Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rocky road for GRP-NDFP peace talks scored

From the often pro-CPP online publication The Davao Today (Jun27): Rocky road for GRP-NDFP peace talks scored

(L-R) NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison, Norwegian Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum and Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza during the fourth round of talks last April 6, 2017 at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk Aan Zee in the Netherlands. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/
With failed promises in the negotiating table, will peace talks prosper under the Duterte administration?

Apparently, the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are heading for the rocks, according to NDFP Chief Consultant and Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman, Jose Maria Sison.
Sison in a statement on Tuesday, pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte was not able to fulfill his promise to release all the 400 political prisoners by issuing a general amnesty or the prosecutors’ withdrawal of the false charges of common crimes against the political prisoners.

“The promise to release all political prisoners encouraged the NDFP to agree to an acceleration of the peace negotiations on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms in order to address the roots of the now 48 years of civil war between the GRP and NDFP,” he said.

On Nov. 30, last year, government panel chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the 50 to 70 political prisoners will be released in December 2016.

However, only four prisoners were granted pardon in December. Bello said prisoners, Martin Villanueva, Bonifacio Soon, Dindo Absalon and Rico Bodina have long been recommended for pardon, “but the previous government did not sign the draft order to release them.”

Read related story: Agcaoili: 39 released, 39 arrested political prisoners under Duterte admin

The NDFP chief consultant said that the government has steadily backed out of its promises to release all the political prisoners “even after the 2016 peace talks in Oslo and January 2017 in Rome as well as in Noordwijk, Netherlands in April 2017.”

Sison stressed that the prisoners include NDFP political consultants who are protected by the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a mechanism which grants immunity and protection for the negotiators to perform their functions.

Despite the JASIG mechanisms, Sison said the President, in some of his public appearances, threatened these consultants with re-arrest and shoot-to-kill orders while they were engaged in the peace negotiations abroad.

Listed, encrypted
The government last week said the updated list of JASIG holders was recently deposited in The Netherlands.

“The list, encrypted in USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash disks and a backup security drive (sd) and locked in a safety deposit box, contains photographs and real identities of rebel consultants who are still underground,” said GRP peace panel member Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, who is also the supervising the Committee on JASIG and releases.

In a statement on June 21, Librado-Trinidad explained that JASIG-covered rebel consultants were issued letters of authority (LAs) by GRP panel chair Silvestre Bello III, “which they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.”

The deposit is in line with the mandatory provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and supplemental guidelines, which the GRP and the NDF panels signed in 1995 and 1998, respectively, and affirmed by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as the August 26, 2016 Joint Statement as a necessary component of the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The depositing of the USB and the backup SD card in the safety deposit box were attended by Librado-Trinidad and peace panel member Hernani Braganza from the GRP, NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni.

This was witnessed by Archbishop Joris August Odilius Ludovicus Vercammen of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, the Third Party Depository, and Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Jaime Ledda.

No interest?

But apart from the non-release of political prisoners, Sison said the government peace panel “has blatantly shown diminishing interest in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and in the sequenced forging of comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.”

Even the Duterte administration’s economic policy, according to Sison, was adhering to neoliberal economic policy.

“Duterte has shown a lack of sustained interest in genuine land reform and national industrialization proposed by the NDFP. He has demagogically used the slogan of change only to stick to the status quo and further entrench the interests of the United States and other foreign monopolies and the oligarchy of big compradors and landlords,” Sison said.

The fifth round of talks scheduled last May this year in The Netherlands was cancelled after the government refused to participate, citing the continuing offensives of the New People’s Army.

The government is pushing for the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement to have an enabling environment for the negotiations.

Among the other conditions which Duterte mentioned in March before he would “embark on another journey of peace talks,” is the stopping of the NPA’s collection of revolutionary tax, and that government troops should not be prohibited from entering the territories claimed by guerrillas.

Not the end

But Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the cancellation of the fifth round of talks is not yet the end.

“Hindi naman end of the world ito eh. We have gone this far already, this is the fifth round… Never have we reached this particular stage in the past,” Dureza said in an interview with GMA News TV on Tuesday noon.

Dureza added that peace talks is not an easy work.

“Peace cannot be achieved at the flick of the finger, or at one meeting, it is a long process. This might be one of the setbacks, but we are… like what the President said previously, we’d like to pursue peace, not the peace of the dead, but the peace of the living,” he said.

Dureza said there is no “end of the game” yet for the peace negotiations, saying it is a process that takes “a lifetime.”

“The peace process continues, there is no magic formula to bring it automatically to happen. We have to deal with each others differences, we’ll find a common ground where we can meet and arrive at some consensus. It’s not an easy work, it’s a work of a lifetime, in fact,” he said.

Sison also said that the CPP, NPA, and NDFP are still willing to pursue the peace negotiations with the GRP “even under conditions of the severest fighting in the civil war in order to rouse and rally the people along the patriotic and progressive line.”

He said the revolutionary organizations “will explore further how to serve the interest of the people and forge the comprehensive agreements for a just and lasting peace against the oppressive and exploitative forces of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.”

Rodrigo Duterte loves bashing the US — but he also loves US troops fighting terrorists for him

From Vox (Jun 27): Rodrigo Duterte loves bashing the US — but he also loves US troops fighting terrorists for him

“He could tell [his supporters] he was the spawn of the devil and it wouldn’t matter.”

Rodrigo Duterte    Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has had no problems bashing the United States. The 72-year-old leader called former President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticizing his brutal crackdown on drug addicts. He described the previous US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, as “a gay son of a bitch.” And he’s also been explicit about ejecting US troops from his country.

“The special forces, they have to go,” Duterte said in September last year, just months after he assumed office. He made the same point again last October, telling reporters he wanted US troops out of the Philippines within the next two years.

These are bold demands, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Duterte has no intention of actually trying to enforce them. Instead, his government has asked US special operations forces to help end a siege by the Abu Sayyaf Group, ISIS’s allied group in the southern Filipino island of Mindanao, that has already claimed more than 300 lives in the city of Marawi.

For most leaders, being caught faltering on a promise would be politically damaging, or at the very least embarrassing. But not for Duterte, who has a reputation for braggadocio. Perhaps that’s why he gets along so well with President Donald Trump, who has invited Duterte to the White House and even praised him for a brutal crackdown on drug dealers that has killed more than 8,000 people.

Duterte himself has said that he can’t be trusted for what he says. “In every five statements I make, only two are true while three are just jokes,” he said at a Bureau of Customs celebration in Manila last year.

Central Mindanao seeks to replicate counter-terror combat drill

From the Philippine Star (Jun 28): Central Mindanao seeks to replicate counter-terror combat drill

Soldiers search a building during a mock counter-terrorism maneuver in Tacurong City on Monday, June 26, 2017. STAR/John Unson

Local officials in central Mindanao want the local counter-terrorism "bayanihan style" combat drill replicated in their cities and towns.

The mock security maneuver held Monday in a building at a busy area here was a joint initiative of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion, the inter-agency anti-crime Task Force Talakudong, the local police and the Tacurong City government.

Tacurong City is not too distant from towns with presence of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), blamed for more than 20 bombings that rocked the area since 2011.

The city is under Administrative Region 12, whose regional capital is Koronadal City, less than 40 kilometers away.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who has jurisdiction over 36 towns, said on Wednesday that he will recommend the conduct of similar counter-terrorism exercises in populated areas to educate the public on how to respond to attacks by terrorists. Maguindanao is a component-province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"I will support that activity to the best I can. We need that in the wake of the security challenges besetting our communities now," said Mangudadatu, chairman of the multi-sectoral Maguindanao peace and order council.

The drill in Tacurong City last Monday was just a domestic initiative of local officials and Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commanding officer of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion.

The unit is helping secure Tacurong City from lawless groups and outcast Islamic militants moderate and neutral Muslims detest for being irrational in their interpretation of teachings in the Qur'an.

The exercise involved combat vehicles, soldiers and policemen and emergency responders from the Tacurong City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

The combat maneuver, assisted by barangay tanods and personnel from the Tacurong City traffic management unit, focused on urban terrain police and military operations.

Cabunoc said he just thought of initiating the drill to hasten the capability of his unit and the local police in addressing emergencies, triggered by incursions by terrorists, without compromising the safety of non-combatants in the surroundings.

The vice mayor of Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, Hadji Akmad Ampatuan, said he will ask the Army unit guarding his town and their local police force to also initiate such a drill in their municipal capital.

"It is essential to ensuring public safety. We also want that done here in our town," Ampatuan said.

Local officials in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato said on Wednesday that they are just as interested in having such a counter-terrorism drill in their municipality.

It was barely a week ago when some 200 BIFF bandits attacked Barangays Malagakit and Simsiman in Pigcayawan and looted houses there as villages scampered away.

The incident displaced hundreds of families, some still languishing in makeshit evacuation sites. North Cotabato Vice Gov. Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva, chairperson of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said she also favors the conduct in her province of security and disaster response exercises like what was held in Tacurong City.

"These are the kind of emergency drills we need for our people to know what to do in hostile situations," the vice governor said.

Cabunoc said all interested local executives may just have to coordinate with the commanders of Army brigades and battalions nearest to them if they wish to have simulated security drills.

"That is something military and police units will gladly and willingly extend to them in the spirit of service and love for country," Cabunoc said.

‘NPA on a rampage in Negros'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 28): ‘NPA on a rampage in Negros'

The New People's Army in Negros is again on a rampage by killing civilians and openly admitting responsibility for it, Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, saidyesterday.

The two local commands of the NPA in northern and central Negros have claimed responsibility for the ambush-slay of a sugar planter and his driver on June 22 in Brgy. Minapasok, Calatrava, and the killing of a former Army soldier in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental.

Aying said the Roselyn Pelle communist terrorist and bandit group declared the killing on Lumayno and his driver a “victory from the perspective of a criminal, a bandit and a terrorist “.

“What do they get from it? More conflict? More hatred?More injustice? More bleeding, sorrows and sufferings to two more families, Money from those in cahoots with them or hired them?”Aying asked.

Rebel spokesman Ka Cecil Estrella, alleged in a statement that punitive action against Lumayno was in answer to residents' cry against alleged threats, killings and widespread land grabbing in Calatrava, Toboso and Salvador Benedicto towns in Negros Occidental.

“This is an unnecessary and unacceptable atrocity and violence under our moral and spiritual values as well as our democratic principles and systems”, Aying said.

“This recent and barbaric act is no different from the killings of hundreds of innocent civilians in the past ten years by the CPP/NPA in Negros Island, including the Pusomassacare in La Castellana on Jan. 28, 2013,” he added.

They are clearly murderers and cold-blooded killers, was how Aying described the rebel group.

Definitely, this is a rampage and a sign of desperation, he added.

“This is one of the compelling reasons why they are losing more and more support from the people. The trend of its decline and downfall is irreversible. Sooner or later justice, will be served against them. It's just a matter of time. No matter how long... it will happen,”Aying further said.

Raul Baterna, brother-in-law of Lumayno, dismissed the allegations of the NPA as mere propaganda. “My brother-in-law was not engaged in land grabbing, but he was a victim of land grabbing,” Baterna told BomboRadyo.

As to allegations that he had organized guns-for-hire, Baterna responded “If he has a gun-for-hiregroup, he should have been defended.” He also stressed that his brother-in-law travelled alone.

Baterna said the family of Lumayno is inclined to believe that the compelling reason for the ambush wasa land conflict.

He added that they will seek the help of the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the incident.

“If indeed somebody admitted the killing, they could have been paid a royalty fee,”Baterna said.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental police, yesterday said that they will also investigate if somebody hired the NPA to do it.

Col. Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, also shared the statement of Aying, by also calling the NPA members terrorists.

They are doing these things for their own interest, and the people of Negros are on the losing end, Losanes said

The people should stop providing support to this group so that law enforcers can arrest them, and justice can be served, he added.

MILF 'cautious' about proposal to negotiate with Mautes

From Rappler (Jun 28): MILF 'cautious' about proposal to negotiate with Mautes

(UPDATED) 'I think that is too much for us. The issue in Marawi, especially in relation to the Maute Group, is so sensitive,' says MILF peace implementing panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal

Maranao religious leaders want the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to take on a bigger role in ending the crisis in Marawi City, hoping that the dominant Muslim rebel group would speak with the terrorists themselves.

But it is a proposal that the rebel group talking peace with the government is being cautious about, MILF peace implementing panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal told Rappler.

"I think that is too much for us. The issue in Marawi, especially in relation to the Maute Group, is so sensitive. Any imbalance could mean something that is very hard to handle. We are very cautious," Iqbal said in an interview on Tuesday, June 27.

"As to whether the MILF is willing to undertake that kind of responsibility, I don’t know," Iqbal said.

He said the MILF Central Committee has not discussed the proposal, and there has been no formal offer or request sent to them.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Abdullah Maute, who acts as the commander of the terrorists in Marawi City, spoke with religious leaders on Sunday, June 25, and told them "his group is willing to withdraw from the city if the MILF would intervene for an end to the crisis."

The Maute Group also reportedly agreed to swap one of their hostages, Catholic priest Teresito Soganub, for their parents Cayamora and Farhana, who were arrested in early June at the height of the clashes.

The military has dismissed this proposal. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla cited the government's policy not to negotiate with terrorists.

"The local religious leader-led talks with the terrorists last Sunday is one that was not sanctioned by government, the military, and our political leaders," the government said in a statement sent out by Malacañang and the military.

The religious leaders, or ulama, entered ground zero on Sunday, taking advantage of the ceasefire imposed that day to let the battle-fatigued city celebrate Eid'l Fitr.

The MILF has been working with the government in rescuing trapped civilians in Marawi City. The "peace corridor" that was put in place during the 2nd week of the clashes has facilitated the rescue of over 300 residents, according to latest statistics from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Iqbal said all of the MILF's actions will always have to be coordinated with the Philippine government.

"Everything we do, especially important matters, have to be covered by terms of reference. There has to be prior understanding or agreement with the government of the Philippines, and if possible, with the President of this country," said Iqbal.

17 decomposing bodies of civilians retrieved in Marawi

From Rappler (Jun 28): 17 decomposing bodies of civilians retrieved in Marawi

The military believes these are Christians executed by the terrorists during the clashes. The fighting is now on its 37th day.

The remains of at least 17 civilians in various stages of decomposition were retrieved in Marawi City on Wednesday, June 28.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Crisis Management Committee, said these were all victims of the Maute Group.

"They are already in advanced stage of decomposition," Adiong said.

Brigadier General Rolando Joselito Bautista, ‪ Joint Task Force Marawi Commander, said the cadavers were recovered ‬during retrieval operations of government troops with the Philippine National Police, ‪Bureau of Fire Protection, and civilian volunteers in Barangay Gadungan, Marawi, before noontime on Wednesday.

Bautista said in a statement that the casualties "are believed to be among those civilians" killed by the local terrorists.

He added that authorities are identifying the bodies "for proper disposition and that their relatives can claim them and provide them a decent burial.‬"

The bodies were brought to Iligan City.

Local officials previously estimated about a hundred bodies of civilians sprawled on streets inside the combat zone. They couldn't be retrieved because of the risk of sniper fire from the terrorists who still occupied several villages in Marawi City. (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military)

In a news briefing in Malacañang, military spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that the terrorists were known to have executed Christians during the "earlier days" of the clashes. The fighting is now on its 37th day.

"In the earlier days of the fighting, there was sufficient proof to believe that there were executions conducted from inside Marawi regarding a number of Christians that were caught," Padilla said, when asked to confirm reports that the Maute Group had beheaded some civilians in Marawi.

He clarified that the report they received so far was that the Christians were executed by being shot in the back.

There have been reports of executions – some say beheading – as early as Day 1 of the crisis on May 23, circulated by fleeing residents who said they saw the bodies on the streets. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

The terrorists want to establish an Islamic caliphate in Marawi City, which has a predominantly Muslim population.

The atrocities prompted Muslims families to protect their Christian workers and neighbors. (WATCH: Saving the Christians in Marawi)

WATCH | Decomposing remains of suspected Maute fighters retrieved from Marawi war zone

From InterAksyon (Jun 27): WATCH | Decomposing remains of suspected Maute fighters retrieved from Marawi war zone

cadaver Marawi

Decomposing remains of a suspected Maute fighter retrieved from the war zone in Marawi.

Security authorities in the Islamic City of Marawi reported recovering decomposing remains of suspected followers of the terrorist Maute Group during search and clearing operation as government forces continued pressing against remnant forces who have been holding out.

Meanwhile, more civilians continue to make their way out of the war zone, away from the clutches of terrorist who are believed to have been holding them as human shields.

One of these cadavers was already little more than bones and carcass when it was came upon by a combined team of soldiers, elements of the police scene of the crime operatives and Bureau of Fire Protection, still with a bandolier and magazines for ammunition at his side.

Another one was garbed in the customary dark-color wear of terrorists and bandits, already in an advanced state of decomposition and being gnawed at by stray animals.

The site was near the house of the mayor. The military believed it was here that the terrorists retreated and got cornered for good.

Lt Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, Spokesman of Joint Task Force Marawi, said it is important to adhere to established procedures and protocols for retrieving and identifying cadavers in an armed conflict scenario.

Even as the situation is not yet proceeding toward the resolution stage, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Philippine Red Cross national society has convened briefings with the local government on how these procedures should properly be carried out. This includes the close coordination with civilian and community leaders in view of the sensitive religious dimension, considering Marawi is a predominantly Islamic city.

The military remained on alert to guard against possible acts of sympathizing with the terrorists by conveying persons and supplies across Lake Lanao by boat.

Click and watch this video report below:

Marawi death toll could be higher: PH military

From InterAksyon (Jun 28): Marawi death toll could be higher: PH military

Philippine Army soldiers ride in trucks into the fighting zone as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi City, Philippines June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The Philippine military said on Wednesday it was likely that large numbers of civilians had been killed during the five-week occupation of a southern town by Islamist rebels, due to “atrocities” by the militants allied with Islamic State.

A toll of 27 Marawi residents killed was only what the authorities could independently confirm and a “significant number” of dead had been seen by those who had escaped fighting between insurgents and government forces, said military spokesman Restituto Padilla.

“The number you have right now is 27, (it) may increase significantly once we are able to validate all this information,” he told a news conference.

“There have been a significant number that have been seen but again, we cannot include many of these.”

He said the cause of those deaths would be “atrocities committed by the terrorists”.
Among those atrocities, the army says, have been the forcing of residents to loot homes, take up arms, or become sex slaves.

The military has been reluctant to discuss the possibility that the real impact of the fighting on civilians could be far more severe than has been reported.

It has played down the impact of daily air strikes and mortar assaults aimed at rebel sniper positions, which have reduced areas of the lakeside town to rubble and alarmed people stuck there, some of whom have said the shelling was a bigger threat than the militants.

Disaster officials are keen to start dangerous missions to recover what they believe are large numbers of bodies in the streets near the conflict zone.

Long hold

The battle for Marawi entered its 36th day on Wednesday, with intense gunfights and bombing in the heart of the town and black-clad fighters seen from afar running between buildings as explosions rang out.

Marawi is the only city in the Christian-majority Philippines that the government has decreed to be “Islamic”, because of its large population of Muslims.

The rebels’ hold on it, while incurring the full force of a military for years trained by its United States counterparts, has much of the region on edge, concerned that Islamic State’s influence may run deeper than thought.

Those fears are being felt also in Malaysia and Indonesia, whose nationals are among the Maute group rebels fighting in Marawi, suggesting the group may have built a cross-border network that has gone largely undetected.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said that from the outset, he was prepared for a long fight with a well-armed Maute motivated only by murder and destruction.

“It seems to be limitless supply. They were able to stockpile their arms,” he said.

“Some of those who traveled to the Middle East got contaminated, brought the ideology back home and promised to declare war against humanity.”

Military spokesman Padilla said authorities recognized that people in evacuation centers were getting weary, but troops needed more time to flush out the gunmen and secure the city.

‘”Our combat environment is sensitive. First, there are trapped civilians that we have to protect. They also have hostages and third, there are many traps so we have to clear buildings slowly,” he said.

Some 71 security forces and 299 militants have since been killed and 246,000 people displaced in the conflict, which erupted after a failed May 23 attempt to arrest a Filipino militant commander backed by Islamic State’s leadership.

Army in Negros probes leak of ‘confidential’ document on alleged terror plot for Duterte anniversary

From InterAksyon (Jun 28): Army in Negros probes leak of ‘confidential’ document on alleged terror plot for Duterte anniversary

A policeman mans a checkpoint in Metro Manila. (Reuters file)

The Army in Negros is investigating the leak of an intelligence document on supposed terrorist plans for June 30, which marks one year since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.

The Negros incident is latest leak of supposedly confidential documents on a purported plan by operatives of the Islamic State, Maute group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to carry out terror attacks this Friday following incidents involving police units in Metro Manila.

Like the leaked PNP memos, the one from the 303rd Infantry Brigade also warns of “major attacks in key cities nationwide targeting churches, shopping malls and other populated areas,” supposedly using hijacked fuel.

Although Captain Von Ryan Gomez, brigade operations officer, could not take a call, he confirmed the authenticity of the “report,” which asked the provincial police directors of Negros Occidental and Oriental to order city and municipal stations to conduct random checkpoints, “precautionary actions … to preempt such violent incident(s).”

The Army will also be deploying troops to help guard vital installations, such as oil depots, in both provinces.

Gomez also said “we are investigating also how this (document) came out since it is … classified info.”

AFP can’t guarantee Marawi crisis over by Duterte’s 2nd SONA

From InterAksyon (Jun 28): AFP can’t guarantee Marawi crisis over by Duterte’s 2nd SONA

Police and military personnel use a mallet to open a door during a house to house search in Marawi City. (Reuters)

The military could not commit to retaking Marawi City from extremist gunmen who have been battling government forces by the time President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his second state of the nation address later this month.

Sinisikap nating tapusin ito sa lalong madaling panahon dahil hindi magandang magtagal ang ganitong uri ng labanan (We are trying to finish this as soon as we can because it is not good to prolong this kind of fighting),” Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told a briefing in Malacañang Wednesday.

At the same time, even as he appealed to people for patience, Padilla also dared them, “Mas maganda kung mag-volunteer kayo na magsundalo (It would be better if you volunteered to become soldiers).”

At the start of the hostilities on May 23 , most security officials and even President Rodrigo Duterte, who nevertheless declared Mindanao under martial law soon after fighting broke out, predicted the crisis would be over within days.

However, deadline after deadline passed with the fighting only becoming more fierce and the military increasingly resorting to air strikes as the death toll mounted that, by Independence Day, June 12, officials stopped predicting when the crisis would end.

Interestingly enough, Duterte, speaking at a dinner in Malacañang he hosted Tuesday evening to mark Eid’l Fitr, claimed he knew the details of the Maute group’s plans and that it would be a long fight as early as his signing of the martial law declaration in Moscow, where he had to cut short his official visit and rush back.

Explaining the difficulty of battling the extremists in Marawi, Padilla noted that there were still civilians, either trapped or held hostage, and clearing the tall buildings in the city center where the gunmen appear to be concentrated, was a slow and dangerous process because of booby traps and other devices reportedly laid for government troops.

Boy killed by rebels peppered with bullets

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 27): Boy killed by rebels peppered with bullets

THE 10-YEAR-OLD Lumad boy allegedly killed by the New People’s Army (NPA) reportedly sustained 10 gunshot wounds, the army said.
The NPA attack in Caraga, Davao Oriental also wounded five others who stayed at the house at that time.

Capt. Ronnel Legarde, the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 67th Infantry Battalion, citing medical autopsy, said the boy, identified as Justin Padao, was hit in his head, arms, thigh and feet.

Legarde said the boy and his companions were sleeping when the rebels attack the house in the Mandaya community of Barangay Pacifico Moralison Sobrecarey, Caraga, Davao Oriental around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
Padao, a member of Mandaya tribe, was a student of PM Sobrecarey Elementary School in Caraga.

Also injured during the attack were Pedrito Acaso, Renato Acaso, Charito Silongan, Julito Basta and Emmanuel Matilac.

They were slightly hit on the different parts of their body but they were able to escape during the attack.

Legarde said the wounded Lumads were already treated in the nearby medical house in the area.

Upon conducting further investigation, soldiers also recovered 15 serviceable and one empty shell of 7.62mm; unexploded ammunitions of M203 and one serviceable shell of 5.56 mm ball.

Around 12 fully armed men led by Ka Xander, the political instructor Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 8 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) opened fire and burned down the house of Matilac.
The rebels also burned down two motorcycles.
The NPAs were reportedly after the boy’s father, Leo Padao, and his companions whom they suspected to be military informants.

Legarde said they condemned the act of the communist rebels in attacking and damaging properties of the civilians.

He said the act is a “clear violation” of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and they criminal case will be filed against them for the attack.

Another encounter

Combined elements of the 72nd Infantry Battalion (IB) and the 60th IB encountered communist rebels in Katipunan, Barangay Andap, Laak, Compostela Valley on Saturday around 7:30 a.m.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, said the soldiers encountered 30 rebels, believed to be members of Guerilla Front 34 of SMRC.
The firefight lasted for few minutes. No casualty was reported on the government side.

Upon scouring the encounter site, Batchar said troopers discovered several blood stains along the enemy route of withdrawal.

They were able to recover three backpacks, one improvised explosive device and one hand-held radio.

The troopers are still conducting pursuit against the fleeing rebels.

‘NPA rebel’ apprehended

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 28): ‘NPA rebel’ apprehended

AN ALLEGED member of New People’s Army (NPA) was captured by the 8th Infantry Battalion in San Fernando, Bukidnon last week.
1Lt. Erwin Bugarin, the civil-military operations officer (CMO) of 8th IB, told TIMES yesterday that the troops sighted a group of civilians while conducting security patrol. The group was acting suspiciously and they appeared to be laying something in the area.

They then ordered the civilians to stopped and started frisking them. They later identified one of the men as a known rebel. They found in his possession ammunition, blasting caps, detonating cord and an improvised power supply in the suspect’s possession.
The captured rebel was already turned over to the San Fernando Municipal Police Station for proper disposition and filling of criminal case. It’s not clear what happened to the rest of the group.

“We will perform our task at hand to accomplish our mission in accordance to the rule of law, human rights and International Humanitarian Law, thus, promoting peace that is just and lasting,” he added.

Army nabs 2 BIFF men in Cotabato attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Army nabs 2 BIFF men in Cotabato attack

The military here today announced the arrest of two armed men tagged in the attack in Malagakit, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato last week.

Capt. John Arvin Encinas, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the two members of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were arrested in Barangay Butelen, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Encinas said residents alerted the military station in the village about armed men on board a motorized banca along Butelen river.

When accosted, the two admitted they belong to the BIFF but denied they were involved in Pigcawayan attack.

Arrested were Jahren Mantukay, 23 and Bardurim Limba, 28, both residents of Barangay Pagatin, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

Taken from the two were two rifles and explosives as well as illegal drugs.

Encinas said the two were turned over to Maguindanao police provincial office for proper disposition.

Citing intelligence information showed that the two were among the 30 armed BIFF who attacked and terrorized the village of Malagakit in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato last June 22.

In that attack, six BIFF, a militiaman and a farmer, were killed. At least 31 civilians were taken hostage and used as human shields by the BIFF in the eight hour atrocities.

At least 200 individuals were displaced by the BIFF atrocities. The attacker also looted houses and desecrated the village chapel.

Army's 7ID ready to deploy more forces to Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Army's 7ID ready to deploy more forces to Marawi

The Philippine Army"s 7th Infantry Division (7ID) remains on standby mode for possible sending of troops in Marawi City, a ranking official said.

Major Gen. Angelito de Leon, commander of the 7ID, said they have already sent 100 soldiers from their 72nd division reconnaissance as soon as the war between government security forces and ISIS Maute Group broke out last month.

"Augmenting troops to operations like in Marawi is a function of an infantry division," de Leon said.

But, he said it will all defend on orders from the higher headquarters.

"The order for us is to be ready and alert," he said.

Last Friday, de Leon signed an agreement with Police Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino, regional director of the Police Regional Office-3, for an stepped up coordination, particularly on exchange of intelligence information and capabilities in government's fight against illegal drugs and other crimes.

Maute Group death toll in Marawi fighting now at 299 - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 28): Maute Group death toll in Marawi fighting now at 299 - AFP

Ongoing military operations against the Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City has so far neutralized 299 of the lawless elements as fighting has reached its sixth week, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Wednesday.

Of the said figures, more than half are "body count" or actual remains recovered in the battlefield.

Padilla said two of the recovered bodies are "Middle Eastern" looking and seems like the foreign fighters reportedly supporting the Maute Group. "They (two recovered bodies) resemble Middle Easterners."

The AFP official, however, said they still do not have firm figures on the number of foreign terrorists helping the Maute Group.

"My previous statement still holds through , we don't have any other documents to prove (or) use as basis for the existence of all these foreigners except information that have been coming in from various sources," he added.

Conflict in Marawi City started when government security forces attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS "Emir" in Southeast Asia, last May 23.

As of this posting, the number of government troops killed in action is placed at 70 while 27 civilians were executed.

The number of firearms recovered from the lawless elements is placed at 347, with the remaining hostages placed at 150 to 200.

The number of still active Maute Group terrorists is placed between 100 to 120.