fighters in the country is "a lot less."

"My figure is 250 to 400," he said.

But to another Indonesian official, Lieutenant General Agus Widjojo, Governor of Indonesia's National Resilience Institute, the estimate of 40 Indonesians is "reasonable."

"Indonesia is close to Mindanao," he said, adding that the situation in the southern Philippines has been ongoing, which was "encouraging" for Indonesian terrorists. "It didn't happen over 1-2 days."

The Philippines has been front and center in the gathering of security experts and defense ministers here, because of the ongoing fighting in Marawi City, an attack claimed by ISIS. Officials agree the events in Marawi is evidence of ISIS' growing threat and presence in the region.

Clashes between the military and local terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, erupted in the capital of Lanao del Sur province on Tuesday, May 23. This, after the military moved to hunt down Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who had been spotted in the city.

The military said the raid served to foil a terror plan to seize Marawi City. Ongoing fighting has claimed the lives of military, rebels, and civilians, and prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.

Heading to the Philippines

ISIS in 2016, via a 20-minute video, called on its followers in Southeast Asia to fight for the terror group either in Syria or in the Philippines.

The video showed men in military fatigues carrying weapons and holding ISIS flags, also engaging in gun battles. The video likewise showed the beheading of 3 Caucasian males, believed to be of Iraqi or Syrian descent, according to reports.

A militant in the video said, "If you cannot go to [Syria], join up and go to the Philippines".

So far, two Indonesians have been identified among the dead militants in Marawi. Ryacudu said they have gotten the identity and passport information of their nationals inlcuding their local addresses, and will investigate their terror networks.

David said most foreign fighters come to the Philippines through the Sulu area, which is close to Malaysia and Indonesia, and where local terrorists are also based.

In response, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia has agreed to launch joint maritime and air patrols of the area, to curb the movement of foreign fighters across borders.

Duterte: I will acquire additional 12 jets, no more secondhand warships

From Update Philippines (Jun 3): Duterte: I will acquire additional 12 jets, no more secondhand warships

President Rodrigo Duterte told the military during his visit to 102nd Infantry Brigade in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay on Friday that he will acquire 12 more jet fighters and will stop accepting secondhand military equipment.

The said army brigade is operating under 1st Infantry Division of Philippine Army headquartered at Camp Major L. Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur.

“Kung buhayin pa ako ng Panginoon Diyos, you will have about 24 jet planes. Mag-acquire pa ako ng 12. Subukan ko,” Duterte said.

On Wednesday, May 31, the final 2 FA-50PH ‘Fighting Eagle’ Fighter/Surface Attack/Lead-in Fighter Trainer (F/SA/LIFT) aircraft were delivered by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) completing the ordered squadron of 12.

He added that he will no longer acquire secondhand warships.

“During my time, wala na akong secondhand mga barko. It has to be brand new,” he said.

“Hindi na ako tatanggap ng mga equipment ng military na secondhand – even I have to spend double the money,” he said.

NPA arms cache discovered in Davao Occidental

From Update Philippines (Jun 4): NPA arms cache discovered in Davao Occidental

The 73rd Infantry Battalion (73IB) has discovered an arms cache believed to owned by lawless NPA under Guerilla Front 71, Far South Mindanao Regional Command on June 1. Seized firearms include one (1) M16 rifle, one (1) Springfield Garand rifle, two (2) Caliber 30 M1 Carbine and one (1) M203 Grenade Launcher.

“With the help of a former NPA rebel surrendered to the unit, 73IB troops discover the said cache in the hinterlands of Brgy Pangaleon of Malita, [Davao Occidental],” 73IB said.

73IB is operating under 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army at Camp General Manuel T Yan Sr., Brgy Tuboran, Mawab, Compostela Valley Province.

“The rebels were now on the run and have no choice but to hide their firearms to cover themselves as civilians.With the discovery of these high-powered firearms, the NPA’s capability would definitely be depleted,” 73IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Marion Angcao said.

“Notwithstanding, we are still encouraging them to lay down their arms and surrender themselves peacefully to the law and avail the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP),” he added.

Anti-terrorism task force down to barangay level

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 3): Anti-terrorism task force down to barangay level

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division is bringing down to the barangay level the creation of the joint anti-terrorism task force, in its bid to further strengthen its monitoring of the possible entry of extremist terror groups in the Visayan region.

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division, said yesterday that the populace in the barangay will be the first to be affected, if there is any intrusion of people from other areas, who may want to stage terror activities.

Aying also confirmed the arrival of several Maranao families from Mindanao to Ibajay in Aklan and Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. But he said they are closely monitoring the evacuees, and some of them are staying with their relatives in the region.

The 3ID is now creating joint task forces in Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Cebu, similar to those now operational in Negros Oriental and Bohol.

It will cascaded down to the city, town, barangay, even to the purok, Aying told the Visayan DAILY STAR.

The joint task force is an inter-agency body, which is headed by the governor of the concerned province, in collaboration with all national government agencies, law enforcement agencies and units.

Last month, the 3ID activated the 1st and 2nd Negros Island Geographical Battalions, that is composed of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units and Armed Forces reservists, in the Negros Island Region.

The 3ID is also strengthening its Ready Reserve Battalion, that is composed of about 500 Army reservists, and Standby Reserve Battalion, for use in Civil Military Operations and disaster-related activities, among other advocacies.

The creation of anti-terrorism task groups in the NIR came in the wake of threats of terrorism, and the recent attempt of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group to expand their operations to the Visayas, after 11 of their members were killed by Army soldiers in Bohol last month.

The 3ID takes charge of the internal security operations in Negros Island Region, Central and Western Visayas, composed of 10 provinces.

As to the information about the alleged plan of terror attack in Midwest Cebu, Aying said they are still validating it.

The occupation of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group of Marawi City, that has already claimed the lives of more than 100 individuals, also caused alarm among the authorities and local officials over possible spillovers in the region.

We cannot discount such possibility. That is really the intent of the Maute terror group and the Abu Sayyaf, Aying admitted.