Saturday, July 15, 2017

Governor nixes MNLF’s Bangsamoro Armed Forces in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): Governor nixes MNLF’s Bangsamoro Armed Forces in Palawan

Governor Jose Alvarez has raised the possibility that the Muslim communities here will face difficulty accessing the PHP96-million livelihood support fund if the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions will continue to assert the Bangsamoro Armed Forces (BAF).

Alvarez’ statement came in the wake of reports that MNLF factions in the province are recruiting members to toughen the BAF by offering fancy compensation, other perks, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign for federalism.

The province’s leader staunchly stated there is no “Bangsamoro” self-directed political entity in Palawan that he recognizes, only “Muslim brothers”.

“There is nothing like that. They need to go to the Western Command (WESCOM), and ask permission there. In OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) it’s not allowed,” Alvarez stated in an interview.

Organization activities are okay, he added, provided "they are for livelihood and peace and order; not toughening the Bangsamoro army."

“If our brother Muslims organize for livelihood and peace and order, we will support… I will immensely support them. But if you don’t like peace and order in Palawan, then what you are doing is wrong,” he said. He added Palawan is non-combatant and does not belong to the Bangsamoro territory; neither is it part of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Juanito Lacubtan, spokesperson of the Palawan Unified Command (PUC) told the Philippine News Agency on Friday that it "is sad to learn" about Alvarez’ statement.

PUC is the alliance that fosters goodwill between the Yusop Jikiri and Nur Misuari MNLF factions in the province.

“We want to clarify everything to the governor, and we have written to him two weeks ago to make clarifications, but until today we have not received any call for a meeting with him,” Lacubtan said.

On the exclusion of the Bangsamoro army, Lacubtan said the OPAPP should make clarification about it to Misuari and to local government officials in Palawan.

The Palawan Unified Command-Bangsamoro Armed Forces-Moro National Liberation Front (PUC-BAF-MNLF), he stated, is headed in the province by Sahak Antoyong, their commanding general.

“We are waiting for OPAPP so this can be clarified,” said Lacubtan, who, in a media conference on Wednesday, vehemently denied they are recruiting members.

He maintained that under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, which has been expanded over the years, Palawan remains part of the Bangsamoro region with 12 other areas in Mindanao.

On the other hand, MNLF Jikiri faction senior leader Estino Jairi Ayyobie, also in an interview with PNA on Friday, agrees with Governor Alvarez.

Ayyobie said there should be no recruitment for Bangsamoro army unless a clarification has been made by OPAPP.

“What he (Governor Alvarez) said was true, and this is the reason why we are requesting for a schedule from OPAPP to come here to make clarifications, and to provide us a copy of the enabling law, or tell us about the implementing mechanisms of the peace process,” Ayyobie said.

On doing away with the BAF in the province, he enlightened that no provincial leader of any MNLF faction is authorized to do it as “it is high-level discussion.”

He assured that under the MNLF Jikiri faction, no recruitment or reactivation of any inoperative member is being done so far.

“We have a very good relationship with the national government under President Duterte. Governor Alvarez is right, if OPAPP has not confirmed or clarified anything, then nothing should be honored,” he said.

On July 10, the AFP’s WESCOM warned factions of the MNLF in Palawan to stop recruitment as it was sowing fear among the people and is prohibited under the peace agreement.

WESCOM spokesperson Captain Cherryl Tindog said that “recruitment activities of any MNLF faction are provocative and inimical to the commitment to attain enduring peace.”

Abu men kidnap 6 construction workers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): Abu men kidnap 6 construction workers

Gunmen believed to be Abu Sayyaf bandits seized six Zamboangueño construction workers in Sulu at dawn Saturday.

The incident happened around 2:00 a.m. along Martirez Street, Jolo, Sulu, according to police authorities and relatives of the victims.

But one of the six workers identified as Larry Velasquez has managed to escape although he was shot and wounded in the leg.

Taken captives by the Abu Sayyaf bandits were Edmundo Ramos, 37, Jayson Baylosis, Joker Adanza, Jun Guerrero and the fifth one remain unidentified.

Two of the victim’s relatives, namely Amy Guerrero and Dayang Ramos, told the Philippines News Agency that the Abu Sayyaf bandits have demanded PHP1 million ransom in exchange for the release of each victim.

Guerrero and Ramos said the ransom demand was relayed to them through a mobile phone by a man who identified himself as a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

The Abu Sayyaf bandits behind the incident belong to the Ajang-Ajang group led by bandit sub-leader Ben Saudi.

The bandits abducted the victims who were sleeping at the second floor of the building they were constructing since the project engineer, who was the main target and is sleeping at the ground floor, was not around at the time to the incident.

Relatives said that the victims had been working for three months already in Jolo, Sulu.

The relatives said they preferred to work in Jolo, Sulu since they are being paid with good salary compared to the other construction firms in this city.

Army to enlist 1k IPs from Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): Army to enlist 1k IPs from Mindanao

The Philippine Army is enlisting 1,000 indigenous people’s (IP) from all over Mindanao into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a military official said Saturday.

The enlistment of IPs was based on the orders signed by Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, the Philippine Army chief.

Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said that 350 of the 1,000 IPs will be hired in the areas covered by the command.

The area of jurisdiction of the 1st Infantry Division covers the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan and Sulu.

Herrera said the objective in enlisting IPs is geared towards the complete elimination of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and other threat groups in the remote areas.

He said the basic requirements to enlist into the Philippine Army are as follows: 18 to 35 years old; five feet and above in height; Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)-authenticated birth certificate with Official Receipt (OR); parents’ marriage contract with OR; Form 137, Transcript of Records, Diploma with dry seal (high school and college); two copies of 2×2 pictures with name tag; valid identification cards; and, must attain an AFP Service Aptitude Test (AFPSAT) score of at least 45.

He said the applicants must also have a certificate coming from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) for admission.

He said interested and qualified applicants can register at the following locations: Gate 2, 1st Infantry Division headquarters at Camp Major Cesar Sang-an in Upper Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur; and, 102nd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Barangay Sanito, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Duterte honors Sulu troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): Duterte honors Sulu troops

President Rodrigo Duterte awarded medals to 12 soldiers who were wounded in a clash against the Abu Sayyaf bandits last week in Sulu.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said in a statement Saturday that two of the 12 soldier-awardees of the Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM) are officers and the rest are enlisted personnel.

The awarding ceremony was held Saturday afternoon at the headquarters of Joint Task Force Sulu in Camp Teodulfo Bautista, Barangay Busbus in Jolo, Sulu.

The officer-awardees are 1Lt. Niño John Paner and 1Lt. Ian Solatre.

The enlisted personnel-awardees are the following: Cpl. Alan Bartolome; Cpl. Jeric Ghil Villaruz; PFC Reynan Maristela; PFC Vergel Bali; PFC Rhenievon Saliw-an; PFC Jaifiryll Tamayao; PFC Polard Banggawan; PFC Jeremy Ganagan; PFC Tonie Mar Talatayud; and, Pvt. John Paul Annang.

All the awardees belong to the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion. They were wounded in a clash against the Abu Sayyaf bandits under sub-leader Almujer Yaddah last July 8 in Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul Sulu.

The clash, which lasted for one hour, also resulted to the death of four Abu Sayyaf bandits. The troops were on a rescue mission when the clash occurred.

The President, in his visit to the troops on Saturday in Sulu, was accompanied by Defense Sec Delfin Lorenzana; Armed Force Chief-of-Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano; and, Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.

Slain Mautes' now at 399 as fighting in Marawi reaches 53rd day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): Slain Mautes' now at 399 as fighting in Marawi reaches 53rd day

As fighting in Marawi City reaches its 53rd day, the number of Maute Group terrorists killed in ongoing military operations reached 399 with the number of slain government troops now at 93, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla. said Saturday.

Padilla said 502 firearms so far were recovered from Maute group.

Some 45 civilians were executed by The lawless elements had executed 45 civilians while government troopers rescued 1,713 individuals.

Fighting broke out in Marawi City after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia last May 23.

President Duterte visits wounded-in-action soldiers in Jolo

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): President Duterte visits wounded-in-action soldiers in Jolo

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday personally visited uniformed personnel who were injured in an encounter in Mindanao last July 8.
The soldiers were injured in an encounter in Brgy. Darayan, Patikul, Sulu against the Abu Sayyaf Group led by Almujer Yada.

President Duterte personally pinned the Wounded Personal Medal (WPM) to 1Lt. Niño John Paner; Lt. Ian Solatre; Cpl. Jeric Ghil Villaruz; Cpl. Alan Bartolome; PFC Rhenievon Saliw-an;

PFC Jeremy Ganagan; PFC Jaifryll Tamayo; PFC Reynan Maristela; PFC Vergel Bali; PFC Polard Banggawan; Pvt. Tonie Mar Talatayud; and Pvt. John Paul Annang.

The soldiers are confined at the newly completed Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital (CTBSH).

The CTBSH is among the first military hospitals that received major upgrades promised by the President to the Armed Forces.

Photo: Visit of Sultan Umpa of Kapatagan to MNLF Chairman, Prof. Nur Misuari

Posted to the website of Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim, Secretary General, Moro National Liberation Front (Jul 14): Photo: Visit of Sultan Umpa of Kapatagan to MNLF Chairman, Prof. Nur Misuari

Image may contain: 8 people, people standing and indoor

This photo was taken during the courtesy visit of Sultan Umpa of Kapatagan with the members of his delegation to the MNLF Chairman, Prof. Nur Misuari, July 14, 2017.

Photo: MNLF Secretary General, Ustadz Murshi D. Ibrahim briefs the Officers and Commanders of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces ( BAF )

Posted to the website of Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim, Secretary General, Moro National Liberation Front (Jul 10): Photo: MNLF Secretary General, Ustadz Murshi D. Ibrahim briefs the Officers and Commanders of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces ( BAF )

Image may contain: 4 people, indoor

MNLF Secretary General, Ustadz Murshi D. Ibrahim, of the Central Committee, and by the authority of the MNLF Founding Chairman, Prof. Nur P. Misurari, he briefed the Officers and Commanders of the BANGSAMORO ARMED FORCES ( BAF ) headed by Comdr. Abraham Joel, BAF's Chief of Staff for Region IX, on the progress of the MNLF Peace Track with the government of the Philippines. He informed them about the avowed commitment and revelation of Pres. Duterte to enlist qualified MNLF Forces to the AFP, and he called the process as " NEW INTEGRATION ".

MILF: MILF Official Meets With MNLF Veterans Known As Gagandilan In Tawi-Tawi

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 14): MILF Official Meets With MNLF Veterans Known As Gagandilan In Tawi-Tawi

Photo by Normin Abdulgani/Staff of BTC Commessioner Mohagher Iqbal

Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of MILF Peace Implementing Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) met with over 500 Moro National Liberation Front members, also known as Gagandilan in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi on July 11, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said.

Iqbal said the meeting was aimed at creating a bridge between the two Moro revolutionary groups.
“We need to make bridges. One of the issues thrown against the Moro people is that there is so much disunity among us. I am disputing that,” he said.

The MNLF Gagandilan members and their dependents met Iqbal and his team upon their arrival.

Languyan Mayor Ismael Sali said the Gagandilan members were excited to see Iqbal and his team and listen to them talk about the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Sali said there are some 1,000 Gagandilan members, some of them engaged in fishing, farming, business and education. (Source: PDI)

MILF: Dureza To Recommend That New Draft BBL Be Certified As Urgent

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 14): Dureza To Recommend That New Draft BBL Be Certified As Urgent

A report by ABS-CBN News on July 11 says that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza would recommend that President Rodrigo Duterte certify the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as urgent, as he underscored the need to enable a peace pact with the country’s largest Moro rebel group at the soonest possible time.

“As far as OPAPP is concerned, we will recommend that it will be certified as an urgent bill. But as you know very well, the President makes the final call,” Dureza said in a news conference in Malacañang.

Certifying a bill as urgent means its movement in Congress will be expedited.

The BBL is the enabling measure of the peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in August 2014.

Dureza expressed hopes that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which wrote a new BBL draft, has learned from lessons of the past.

Implementing the BBL would mean abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, while the 1996 agreement would mean the enhancement of the ARMM.

NDF: Discussing socio-economic reform proposals is the enabling environment conducive to peace talks – NDFP RWC-SER

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jul 14): Discussing socio-economic reform proposals is the enabling environment conducive to peace talks – NDFP RWC-SER

Media Release
14 July 2017

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. The enabling environment most conducive to the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations is the buckling down to work in crafting a comprehensive agreement on substantial socio-economic reforms that will benefit the Filipino people and the adherence to human rights and international humanitarian laws including the release of all political prisoners, as promised by the Duterte government.”

NDFP RWC-SER Vice Chair Alan Jazmines stressing the need to proceed with the discussions on socioeconomic reforms during the 3rd round of formal talks in Rome January 2017 /

This was the declaration of Alan Jazmines, vice-chairperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms, amid the announcement of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines that back channel talks will soon be held to discuss the creation of an “enabling environment” for the resumption of the fifth round of the peace talks.

According to Jazmines, the backchannel talks are a welcome development for trying to break the current impasse in the GPH-NDFP peace talks caused by the suspension by the GPH of the talks’ fifth round which was scheduled May 27 to June 1.

He also said that the NDFP RWC-SER is looking forward to the bilateral teams’ meeting which aims to come up with a tentative common draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) in order to accelerate negotations and complete the latter by the first quarter of 2018.

Jazmines highlighted the urgency to discuss and come up with an agreement on agrarian reform and rural development. He said that in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Hacienda Roxas in Batangas, Central Luzon, Negros, the Cordillera, and Mindanao, farmers continue to engage in land struggles to defend their right to the land that they are tilling.

He continued, “The achievement of the third round of the peace talks, the agreement on the principle of free land distribution by the NDFP and the GPH, will amount to nothing unless it is followed up by more concrete and substantive agreements.”

“We expect that there will be no more delays. The talks have already wasted so much time. We have done our assignment and will bring to the table concrete proposals on agrarian reform and rural development, national industrialization, protection of the environment. This is a clear path to take for a just and lasting peace,” Jazmines concluded.###

Alan Jazmines
Vice-Chairperson, NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms
Contact Number: + 63 949 137 7260

CPP/NDF-EV: On the statements of Samar Gov. Tan and PAMANA bureaucrat Emy Bonifacio maligning the NPA

NDF-Eastern Visayas propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jul 15): On the statements of Samar Gov. Tan and PAMANA bureaucrat Emy Bonifacio maligning the NPA

Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, Spokesperson
NDFP Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)

15 July 2017

The National Demoratic Front-Eastern Visayas takes exception to the insults against the New People’s Army made by Samar Gov. Sharee Ann Tan and Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) bureaucrat Emy Bonifacio. While announcing infrastructure programs under PAMANA last June, part of the P2 billion peso budget for the entire Samar island, the governor and the flunkey said their projects would bring peace and progress if only the NPA would not be “extorting” from these.

For the uninformed, the PAMANA is carried out by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. It implements programs, usually road projects, together with anti-NPA propaganda in areas believed to be NPA strongholds. In other words, while the GRP and the NDFP are negotiating peace, the PAMANA is the GRP’s knife to stab the NDFP in the back.

While we thus dismiss the utterly false charge of “ten-percent NPA extortion,” the NDF-EV also does not look too kindly either at the PAMANA as a cosmetic solution. The country needs social, economic and political reforms. Without basic changes, the PAMANA is just paving the road to hell with cheap propaganda. The roads proclaimed to service the people can very well be used by capitalists and landgrabbers exemplified by big mining and logging concessions to extract and export natural resources and deprive the people. The roads ballyhooed to make “peaceful and prosperous” communities can very well deliver fascist soldiers to militarize civilian communities and commit human rights violations. In the end, nothing will change but for a turn for the worse.

Having said that about the PAMANA, what about its two promoters Tan and Bonifacio?

We do not think the troika of Gov. Tan, her brother the vice-governor, and her mother the congresswoman, have any more outstanding contribution to Samar province other than defining the meaning of nepotism. We also believe the Tan dynasty is the one really extorting, as much as 50 percent from construction contractors. How so? Because many roads in Samar province are either half-finished on one side only, or are concretized halfway to town but muddied halfway back to the village. Seriously speaking, we are not even talking yet about the other contributions of the Tan dynasty to “peace and prosperity” such as its share in the election-related murders in Calbayog City, the rampant family business of usury, the proliferation of ghost employees, and everything else that is rotten about traditional politics in Samar.

As for Emy Bonifacio, she has long embarked on the careerism of being the factotum of the military and the reactionary government in their “counterinsurgency” campaigns and other fascist and anti-people maneuvers. She became notorious at the center of Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development, an instrument of the military to coopt the church, local government, mass media and other sectors for civil-military operations alongside intelligence and combat operations. Through such a “multi-stakeholder” approach, Bonifacio served as the factotum of the military in “counterinsurgency” campaigns from Oplan Bantay Laya under the Arroyo regime and Oplan Bayanihan under Aquino II. Heading the PAMANA in Samar is thus only the most recent shameful episode for this dubious political operator in the service of the reactionary ruling system.

The maleficent verbal attacks by Tan and Bonifacio reflect the Duterte regime’s insincerity for a just and lasting peace. The GRP should have terminated the PAMANA if it defers to a genuine peace process. Instead, the GRP is using all-out war along with a pacification campaign, through such programs such as the PAMANA, to attack and subdue the people and the revolutionary forces. If the prospects for peace talks are dimming, there is thus no other choice for the people but to continue fighting a just war for real peace and progress through attaining national freedom, democracy and socialism.”

CPP/NDF-EV: Militarization and “local peace talks” in Northern Samar smack of martial law rather than peace process

NDF-Eastern Visayas propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jul 15): Militarization and “local peace talks” in Northern Samar smack of martial law rather than peace process

Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, Spokesperson
NDFP Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)

15 July 2017

Is the Duterte government open to peace talks or is it preparing for martial law? The National-Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas (NDF-EV) today slammed the Duterte regime for the intense militarization in Northern Samar, along with the provincial government’s noise for local peace talks.

“Since March and April, the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has been launching continuous military operations in Northern Samar such as in Las Navas, Lope de Vega and Silvino Lobos,” said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas. “This has forced the New People’s Army to carry out tactical offensives to defend themselves and the people. The situation puts the sincerity of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) for the peace process into question. Moreover, Northern Samar Gov. Jose Ong, Jr. has threatened the integrity of the NDFP-GRP negotations with proposing “local peace talks” which the NDFP has long rejected as a divide and rule tactic.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson noted that martial law methods are used in militarizing Northern Samar. “Soldiers are subjecting civilians to mass surveillance and population control. Last June, in Barangay San Isidro, Las Navas, the soldiers went on a house-to-house accounting of every family and even took their pictures. The military harassed those who hailed from the nearby town of San Jose de Buan, Samar. A barangay official of San Jose village, Renoe Asina, was also held by soldiers last June 22 to force him to guide their operation, and was only let go because he knew some of them.”

Fr. Salas also criticized Gov. Ong for working with the military to sabotage the peace process. “Local peace talks serve to complement militarization through deceiving and coopting the people with surrender programs. It is thus insidious and belittles the peace process as a national concern towards basic reforms addressing the root causes of the civil war. The GRP under Duterte cannot even get its act together to resume the peace talks. How much more Gov. Ong and the rest of his political dynasty? It will better serve the people for them to shut up and face the investigation of the people’s court for their involvement in corruption, extrajudicial killings and illegal drugs in Northern Samar.”

The NDF-EV urged the people to resolutely fight militarization and gross human rights violationstunder the Duterte regime, and the serious threat to legitimize all these with a nationwide martial law. “We urge the human rights and peace advocates in Northern Samar as well as Tacloban City and other urban centers in the region to rise up and condemn militarization and local peace talks. They must fight the Duterte regime’s martial law in Mindanao and the steps toward ending the peace talks and imposing nationwide martial law. It is the bounden duty of the New People’s Army to defend the people, punish the human rights violators, and advance the armed revolution to a new and higher level with or without peace negotiations.”

Marawi siege to go beyond 60 days

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 15): Marawi siege to go beyond 60 days

Soldiers walk through the rubble of what used to be a Maute-controlled area in Marawi City. —ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

The liberation of Marawi is well under way but it cannot be completed by July 22 when the martial law President Duterte declared in Mindanao expires, the military said on Friday.

The military bared the assessment as five Catholic prelates expressed concern at suggestions, particularly by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, that martial law be extended for five years or the remainder of the President’s term.

Military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military is still assessing the security situation even as the Marawi crisis nears its end.

Not before Sona

But Padilla admitted operations, including airstrikes, may continue even beyond July 24, when the President delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona) before Congress.

“We are right into the 10 to 15 days of the President,” Padilla said referring to Mr. Duterte’s expressed desire that the military liberate Marawi within that period.

“But the 10 to 15 days [will go] beyond the Sona, by the way, so don’t expect it before the Sona,” Padilla said, noting the military has yet to clear 600 houses and buildings in Marawi.

With the military clearing 40 to 50 houses a day, Padilla said they might need another 12 days to clear the city of 70 to 80 terrorists who attacked the city on May 23.


As of 7 p.m. on July 13, security forces have killed 394 terrorists and recovered 498 firearms. But government fatalities numbered 93 while the terrorists killed 45 civilians.

Troops were able to rescue 1,723 people from the war-torn city but there are still some 300 civilians who are either trapped by the fighting or taken hostage by the terrorists.

Brig. Gen. Ramiro Rey, commander of the Joint Task Force Group Ranao, told reporters on Thursday they need to flush out Maute terrorists hiding in fortified positions in four barangays.

“We will continue with the use of FA-50 [multirole fighter jets] as long as the strategic target will take down the terrorist group,” Rey said.

He said that was the reason they to continue to conduct air strikes despite the 12 deaths the military sustained from friendly fire.

On Wednesday, two more soldiers were killed while 11 others were wounded by shrapnels when a bomb exploded 250 meters off-target. Last May 31, at least 10 soldiers were killed in a similar “friendly fire.”

The military said they are investigating the incidents but they still need air support in Marawi.

“In the four barangays (where the terrorists are holed up), the fighting has subsided in two [but] there is still heavy fighting in the other two,” Padilla said.

“It could be that the leaders of this group are there or they are guarding something there that we still do not know about,” Padilla added.

Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said surgical air assaults are very important in the fight because the terrorists are occupying major strongholds and fortified defense positions.

“This is what we need to take down using airstrikes,” he said. “We are close to the center of gravity and we are gaining more ground.”

Churchmen wary
But at least five Catholic bishops are apprehensive of moves to extend martial law in Mindanao.

“I support martial law but for the extension … Our president and legislators must evaluate the situation. The situation has to be investigated before saying we need more years,” Ozamiz Archbishop Martin Jumoad said.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes warned that continued military rule will only worsen the peace and order situation and possibly increase human rights violations.

“Even if 57 percent of Filipinos approve of martial law in Mindanao now, I don’t believe that the majority will like to extend it for five years,” Bastes said.

For his part, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David suggested conducting a survey among Mindanao residents if they favor extending martial law for five years.

“Instead of getting the pulse of majority of Filipinos, the survey should also find out if majority of the people of Mindanao, Christians and Muslims, would agree to an extended martial law in Mindanao,” he said.

David is the incoming vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and is set to assume his post in December.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma agreed, saying the termination of martial law or its extension should be determined by circumstances.

“To me, martial law with its termination or extension should be determined by circumstances. To determine appropriateness and decide now is unrealistic,” Palma said.

“Yes, many favor it now, including myself. To say it’s OK to extend another five years is simplistic,” he said.

Address conflict’s roots

Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo stressed that the government should instead pursue better governance and poverty alleviation.

“Many also agree with the Mindanao bishops’ position that martial law is and should be temporary. Better governance and poverty alleviation should be pursued relentlessly by all. War in Marawi never again,” the prelate said.

Talks, walks and works

Running priest Robert Reyes said the Marawi crisis—which is now nearing its second month—cannot be solved by military power alone.

“We cannot kill the enemy because they propagate,” Reyes said in Iligan City, near Marawi, where the peace group Ka-Salam was launched by Oxfam and other groups

“While members of the Maute and the Abu Sayyaf are dying, their relatives are also angered. So even if the military says there’s no more Maute or Abu in Marawi, their relatives are still everywhere,” Reyes said.

Fearing a cycle of violence, Reyes is promoting “talks, walks and works” to promote peace in Mindanao.

He said under talks, Christians, Muslims and tribesmen, called lumad (indigenous people), should talk about problems and find a common solution before they become more serious.

Under walk, people should promote openness, dialogue and peace to defeat the deep distrust among people.

For example, those in Manila are wary of those wearing the thobe favored by Muslim men and the hijab used by Muslim women.

“They say Muslims are bad but they don’t really understand. Muslims are peaceful. Islam itself means peace,” he added.

Reyes said some Muslims also do not trust Christians while some tribesmen are also suspicious of them.

“There is now this culture of suspicion, which we can address by speaking to each other, conducting dialogues among ourselves,” he said.

Alim Saad Amate, president of the United Imams of the Philippines, said Muslims too would like to continue talking with Christians and lumad so that problems can be properly addressed.

Amate said many Muslims do not support violence because they would rather attend to their businesses. “Besides, war devastates everything,” he said.

MNLF leaders’ gathering on peace in Zambo misconstrued as an attack

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 14): MNLF leaders’ gathering on peace in Zambo misconstrued as an attack

About 100 high-ranking leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) coming from all over Mindanao convened in this city Thursday in what the city government initially thought was in preparation for an attack but ended peacefully when the leader of the MNLF assured that they were there to pursue peace and development in Mindanao.

City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco was reportedly given the information that the gathering of the MNLF leaders in this city was aimed at soliciting a mass-based support for the group’s supposed new attack on the city. Climaco reportedly ordered the police and military to visit the City Inn Hotel in this city and disperse the group.

Climaco said MNLF chair Yusop Jikiri violated the protocol of the city in holding a forum without giving prior notice to the city government.

But Taddik said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which organized the forum has written to the office of the city mayor here and informed the mayor of the upcoming activities a few days before the forum.

Taddik, in a message to Mayor Climaco said: “We love you. Many of our Muslim MNLF members and leaders who are in this city have voted for you in the last elections. We have some police and military integrees who are here helping you in the maintenance of peace and development.”

The two-day seminar workshop was organized by the UNDP in coordination with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) and the European Union (EU).

MNLF Central Committee deputy secretary general for military affairs Abuamri Taddik said the seminar workshop centered its discussion on peace and development in Muslim dominated areas in Mindanao.

The UNDP, EU, and OPAPP wanted to know what the needs are in the area so they can create a socio-economic program and extend the necessary help, Taddik explained.

Among the topics that were discussed during the two day seminar workshop were the Bangsamoro right to self-discrimination and imperative for social, political and economic development, MNLF development program framework, including responsive Bangsamoro education (politically, culturally and economically), human capital development to drive economic growth and access to public health services, development of local entrepreneur-cottage industries with access to market and agriculture and non-agriculture based production including the processing and marketing of goods.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member involved in mass abduction of foreigners captured

From the Philippine Star (Jul 14): Suspected Abu Sayyaf member involved in mass abduction of foreigners captured

Police and military forces captured Thursday night a suspected Abu Sayyaf member tagged in the mass abduction of foreign tourists on Sipadan island in Malaysia.
The suspect was identified as Abdulmubin Kudalat Salahuddin, who is currently working as a security guard assigned in a mall here, according to acting Zamboanga City Police Office director Senior Superintendent Diomarie Albarico.
Albarico said Salahuddin was intercepted by the intelligence units of the police and military backed by the anti-terror forces of the Joint Task Force Zamboanga and the 5th Special Action Force Battalion about 10:45 p.m on the old highway of Barangay Guiwan.
The operating forces recovered from the suspect a fragmentation grenade placed inside his sling bag. Police said the suspect was employed in a locally based security agency.
Salahuddin was able to obtain clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation and a security license.
Based on the intelligence dossier, Albarico said Salahuddin was tagged as allegedly supplying firearms and ammunition to the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf group.
Police Inspector Edwin Duco, Zamboanga City Police Office spokesman, said investigation later found that Salahuddin was also involved in the 2000 Sipadan kidnapping incident.
The Abu Sayyaf group led by slain leaders Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot and Nadjmi Saabdula alias Commander Global held the Sipadan dive resort, in Pulau off Sabah, under siege during the Easter holiday. Twenty-one people, including nine Malaysians, 10 Europeans, and two Filipino resort staff were brought to Sulu as captives by the militants. The victims were released in batches after huge ransom payment in dollars.
Duco said the captured suspect is temporarily detained at the Zamboanga City Police Office and underwent further tactical investigation on his possible motive in disguising himself as security personnel.

ISIS Knocks on the Door of Southeast Asia

From the McGill International Review (Jul 14): ISIS Knocks on the Door of Southeast Asia (Posted by Andréa Febres-Gagné)

ISIS militants in the city of Marawi, Philippines. From: https-goo.glRZH6qw
ISIS recently established a foothold in Southeast Asia with the capture of the city of Marawi, located on the southern islands of the Philippines, Mindanao. This takeover occurred on May 23 and has transformed Marawi into a battleground between ISIS-affiliated militants and the Filipino government over control of the city, now under martial law. Some experts argue that the crisis of Marawi highlights the formation of a unified Islamic front in the Philippines, under the black flag of the transnational terrorist group. The formation of a more cohesive Islamic front has led to a drastic increase in casualties as insurgents use ISIS tactics and weapons to match the strength of government forces. Deaths resulting from the fighting are estimated to be around 500 since the beginning of the crisis. The conflict has also created a deep humanitarian crisis in the region, characterized by the forced displacement of most of the city’s population, as well as the sexual enslavement and enrollment of child soldiers in the ISIS controlled zone.

The current situation in Marawi emerged from the failed attempt of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the local police to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the radical Islamist group Abbu Sayyaf. Hapilon is wanted by both the Filipino government and the FBI for his group’ terrorist attacks and kidnapping in the Philippines, as well as his recent appointment as the emir of the Islamic State forces in the Philippines by ISIS. Abu Sayyaf was previously affiliated with the transnational terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, before pledging allegiance to ISIS in 2013-2014. His original aim to create an independent Islamist state through violence evolved into the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria into the southern Philippines through affiliated groups. Other Islamist insurgent groups, such as the Maute group, joined the ranks of Abu Sayyaf to achieve the same goal, the formation of a transnational Islamic front.

Isnilon Hapilon, Leader of Abu Sayyaf. From:
The main motivation to pursue a transnational Islamic front by the Filipino Muslim insurgents has roots in local politics rather than an opaque religious movement. In fact, the cultural gap between Filipino Christians and Muslims created by the Spanish and American colonial legacies became increasingly contentious after the formation of the first republic of the Philippines in 1946. The post-1946 policies of the Christian-led government included the settlement of Christians into traditional Muslims areas in the south as well as the killing of Muslim soldiers in 1968. The consequential ethnic discrimination sponsored by the Christian state led to a long-term Christian-Muslim feud in the country, characterized by Muslim poverty and insurgency.

More importantly, the institutionalization of ethnic inequality led to the vertical establishment of Muslims at the bottom of the socio-economic order by the Christian government This ethnic stratification of Filipino society meant a noticeable division within the Muslim group as individuals with no state connections remained marginalized. In fact, insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf and Maute are mainly known for their criminal activities linked to financial motives, such as ransoms and drug trafficking. The affiliation of those militants with ISIS can thus be understood as an uprooted response to the lack of opportunity necessary to elevate them from their enduring poverty trap. The fact that the main victims of the ISIS militants in Marawi are Muslims further demonstrates the breakdown of the militants’ social bonds with the ethnic group, based on their socio-economic marginalization.

Map of southern Philippines. From:
On the other hand, the motivation of ISIS to associate itself with the Filipino Muslim insurgents comes from geopolitics. The territorial loss in Iraq and Syria by ISIS is an important factor explaining the move of the transnational terrorist group’s focus towards the southern Philippines; Mosul represents just the most recent Middle Eastern loss for ISIS. In fact, such a move allows ISIS to pursue its goal to establish a universal Caliphate across the world by gaining access to a prominent Muslim population in the southern Philippines and its neighbouring countries, Indonesia and Malaysia. Therefore, in addition to positioning themselves at the heart of the Muslim world in Southeast Asia, ISIS militants can expand their reach more easily during operations due to the relatively porous borders between the aformentioned countries. The shift in ISIS’ focus can be seen through the recent appointment of the leader of Abu Sayyaf, as well as the economic and military support of the Filipino militants in Marawi. As a matter of fact, the Filipino military and other experts reported the presence of foreign fighters in the Marawi conflict, as well as the use of ISIS’ military equipment and strategies by the militants.

ISIS’ transnational involvement in the local Muslim insurgency in the Philippines makes reconciliation between Muslims and Christians more difficult for the President of the country, Rodrigo Duterte. Although Duterte is mostly known for his radical drug war, the President also attempted to open peace negotiations with Muslim insurgent groups. With the advent of new ISIS-fueled conflict, the proposed negotiations could be undermined, depending on the development of the conflict. Cooperation between Muslim and Christian populations in the regional conflict is essential for the communication needed to find and root out terrorist militants. On the other hand, if the Filipino government and police cannot succeed in fostering cooperation with Muslim civilians, more grievances and casualties may result.

Therefore, the local and transnational motives underlying the cooperation between ISIS and Muslims militants in the Philippines are crucial to understand. The recent formation of a more cohesive and organized Islamic Front in Southeast Asia is the result of political losses at different levels. At the local level, Filipino Muslim insurgents affiliate themselves with the transnational organization as a solution to elevate themselves from their institutionalized socio-economic marginalization. For the transnational organization, such an affiliation allows it to counterbalance their recent territorial losses in the Middle East and preserve its influence over the Muslim world.

A soldier from the Armed Forces of the Philippines patrolling around Marawi. From: goo.glVjWs6K

Marawi destruction incites kids to fight terrorism

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 13): Marawi destruction incites kids to fight terrorism

MARANTAO, Lanao del Sur — Each day since fighting erupted in Marawi City on May 23, 12-year-old Mustapha would rush to the bank of Lake Lanao in his village of Kialdan here whenever he heard the drone of approaching warplanes.

He would then train his eyes on Marawi City, less than 3 kilometers from Kialdan.


The 11th among 12 siblings, Mustapha — whose parents once tended a small grocery store in Barangay Bangolo in Marawi City — said he was being drawn to the same location each day because it was the perfect spot for him to see how the planes dropped bombs on the city.

“I’m hurt when I see the destruction,” Mustapha said, but added that he was not angry with the government because Marawi would not be devastated if Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists had not seized the city.

“They are destroying our city. My parents lost their business,” he said.

Mustapha said he had decided to become a policeman when he grew up.

“I will continue my studies. I will fight the Maute,” he added.

Most of the Maranao children whom the Inquirer had spoken to, including those in the evacuation centers in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, and Iligan City, have found a new reason to stay in school — to join the government in the fight against terror.

‘They destroyed our lives’

“I am still too young today but I will grow up and someday… I will fight them because they destroyed our lives,” Disumimba, 14, said.

Disumimba said his parents kept telling him the Maute gunmen were not Muslims.

“If they were really Muslims, why did they make the Maranao suffer?” he asked.

Nabil, 9, said he wanted to be a soldier to fight bad people.

When told the Maute group had been claiming it was fighting for Islam, Nabil replied: “Really? If so, why Marawi?”

Disumimba said he grew up with the knowledge that Marawi was the Islamic city of the Philippines.

“Now, it’s in ruins because of them,” he said, blaming the Maute group and its allies.