Wednesday, June 14, 2017

PEACETALK: Addressing Religious Violent Extremism from an ideological framework: Some thoughts for consideration

Posted to MindaNews (Jun 15): PEACETALK: Addressing Religious Violent Extremism from an ideological framework: Some thoughts for consideration (By Yusuf Morales)

Many social scientists have looked into violent extremism and many have always talked about socio-economic contexts and conditions as the push and pull factors in facilitating the rise of religious extremism.

What many social scientists forget is that there is an ideological condition in this challenge, the ideology that has been called by others as “jihadist” or Takfiri.” It is an ideology that espouses religious exclusivity and salvation, social hate and anger against non-Islamist society, non-adherents of their ideology and against non-Muslims. This then forms the theological basis for violence against adherents of other faiths or Muslims who do not agree with their perspectives.

This has permeated many Muslims throughout the globe, most especially when there are socio-economic injustices that are present. These are the justifications that these religious extremists use to radicalize young Muslims and recruit them towards violent extremism.

This ideology espouses closed minded thinking and does not respect religious, intellectual and cultural differences. Viewing the need to address this, government should include several key policies that may directly address this.

Considering that the government has been engaged in a multiple stakeholders approach, also known as whole of nation approach, it is important as well that Government considers the following actions:

First, Government as a policy can suggest to educational and cultural institutions the inclusion of the following foundational documents:

A Common Word (… ), an interfaith document signed by Muslim scholars highlighting the acceptance of the two commandments to be present in Islam and Christianity, “Loving God” and “Loving neighbor”. This is important so that Muslims would openly welcome the concept of respect for non-Muslims and respect for Christians.

Amman Message ( ). This is a document signed by different Muslims scholars recognizing the many schools of thought in Islam as well as recognizing that diversity of understanding in Islam, that it recognizes and respects all Muslims regardless of school of thought, respect and jurisprudence. This document clarifies that Muslims should not shed blood of fellow Muslims on the basis of differences of belief and are required to respect them.

Letter to Baghdadi ( This letter was signed by Muslim scholars explaining why DAESH/ISIS is misguided and that what are the theological and textual references to prove that DAESH is un-Islamic.

Marrakesh Declaration ( ). is a declaration of Muslim scholars on how non-Muslim minorities are to be treated. This document was signed as a response to the abuses done by DAESH against non-Muslim minorities and is a guide to Muslims on how to engage with non-Muslims when they are the majority.

Charter of Madina or also known as the Madina Constitution (… ), a theological document of the first government of Muslims in Madina which clearly defined community and Muslim to non-Muslim relationships from a communal to state level.

To exclude these documents in the ideological discourse means there is a serious attempt to avoid addressing the ideological roots of extremism.

Second, minimize sending of Muslim scholars to countries that support or predominately practice the religious ideology of Jihadi or Takfiri Islam and should engage with institutions coming from countries that support Moderate Islam such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt and Yemen. as these are the countries where originally Filipino traditionalist Islam which is moderate in nature comes from.

Thirdly, Government must support these Moderate Islamic scholars and groups who shall partner with government in crafting counter-narratives and assist in recovering communities that have been penetrated by Radical, Jihadi and Takfiri ideologies.

Together with these policies, Local government should organize local bodies with the function of engaging with Muslim communities along participatory governance, interfaith and intercultural dialogue. These can be made possible by creating Muslim Consultative Councils and Interfaith Councils. These are both possible through passage of local legislations creating such councils as allowed by the Local government code.

These councils shall then in addition to the regular Interfaith and participatory processes that Muslims shall be invited to join in include the five aforementioned theological documents to be discussed and implemented in these councils.

Lastly, we should formulate a concept of Active Citizenship and Nationalism, which will incorporate important elements of Nationalism, patriotism, citizenship and Nation-building. This concept should be incorporated with these policies.

Together these policies could in a way help Muslim Filipinos counter violent extremism in their communities.

If we wish to avoid an Aleppo scenario or a repeat of the Marawi siege, it is but very urgent these steps be undertaken.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on peace in Mindanao. Yusuf Roque Morales is currently Commissioner representing Muslim Minorities (Sama Tribe) at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and a member of the Board of Advisers of Al-Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities, Ateneo de Davao University, a Consultant for Muslim and IP concerns of the Social Development Council, Ateneo De Zamboanga University and adviser to the Indigenous Peoples Council of Leaders of Zamboanga city and of Salaam Ateneo de Manila University. He is currently a visiting lecture to several service academies and schools in the uniformed services of the Philippines.]

COMMENTARY: Responding to a Misreading of Islam: talking about Cosmopolitanism of Islam Yusuf Roque Morales

Posted to MindaNews (Jun 12): COMMENTARY: Responding to a Misreading of Islam: talking about Cosmopolitanism of Islam Yusuf Roque Morales (By Yusuf Morales)

I have come across something written by Patricio Abinales, a commentary on “Why Cosmopolitan Islam will Defeat Islamic Fundamentalism.”

I am much troubled by his seemingly distorted definition of cosmopolitan Islam and using a rural setting, using a rural based individual Bai Tan, much more insinuating that a Moro Lady would watch pornographic material in local Sulu.

Tausugs nor Sama’s much less even the Sama Dilaut would not use such a name. Panglima Sugala is not a place where the powerful Tan family may reside.

As we know Cosmopolitanism is the phenomenon of being at home with the world, a trait Muslims normally have because of their ability to appreciate differences.

Islam has always been cosmopolitan, because when it comes into a community, it enters the soul of a community and infuses Islam in it, indigenizing Islam, localizing it. This can be seen in the barzanjis of the people of Zambasulta the pedjikir (Zikir) of the people of Maguindanao, the concept of Ilmu Kamaasan of the Orang Suluk and Ilmu sa Matoa/Ilmu Minatoa (Sufism indigenized into local Islam). This character of Islam wherein it localizes Islam and allows it to “Islamize” local customs or Indigenize Islam to local context.

In my experience of Moro culture being a Moro myself, I have not seen any Moro lady disrespectable or otherwise to be dabbling in pornographic movies or in its sale, due to the nature of “Addat,” Tausugs, Sama, Yakan or even Badjao would not entertain the slightest thought of it. This can be traced to the sense of Martabbat that women should avoid such issues.

The cosmopolitanism of trade, the barter trade is but normal for archipelagic people, people of the current cross the seas to obtain culturally simmilar products that cater to their culture and faith and that traversing the Sug (current) to Sabah to buy food, clothes and wherewithal is but normal, as the people of Zambasulta, the current (sug) is bound by the sea of Nusa di Antara (Nusantara- southeast Asia), or the islands yonder.

Traditional Islam is deeply rooted in tradition, multiculturalism and acceptance of diversity of opinions and intellectual tradition. Traditionalist Islam manages to integrate into every community and indigenize Islam, appropriate local customs and Islamize them. Traditional Islam is more than simply being cosmopolitan, it is the antidote to addressing religious and violent extremism, not some imaginary cosmopolitan Islam.

[The author is currently, Commissioner representing Muslim Minorities (Sama Tribe) at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and a member of the Board of Advisers of Al-Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities, Ateneo de Davao University, a Consultant for Muslim and IP concerns of the Social Development Council, Ateneo De Zamboanga University and adviser to the Indigenous Peoples Council of Leaders of Zamboanga city and of Salaam Ateneo de Manila University. He is currently a visiting lecture to several service academies and schools in the uniformed services of the Philippines.]

Maute Group suspect nabbed in Cagayan de Oro

From MindaNews (Jun 15): Maute Group suspect nabbed in Cagayan de Oro

A suspected member of the Maute Group bearing the surname “Maute” was arrested Thursday morning by a composite team of government law enforcers in Sta. Cruz, Barangay Macasandig in Cagayan de Oro City.

Initial police and military reports said the youngest brother of Maute Group leaders Omar Romato Maute and Abdullah Romato Maute, was arrested on the basis of Arrest Order No. 1 issued by Defense Secretary and Martial Law Administrator Delfin Lorenzana on May 29.

The Arrest Order, however, lists two Mautes named Mohammad: Mohammadkhayam Romato Maute @Otto and Mohammad Noaim Maute , Abu Jadid.

Arrested was one Mohammad Noaim Maute @ Abu Jadid and @Almahid Pangompig Romato.

Mohammad Noaim Maute, suspected member of the Maute Group, was arrested Thursday, 15 June 2017 in Cagayan de Oro City.

The report said the suspect was “using a fake student ID of Mindanao State University” allegedly using the name Alfaiz P. Mamintal.

The arrest was undertaken by the members of the Martial Law Special Action Group (MLSAG) composed of elements from the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Police Regional Office Northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro City Police Office, Police Station 9 and Regional Intelligence Unit of the Philippine National Police.

7 NPA rebels yield in Sultan Kudarat province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 14): 7 NPA rebels yield in Sultan Kudarat province

Seven communist rebels surrendered to the police in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

Superintendent Raul Supiter, the provincial police chief, said the New People’s Army rebels also yielded weapons and improvised explosives. He said the insurgents, led by Kumander Dindo, were members of the Guerrilla Front 73 operating in the province.

The rebel leader said they all came from the town of Senator Ninoy Aquino and members of the tribal group Manobo who all decided to surrender and avail of the government amnesty program. He said they wanted to start a new life with their respective families.

There was no immediate statement from the rebel group on the surrender of their fighters. The NPA has been fighting for a separate rule in the country.

MNLF leader slain in Maguindanao province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 14): MNLF leader slain in Maguindanao province

A commander of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front was killed in an attack in the restive province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines, police said Wednesday.

Police said Saidi Akmad Taup was travelling in a private vehicle when a gunman attacked him near the Dalican village in Datu Odin Sinsuat town on Tuesday afternoon. The 65-year old Taup was killed on the spot, but policemen who rushed to the area did not catch up with the assailant, according to Chief Inspector Achmad Alibonga.

The motive of the killing is still unknown and police were investigating the murder. Taup’s family did not release any statement to the press on his killing. The MNLF, under Nur Misuari, signed a peace accord with Manila in September 1996.

PCG takes over security operations seaports nationwide

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 15): PCG takes over security operations seaports nationwide

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) formally took over the security supervision of ports and shipping, whether public or private, including the egress and ingress to all waterways from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Philippine Port Authority (PPA) by virtue of Department Order (D.O.) No. 2017-008 issued on June 5, 2017.

Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade has directed the PCG to supervise security operations in all seaports as part of the government implementation of state security over threats posed by the Maute Group, which has surrounded Marawi City and eventually leads to the Presidential declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Pursuant to the provisions of the International Ships and Ports Security (ISPS) Code, the coast guard is mandated to control movements of all vessels in seaports and harbours; to impose ports and ships identification system; to designate security zones; to inspect loads and to deter the transport of illegal imports; to regulate access to ports, vessels and waterfront facilities; and to enforce appropriate security measures in all ports of Mindanao.

This entitles the right for PCG to arrest, seize and detain persons, cargo, vessels found violating maritime security and pertinent laws, and to file corresponding charges, which took its effect immediately after its issuance until Martial Law in Mindanao is lifted.

The coast guard is strictly enforcing maritime security communications by supervising and regulating port police and private security guards, mostly the K9 group, divers and under-water operations in all maritime-related proceedings.

Meanwhile, 300 personnel from different units of PCG in Luzon left Tuesday night onboard Search and Rescue Vessel 003 BRP Pampanga to augment three-location Districts in Mindanao particularly in Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao.

BRP Pampanga was also carrying various relief goods and medicines from private donors. Further, another vessel might leave this week to transport additional set of relief goods and personnel.

Meanwhile, PCG spokesperson Commander Armando A. Balilo said that they are now open to receive relief goods like food packs, medicines, school supplies, hygiene kits, clothes and other necessities from private individuals for the rehabilitation of our concerned citizens affected by the siege in Mindanao.

BRP Davao Del Sur completes first mission in Benham Rise

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): BRP Davao Del Sur completes first mission in Benham Rise

Barely a month after her commissioning, the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), the country's second strategic sealift vessel (SSV), has successfully conducted her first major mission by transporting the military and civilian divers who successfully planted at a shallow portion of the Benham Rise (now known as the Philippine Rise) Monday morning.

This was confirmed by Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message to the PNA Tuesday.

"Yes, (the Benham/Philippine Rise) mission was her first," he said.

BRP Davao Del Sur left the PT PAL (Persero) shipyard in Surabaya, Indonesia in May 4 and arrived in the Philippines last May 8.

She was commissioned at Sasa Wharf, Davao City during the Navy's 119th founding anniversary with President Rodrigo Duterte as the guest-of-honor and speaker.

BRP Davao Del Sur is the sister-ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) which commissioned in May of last year.

The ship and her crew departed Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 8 with around 100 divers headed by Army Scout Ranger Major Christoper Constantino.

The military officer and his team strapped a fiber-glass laminated Philippine flag 57 meters below the surface.

Prior to this, a ship of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) lowered on Sunday a cement base where the flag and its pole were supposed to be hoisted.

Cut money supply of Maute, House leader says

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): Cut money supply of Maute, House leader says

A leader of the House of Representatives on Tuesday said tracking down and cutting off the money supply line of terrorist groups in Mindanao could bolster the government’s war against terror.

In a statement, House appropriations committee chair and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles called for a deeper investigation on the PHP79 million worth of cash and checks recovered by government forces in Marawi City.

Nograles stressed the need to trace the source of these funds, which he said could be connected to the “intricate financing network of ISIS-linked terrorist groups” in southern Philippines.

"The discovery of this financial stash is a grim indication that Maute and the other terrorist groups are not only well-armed and well-trained but are also well-financed," Nograles said.

"Our soldiers particularly the Philippine Marines delivered a major blow on Maute's ability to move around by seizing a considerable amount of the terror group's money," he added.

Nograles, primary author of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act (Republic Act 10168), said the law allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze the financial assets of those perceived to be involved in providing financial aid to suspected terrorists.

The House leader urged the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to immediately trace the money trail and determine if the source is linked to terrorist operations, particularly of the Maute group.

"The next step should be to trace the money trail and immediately freeze all financial assets that are tied up with the money seized in Marawi. We can debilitate these terrorists if we destroy their money pot," Nograles said.

Furthermore, the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines can also use the extraordinary powers of martial law to crush terror financing in Mindanao, the lawmaker noted.

"The government's job of neutralizing these terrorists will be made be easier if we can deny them financial support. Without money, they will be helpless, and that makes it easier for government to track them down and neutralize them," Nograles said.

DND, AFP chiefs set to appear for martial law oral arguments in SC

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): DND, AFP chiefs set to appear for martial law oral arguments in SC

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año are set to appear on the third day of oral arguments on the three consolidated petitions challenging the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.

This was the announcement of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday during the second day of the oral argument.

The appearance of Año and Lorenzana as resource person was the request of the Solicitor General Chief Jose Calida to provide facts why it declared and the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Sereno said she is open for an executive session with the justices together with Calida, Año and Lorenzana should there be a need due to sensitive info.

“In deference to the sensitive info that may be shared by Sec. Lorenzana and Gen. Año, we are open to having an executive session,” she said.

The three consolidated petitions were filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad.

The petitioners claimed that the declaration was baseless as there was no rebellion or invasion committed in the ongoing crisis because it was triggered by a military operation against alleged ISIS Philippines emir Isnilon Hapilon.

Associate Justice Noel Tijam, during the continuation of the oral argument, said there is nothing reprehensible with the power of martial law under the Constitution.

“There is nothing reprehensible with the power of martial law under the Constitution," he said.

Calida, for his part, hinged his arguments that the crisis in Marawi is not an isolated incident, it is part of a bigger plot to establish an Islamic State and this is not only a display of Maute's force but a siege of power.

"The rebels seized Marawi not just with the intention of striking fear. They wanted to establish a caliphate and dismember Malawi," he pointed out, presenting to the justices an ISIS flag recovered by the military from the rebels.

During interpellation, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked the Solicitor General why the declaration covered the entire Mindanao when there was no rebellion in other provinces.

Calida cited "linkages" between Maute and other rebel groups in Mindanao like Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter and Abu Sayyaf.

"The seeds of rebellion were already planted in different parts of Mindanao. Public safety requires the declaration of martial and suspension of privilege of habeas corpus not just in Marawi but in entire Mindanao," he explained.

Sereno, meanwhile, asked Calida why was there need to declare martial law when the President already has power to call out the military to stop the siege.

Calida explained that the President saw the calling out power as a milder response and wanted a stronger action to stop the rebellion. "The Constitution bestows full authority to declare ML on the President and no one else. The President is only expected to make decisions based on information given to him before decision is made," he argued.

Calida further argued that elements of rebellion -- raising arms against the government and culpable purpose of removing allegiance from the government -- were present in the crisis that required the President to use his power of declaring martial law under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution.

"When he (Duterte) saw gravity of rebellion, he has to act swiftly and decisively to save Marawi... Were it not for the President's swift action, the rebels would've established a stronghold in the heart of Mindanao," he pointed out.

Calida also downplayed alleged human rights abuses raised by the Integrated Bar of the Philippine Lanao del Sur chapter.

"President Duterte's order of martial law is markedly different from that issued by (then) President (Ferdinand) Marcos," he assured.

The OSG chief likewise raised technical issues on the three consolidated petitions seeking to strike down Proclamation No. 216.

He said the petitions have formal defects, citing their failure to specify the remedy being invoked for the SC to review the factual bases of the martial law proclamation.

The solicitor general argued that petitioners cannot just invoke the martial law provisions in the Constitution and should have instead filed petition for review under the Rules of Court.

"The discretion to proclaim martial law can only be questioned if President acted with grave abuse of discretion. The burden on petitioners is to show that declaration is bereft of merit and petitioners miserably fail to overcome this onus," he alleged.

The oral arguments will continue at 10 a.m. on Thursday with the continuation of interpellation by the justices to OSG.

Two other petitions were filed by separate groups led by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada both seeking issuance of a mandamus that would compel Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review the declaration. The SC has yet to act on these petitions.

Last Thursday, the SC consolidated the two mandamus petitions asking the high court to order the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in joint session and vote jointly on President Duterte’s Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, on May 23 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. This was a result of the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City, which is still ongoing and is subject to military operations.

Maute 'bomber' nabbed in CDO

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 15): Maute 'bomber' nabbed in CDO

An alleged bomber of the Maute Gorup was arrested in Cagayan De Oro on Thursday morning, the police said here.

The suspect was identified as Mohammad Noem Maute a.k.a. Abdul Jabid.

Supt. Lemuel Gonda, the regional police spokesman, said that the suspect was nabbed in Sta. Cruz, Macasandig, this city.

Gonda said that the suspect was nabbed by a team from the Martial Law Special Action Group composed of combined military and police intelligence operatives.

The suspect's cohort, identified as a certain Abdul Raman, remains at large.
Gonda said that the two suspects were reportedly bomb experts of the Maute terror group and were listed in the arrest order issued by the Department of National Defense.

The suspect is now undergoing tactical interrogation at the police regional command here.

NPA rebel killed in attack in Army patrol base in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): NPA rebel killed in attack in Army patrol base in Albay

A suspected New People’s Army rebel was killed in a failed attempt by some 40 communist guerrillas to overrun a patrol base of the 22nd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Abella in Ligao City, Albay on Monday, said a belated report that reached the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division in Pili, Camarines Sur on Tuesday.

Capt. Randy Llunar, chief of Public Affairs Unit of the 9th ID, said the NPA rebels pounced on the Abella base at past 1 a.m. on Monday that resulted in a firefight that lasted nearly an hour between the government troops and the rebels.

“After an intense trading of fire by the two sides the rebels fled to the hinterland portion of the village, bringing with them many of their wounded companions,” he said.

Lunar, however, said the killed rebel was left behind by his companions.

“The NPA rebel killed was identified as Michael B. Abonin, 27, a resident of Zone 5, Barangay Veneracion in Pamplona, Camarines Sur, who was said to have worked as a construction worker,” he said.

Lunar said the residents had told the government troopers about the wounded that were brought to safety by the rebels.

“The Army troopers recovered two firearms in the ensuing clearing operation, an M16 Armalite rifle and an M653 baby Armalite,” he said.

The troopers also recovered three improvised explosive devices or IED, one bandolier and three backpacks.

Lunar said the attack at the Abella base closely followed an attack at an Army detachment in Barangay Cuyaoyao in Pio Duran, Albay at 12:55 p.m. wherein the exchange of gunfire lasted for around five minutes.

Lunar said the Army troopers were able to defend their patrol base and detachment after being alerted by intelligence operatives about the planned successive attacks by the rebels.

He admitted the ranks of the rebels have increased but said that these were not enough for the launching of encounters against government troops.

“This is why the rebels had instead resorted to attacking the small detachments and patrol base,” he added.

Lunar said the communist rebels’ attacks were designed to coincide with the war in Marawi to show that they could still muster the strength against the government forces.

He said aside from these attacks, the rebels had also been putting on a test mission new recruits to liquidate suspected assets of the military and police.

Despite this, Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense, commanding officer of the 9th ID, assured the Bicolano people that the soldiers in the countryside are ready to protect them so they could have a peaceful and improved life.

Maute suspects moved to Manila

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): Maute suspects moved to Manila

The government has vowed to comply with the Supreme Court (SC) order for the prosecution of Maute terror suspects here, but their detention will be in Manila.

Col. Eric Vinoya, commander of the Army's 403rd Infantry Brigade based in this city, explained that the SC decision did not necessarily indicate that the Maute criminal suspects be detained in Cagayan de Oro City.

Eleven persons associated with the Maute terror group underwent inquest proceedings Monday, June 12, at the regional office of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) inside the sprawling Army-operated Camp Evangelista in Barangay Patag, this city.

After the inquest, they were immediately flown to the national police headquarters in Camp Crame while the government is still contemplating where to temporarily detain them.

Earlier, the SC ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct prosecution of all Maute-related criminal complaints in Cagayan de Oro City, 123 kilometers away from where the armed conflict is ongoing in Marawi City.

Citing security concerns, DOJ is appealing its position before the SC for reconsideration.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Maute terrorists are planning to retaliate in this city due to the arrest of former Marawi City Mayor Fahad Salic and other suspects associated with the Maute group, according to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

But Senior Supt. Lemuel Gonda, Philippine National Police (PNP) 10 spokesperson, said during a press conference Tuesday, June 13, that the intelligence community was still validating reports on how the group is supposed to carry out the attack.

“The intelligence community has been intercepting some phone calls. And they are indicative of planning a retaliation,” Gonda said.

It can be recalled that late last week, the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) released a photo advisory of two persons indicating them as would-be bombers who are possibly in the vicinity of Cagayan de Oro.

It came a day after Salic was arrested in the nearby municipality of Villanueva, Misamis Oriental. Salic’s name was implicated in the Maute siege of Marawi after his purported signature appeared on several checks seized from one of the group’s hideouts in the battered city.

Soldiers deployed to secure Tacloban fiesta activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): Soldiers deployed to secure Tacloban fiesta activities

The Philippine Army has stepped up support to the city police here to help secure fiesta-related activities in the capital.

Lt. Col. Danilo Dupiag, commander of the Army 78th Infantry Battalion based in Burauen, Leyte said that soldiers had been assisting the local police to guard the airport, seaport, terminal, major commercial centers, and other public places.

Dupiag told reporters on Wednesday that 14 soldiers grouped into two teams had been sent to the city this week to help prevent entry of terrorists. The city is home to 242,089 people but daytime population can go up to a million.

“We try not to have much physical presence in public place because our focus is more on prevention. We want people to enjoy and not be alarmed by the presence of many soldiers with long firearms in urban areas,” he added.

The soldiers will hold joint operations with the police, such as foot patrol, and police-military visibility.

The police and military in Eastern Visayas region have been on heightened alert since the Marawi siege erupted three weeks ago.

The army official said there’s still no intelligence report of terrorists’ presence in the region but “we will not let our guards down.”

One strategy is the conduct of random checkpoints to disrupt unwanted movements and search for contraband and weapons.

“It’s the police that do the searching, but there’s always soldier nearby to assist the police if necessary,” he added.

Dupiag has called on the public to remain vigilant and exercise caution in populated areas. He also reminded residents to report to authorities the presence of suspicious-looking people.

The city expects significant increase of visitors this month as the local government lined up several activities related to the fiesta celebration on June 30.

Last week, the city government kicked off the Sangyaw Festival. These day-to-day activities include concerts, cultural presentations, and pageants at the Balyuan Park.

Likewise, the provincial government launched the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival 2017 with nightly cultural presentations at the Remedios Trinidad Romualdez plaza.

Timely military action preempted capture of entire Marawi City — Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): Timely military action preempted capture of entire Marawi City — Palace

Timely action by the government and the military prevented what might have been a worse situation in Marawi City, Malacañang said Tuesday.

At a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella stressed that the prompt military action on initial information gathered on the ground has preempted the Maute group’s terror plot to capture the entire city of Marawi.

“There were details regarding the Marawi plot, yes. And that is exactly why they took advantage -- they started to take action,” he said.

“So you know, and we need to understand also that the perception that it was… Well, we need to also take note of the fact that the early action of the military and the government has actually preempted their plans to be able to capture the city. So we need to accredit that,” Abella said.

The Palace official likewise defended the government from criticisms that there was a failure of information on the side of the military, pointing out that the full details of the plot was only uncovered later through the video captured by security forces during the fighting.

“They knew that there were activities on the ground and, you know, I can only say that so far. They knew that there were activities that were being -- that there were abnormal activities,” he said.

“So let’s give them credit, let’s give credit to the military and understand that they were actually acting purposively and decisively and actually preempted -- I think the keyword is ‘preempted’ -- okay? So I think it’s not a question of being failure or what -- from their point of view… From our point of view, we were able to stop something that could have been much, much bigger,” Abella said.

In the meantime, Abella said that the government will not stop until the terrorist threat in the whole of Mindanao is fully addressed.

“Well, tuluy-tuloy po ang laban. We will not stop until it’s finished. And not only Marawi, but also the threats -- terrorist threats, should be completely addressed in the entire island of Mindanao,” he said.

He also clarified that the June 12 liberation of Marawi City was just a working deadline set by the military and not by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“It was a working deadline set by the military and the President is set -- his intentions are really to complete the work. But it must be complete and total work. In other words, it’s not just the Marawi situation that has to be addressed, it must be the terrorist threat in the entire Mindanao and in the Philippines,” Abella said.

Meanwhile, he also assured that the government will respond decisively on any new attacks that are reportedly being planned by ISIS during Ramadan.

“Well, (we will respond) with concern and with continued decisiveness,” Abella said.

202 extremists already killed in Marawi siege

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): 202 extremists already killed in Marawi siege

As government forces continue their offensive against the Maute Group in Marawi City, the military said at least 202 members of the local terrorist group have already been killed by government soldiers.

There are about 150 to 200 remaining members of the Maute group who are still engaged in a firefight with the government troops, said Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

At least 58 soldiers and policemen also lost their lives in the ongoing fighting that began when the extremists group attacked Marawi on May 23. The attack ensued after state agents attempted to serve a warrant of arrest to Isnilon Hapilon, a known Abu Sayyaf Group leader, on the same day.

Aside from the casualties inflicted on Maute members, the government also recovered 172 firearms from the terrorists, consisting mostly of assault rifles.

Maute members continued to suffer heavy losses as OV-10 bombers focused their airstrikes on areas occupied by the terrorists, particularly in the villages of Bangolo and Lilod Madaya, the military said.

The aerial assaults have also resulted to the rescue of more than a thousand civilians who were trapped inside the conflict zone.

It was believed that there are about 300 to 500 residents who are staying inside their homes and area waiting to be rescued, Col. Herrera said.

Scarcity of food and water has remained the primary problem for stranded civilians, according to those who have either managed to escape from the insurgent-held areas or were found by groups searching for survivors.

Meanwhile, 10 individuals, five of them police officers, were rescued by authorities in the war zone on Tuesday morning, June 13, reports said.

According to the survivors, the terrorists knocked on the door of the house where 18 trapped civilians have been holed up, prompting the civilians to run away through the back door that leads to the Agus River.

Witnesses said the extremists ran after them and fired shots resulting to the killing of the five civilians. Those who failed to escape were then taken hostage by the insurgents.

After they were retrieved by the searching team, the rescued survivors were immediately given food, medical attention and are now being debriefed.

The total rescued persons have now reached 1,628, while the recorded civilians killed by the Maute Group is 26, military and police reports said.

19 NPA guerrillas surrender to Army in Masbate, undergo debriefing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): 19 NPA guerrillas surrender to Army in Masbate, undergo debriefing

Some 19 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, including a 15-year-old girl, surrendered to the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) based in Milagros town in Masbate and yielded assorted firearms and combat uniforms on Tuesday afternoon.

The rebel returnees, who came from various towns in Masbate, had surrendered on separate occasions but were jointly presented to the media and ranking officials of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police (PNP) at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Sr. Insp. Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of PRO5 based in Camp Gen. Simeon Ola in this city, in an interview Wednesday morning, said the former guerrillas are currently undergoing “custodial tactical debriefing” at the headquarters of the 96th Military Intelligence Company or MICO in Masbate City.

She said the surrendered firearms consisted of five M16 Armalite rifles, one M653 baby Armalite, one M2 Carbine, two shotguns, one .45-caliber, three .38-caliber pistols and sets of combat uniforms.

“For the young surrenderers, I know you have combat training. I encourage you to continue schooling and join the Armed Forces of the Philippines since you could be the next target of your own comrades,” Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, told the rebel returnees during the media presentation.

He said it would be better for the former NPA rebels to join the Army “so you can defend yourselves.”

Trinidad, in an interview, also on Tuesday afternoon, added that the rebel returnees who surrendered their firearms would be rewarded with a cash amount.

He said high powered firearms have a cash reward of around PHP100,000.

“The rebels decided to submit themselves to the government as they had been worn out from walking all day on the mountainous terrain while hiding from government troops,” said Trinidad.

He said the rebel returnees, whose identities were withheld for security purposes, said they sometimes had nothing to eat as they kept roaming around the mountainous areas.

“They will be kept in a safehouse to protect them,” said Trinidad.

Trinidad said the surrender of the rebels would significantly weaken the armed rebel group, especially in the second district of Masbate province.

Trinidad encouraged other communist rebels to surrender to the government and embrace the “privilege of being an ordinary citizen.”

He said the NPA guerrillas who surrendered told the Army they had been “detached from their families” when they began joining the NPA but they want to be with their families now so they decided to return to the fold of the law.

Trinidad said the rebel returnees will receive “special treatment” from the government.

“They can avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP, such as cash and livelihood assistance,” he said.

Trinidad said the rebel returnees do not belong to only one group but were from different groups under the NPA.

Calubaquib added the former rebels once belonged to the Larangan Gerilya 1, Kilusan sa Platoon 4 or KSPN4.

"They decided to consolidate themselves, sought help from relatives and elected government officials so they could safely surrender,” added Trinidad.

Calubaquib said combined offices of the Army and PNP had facilitated the surrender of the NPA rebels.

She said those that helped in the surrender included the 96th MICO, Intelligence Platoon of the 2nd Infantry Battalion under the 9th Infantry Division, 5th Regional Police Public Safety Battalion and Masbate Police Provincial Office.

The presentation of the rebel returnees to media was attended by Sr. Supt. Froilan Elopre, director of Masbate Provincial Police Office, and some high-ranking PNP and Army officials.

AFP will not bomb mosques in Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): AFP will not bomb mosques in Marawi

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday assured that it has no plans to bomb mosques being used by ISIS-inspired terrorists as strongholds in Marawi City.

The assurance was made by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla during the Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang, clarifying earlier reports that the military may bomb these areas to flush out the remaining terrorists who continue to hold out particularly in areas of worship.

In a Tuesday press briefing, a military spokesperson in Marawi said that among the problems being encountered by security forces is the continued use of mosques by the terrorists as safe havens and as defensible areas where they can stash arms or launch armed activities.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi, said that the sacredness of the area is decreasing due to these activities and the military may deal with those forces inside through airstrikes.

I would like to clarify that the Armed Forces will not bomb the mosques in the area,” Padilla said.

He then read the official statement coming from AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año assuring the Muslim community of the military establishment’s respect to their places of worship.

“We categorically state that we have not bombed and will not bomb mosque in Marawi. The Armed Forces leadership is firm in its commitment to use other options that would flush out this Maute/Daesh-inspired group from these places of worship that they have converted into machine gun and sniper nest, defensive position, and arsenals for their war activities,” the AFP statement said.

“The AFP assures our Muslim brothers and Islamic faithful that it will not go down to the level of these terrorists who desecrate places of worship to lure government security forces into responding to their violent activities in a similar manner.”

“We are confident that through other options available to the Armed Forces, we will be able to retake the remaining portion of Marawi occupied by these terrorists, neutralize the remaining members who continue to hold out and begin the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city," the statement said.

In the meantime, Padilla said that after 22 days of fighting, only four out of 96 barangays remain as areas of resistance in Marawi.

However, he said that the process of liberating the rest of Marawi City might take some more time.

“In an urban terrain where civilians are still currently trapped and may possibly be used as human shields or may be hit by crossfire, troops have to be very careful. We have to be very careful, we have to very judicious, we have to be very deliberate so as to avoid hitting innocent lives,” Padilla said.

He said that the AFP will have to take care of the remaining areas of concern in a very painstaking manner in consideration of lives still trapped in the area.

“Opportunities of this nature are things that we are working on so that anyone else trapped in area can make it through safe refuge and save their lives. So if it needs be, if it takes a little more time then so be it, for as long those lives are safe,” Padilla said.

BOI SF-260 'friendly fire incident' report now with AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): BOI SF-260 'friendly fire incident' report now with AFP chief

The Board of Inquiry (BOI) findings, regarding the "friendly fire incident" where a SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 light attack plane that accidentally bombed government troops in Marawi City killing 10 and wounding seven last May 31, has already been forwarded to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año last June 9.

This was confirmed by AFP inspector general Major Gen. Rafael Valencia in an interview Wednesday.

"The report was already submitted to AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Año last Friday. I know he has already read it," he said in Filipino.

The SF-260 aircraft was on its fourth sortie against the lawless element, when its bombs accidentally hit Army troops in the area, killing 10 and wounding seven others.

However, Valencia declined to give details on their findings as some of the information there have some implications on the ongoing operations in Marawi City where government forces are now engaged in a battle with the remaining Maute Group terrorists.

"Actually, one of the recommendation is to hold the (release) of the findings (since) combat operations in Marawi City are still ongoing. We don't want to endanger the lives of our troops. That is one of my recommendations to the Chief-of-Staff," he added.

8 Maute-held buildings in Marawi City recovered by military - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): 8 Maute-held buildings in Marawi City recovered by military - AFP

Government forces have recovered eight buildings in Marawi City believed to be used by Maute Group terrorists as sniper and machinegun positions.

This was bared by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo in briefing Wednesday.

He declined to give the locations of the captured Maute Group buildings as doing so could give the lawless elements time to reposition or recapture these dwellings again.

"I can't give exact details on how many buildings remain to be captured but what I can give you with certainty is how many did we recover. As of yesterday or this morning, we have received reports that we have captured eight and among these is one of the highest which (contains) their sniper nests and machinegun positions and overlooks Marawi City," Arevalo stressed in Filipino.

He added that Maute Group resistance is now dwindling but emphasized that they are not taking this lightly.

"We cannot be imprudent, we have to be very careful with our actions as they are still holding some civilian hostages," the military officer disclosed.

As of this posting, government troopers killed in action are placed at 58 with 202 Maute Group terrorists dead and 26 civilians executed.

Objective of the AFP for now is to neutralize all remaining terrorists in Marawi City and at least degrade their capability to conduct atrocity in other areas; rescue civilians still trapped in the area or being held hostage; and set conditions for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi, Arevalo bared.

Ranking US Navy official condoles with families of fallen Philippine Marines in Marawi City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): Ranking US Navy official condoles with families of fallen Philippine Marines in Marawi City

US Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Scott Swift, has expressed his condolences to the families and loved ones of the 13 fallen Filipino Marines during his meeting with Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado Tuesday.

The American naval official also extended the Pacific Fleet's support to the anti-terrorist actions being conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Marawi City.

Around 13 Philippine Marines were killed last Friday during a heavy firefight with Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City. This rises the AFP death toll to 58 killed.

Mercado said this includes whatever assistance the Philippine government will ask and training opportunities for the PN like "shipriders" aboard US Navy vessels.

He said this is Swift's second time to visit PN headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, Manila with the first one in 2015.

When asked on whether he and the US Pacific commander discussed the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue during their Tuesday meeting, Mercado said, "WPS was not discussed but the Trilateral Maritime Patrol between Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia was discussed. They also support this initiative that will stop the maritime movement of terrorist personalities in the region."

Swift's Philippine visit took place last June 11 to 14. It was aimed at reaffirming the US Navy’s strong partnership and ties with the AFP.

“The PN is a valued and enduring ally of the US Navy and a close partner of the Pacific Fleet,” he added.

AFP calls on Filipinos to unite behind gov't in war vs ISIS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 14): AFP calls on Filipinos to unite behind gov't in war vs ISIS

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday called on all Filipinos to unite as a nation behind the government in the fight against ISIS to prevent the terror and violence in Marawi City from spreading throughout the country.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla made the call during the Mindanao Hour briefing in Malacañang while highlighting the need to end discussions on what might have been and concentrate more on the present and future threats that the country faces in view of the ISIS problem.

“Whatever happened before were all a matter after the fact already. It already happened. The most important matter to us now is the remaining armed group in Marawi and the threat it carries coming from the bigger group in the Middle East,” he said in response to questions if ever there were lapses committed by the government prior to the Marawi crisis.

“So these are the things that we must concentrate on. We must as a nation unite and condemn because after all, they were the ones who started it. And they have invaded and come into this country already to wreak havoc, to burn, to kill, and what have you. That is terrorism right in our very doorsteps and this is the problem and we call on everyone to unite behind government to work on that,” Padilla said.

In calling for unity against terrorism, Padilla stressed that while security preparations by government are presently ample enough to prevent the Marawi violence from spreading, he said “security is a shared responsibility and the community must do its share to foil security threats.”

“What is happening in some parts of Europe is worse than what is happening here. By in large what we have laid out as a security preparation is meant to preempt any of these activities from happening in our own land. And that is where shared responsibility on security comes in,” he said.

“If all of our citizens participate and are involved in watching their environs, their communities, keeping watch, reporting suspicious looking characters or items that are left unattended, our security forces and our police and all those tasked in government to look up for the welfare of all our citizens will be able to their jobs faster,” Padilla said.

He added that a united front to resist terrorism is now more crucial following calls by ISIS for its members to step up their worldwide attacks, particularly in the Philippines.

“We have seen what happened in Marawi and imagine if that is what they will do to the whole country. We must all work together, issue out a united and collective public condemnation of all these things that are happening in Marawi now, and join hands together in resisting the entry of this evil force because this is no longer a simple matter. It’s already a fight between good and evil, and you must all realize that by now,” Padilla said.

The call for unity was also highlighted by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella who called on politicians to set aside political differences for the good of the country.

“I’d just like to underline what Brigadier General (Padilla) has said that the Philippines needs to make a united stand and that it needs to understand that this is no longer intramurals within ourselves, but we need to be united against a common enemy,” he said in the same briefing.

“In the words of the General, it’s a fight between good and evil. Really, our sovereignty is being confronted, and I believe it’s time to set aside petty politics and the things that separate us. I believe, it’s a call to the Filipino nation to be able to stand together as one. It’s really high time we do that,” Abella said.

Operations in Marawi 'all Filipino' – Westmincom chief

From Rappler (Jun 12): Operations in Marawi 'all Filipino' – Westmincom chief

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez says, the Americans are limited to giving 'technical assistance,' and none of their soldiers are fighting on the ground

THE MARINES. This photo taken on June 9 shows marines from the 7th Marine Company operating against extremist Maute Group. Photo by Bobby lagsa/Rappler

THE MARINES. This photo taken on June 9 shows marines from the 7th Marine Company operating against extremist Maute Group. Photo by Bobby lagsa/Rappler

The United States Navy surveillance aircraft P3 Orion is a constant in almost all of the Philippine military's most dangerous operations.

The big white plane flew above Zamboanga in 2013 during the siege by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), undeniably captured by the long lenses of wire photographers back then.

The long lenses also captured aircraft's presence above Philippine ships in a dangerous mission to resupply troops in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), also in 2013, just a day before Manila filed its international arbitration case against China.

US SPY PLANE. The US Navy P3 Orion has cameras, infrared, and thermal imaging

US SPY PLANE. The US Navy P3 Orion has cameras, infrared, and thermal imaging

On Friday, June 9, the US P3 Orion flew so low above Marawi City ordinary cameras captured its presence. It wanted to be seen. A day later, the US embassy in Manila announced it is helping the Philippine military against local terrorists in Marawi City.
But as US presence in Marawi is hyped up, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez sought to emphasize that the operations in Marawi City is "all Filipino.” The Americans are limited to giving "technical assistance” and none of their soldiers are fighting on the ground, he said.

Sa ngayon ang ginagamit natin basically ay all Filipino ingenuinty.... Lahat ng ginagawa natin doon, kami lang talaga. Pilipino lahat 'yun," said Galvez in a press conference in Cagayan de Oro. (Right now, what we are using basically is all Filipino ingenuity.... All that we are doing there, it's just us. Filipinos are behidn it.)

The US Navy P3 Orion can take a lot of information from the combat zone. It has cameras, infrared, and thermal imaging. It provides information on location of terrorists, hostages, and trapped civilians. (WATCH: US P3 Orion on PH Navy's wishlist)

But Galvez said images taken by the P3 Orion only serve to "confirm" information already gathered by the Philippine military on the ground because the images are not immediately given to the Philippines.

"They have a cycle of information. It cannot be given immediately. Ina-analyze muna ng Pacom 'yun (Pacom analyzes it first),” said Galvez, referring to the US Pacific Command or Pacom, the US military unit responsible for the entire Pacific Ocean.

The more significant assistance from the US military comes in the form of training.

Galvez said the Americans are in Marawi to evaluate the performance of the 15th Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC), a unit at the Army 1st Infantry Battalion that the Americans trained.

Even Galvez himself was trained at Fort Benning in the US, so were Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año and ground commander Task Force Marawi chief Major General Rolando Bautista. Año was trained at Fort Huachuca in the US while Bautista took a VIP Protective Detail Course conducted by the US embassy in Manila.

It's "all Filipino," but the leaders have deep ties with the US. Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana served as a defense attaché at the Philippine embassy in Washington, DC.

This is the reality that President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged on Sunday in Cagayan de Oro. (READ: Duterte's pivot to China won't be easy for Americanized PH military)

"Pro-American talaga ang mga sundalo natin (Our soldiers are really pro-American), that I cannot deny," Duterte said.

SC orders Lorenzana, Año to attend oral arguments on martial law

From Rappler (Jun 14): SC orders Lorenzana, Año to attend oral arguments on martial law

Solicitor General Jose Calida asks that the briefing of the administrator and the implementer of martial law in Mindanao 'be done privately for reasons of security'

CALLED TO THE COURT. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a retired general who once commanded the Army Special Command and designated martial law administrator, is called to the Supreme Court. Rappler photo

CALLED TO THE COURT. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a retired general who once commanded the Army Special Command and designated martial law administrator, is called to the Supreme Court. Rappler photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 14, ordered Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Philippine military chief General Eduardo Año to appear before the High Court on the last day of oral arguments on petitions against martial law in Mindanao.

It is still unclear if Lorenzana and Año – the administrator and implementer of martial law in Mindanao, respectively – will be interpellated on the floor on Thursday, June 15, or will meet with justices and petitioners privately since Solicitor General Jose Calida has requested for a closed-door session in this regard.

"May I request that the briefing be done privately for reasons of security?" Calida asked the High Court.

Albay First District Representative Edcel Lagman, a petitioner, quickly opposed Calida.

"We cross the bridge when we get there because we have reservations because of our experience with executive sessions in the House of Representatives. There was an omnibus executive session, and no confidential matter affecting national security was disclosed," Lagman said.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno stepped in and asked Calida to formally manifest which issues are to be treated confidentially, and which can go on record.

"Petitioners actually need to know, but to what extent they need to know, that is a matter that you can convey to us," Sereno told Calida.

It was Lagman who requested the presence of Lorenzana supposedly for Wednesday afternoon but Calida said it would be "more doable" on Thursday.
Lagman said that if Lorenzana cannot go, he may send his next highest representative. The same goes for Año.

"We have requested high ranking officials to be present before, this is not very strange," Sereno said and proceeded to ask Calida to bring Lorenzana and other key figures for Thursday's session.
The defense chief has not responded to Rappler's request for comment as of posting.

Sereno also asked Calida to submit additional relevant documents to the court, including Lorenzana's first arrest order under martial law, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II's order authorizing a probe into opposition leaders for an alleged destabilization plot.

U.S. troops on ground in war-ravaged Philippine city – military

From Rappler (Jun 14): U.S. troops on ground in war-ravaged Philippine city – military

The small number of US soldiers are providing vital surveillance assistance and, although they do not have a combat role, are allowed to open fire on the militants if attacked first, spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla says

HELPING THE TROOPS. Marines from the 7th Marine Company operate against the Maute Group on Friday, June 9, 2017. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler.

HELPING THE TROOPS. Marines from the 7th Marine Company operate against the Maute Group on Friday, June 9, 2017. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler.

US troops are on the ground helping local soldiers battle terrorists in a Philippine city, a Filipino military spokesman said on Wednesday, June 14, giving the most detailed account of their role.

The small number of US soldiers are providing vital surveillance assistance and, although they do not have a combat role, are allowed to open fire on the militants if attacked first, spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.

"In a battle the most important item for the commander is to be able to determine what is happening," Padilla said as he confirmed that men in civilian clothes caught by a television camera flying drones from a pickup truck were US troops.

"It's called situational awareness and that is the sort of assistance being given."

The Philippine military has for over three weeks been engaged in fierce battles with hundreds of terrorists, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS), in the southern city of Marawi on Mindanao island.

The fighting has left 202 gunmen dead, while 58 soldiers and 26 civilians have also been killed, according to the government.

The militants have withstood a relentless bombing campaign that has made parts of Marawi, the most important Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, resemble war-devastated cities in Iraq and Syria.

The Philippines and the United States are longtime allies and are bound by a mutual defense treaty.

American troops have since 2002 rotated on short-term deployments in the southern Philippines to provide intelligence and counter-terrorism training to Filipino troops.

There used to be about 600 American troops in the south at any one time but the operations were scaled down in 2014.

The issue of US troops in the Philippines has become extremely sensitive since Rodrigo Duterte became president last year and sought to downgrade his nation's military alliance with the United States in favour of China.

Duterte has repeatedly called for American troops to leave the Philippines.

Last weekend Duterte said he was not aware that US soldiers were helping in Marawi, while making a frank admission that his military favored close ties with the United States.

"Our soldiers are pro-American, that I cannot deny," Duterte said.

Aside from the television footage of the American drone operators, cameramen in Marawi have regularly filmed a US spy plane over the city.

The US embassy announced at the weekend that special operations forces were providing assistance in Marawi, but gave no details.