Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bayan airs 20-point ‘people's demands'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 22): Bayan airs 20-point ‘people's demands'

The militant group, Bayan Negros, and its allies yesterday aired their 20-point urgent people's demands for President Rodrigo Duterte who is delivering his state of the nation address on Monday, which include a call for continued peace talks with the National Democratic Front and the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Christian Tuayon, Bayan Negros secretary general, said about 3,000 persons will join a “SONA ng Bayan” at the Bacolod Public Plaza Monday afternoon to air their demands as Duterte delivers his SONA at the BatasangPambansa, saying he has failed to deliver on many of his promises.

It has been a year since a people's summit presented to the president a comprehensive “people's agenda for nationalist and progressive change”, which included national industrialization, the peace talks, an independent foreign policy, expanded social services, respect for human rights and measures against corruption, he said.

However, Tuayon said many of these proposals have not been addressed by government, and some have even been rejected.

“We are still far off from the change promised by the president. Most alarming is the administration's dangerous drift to the right,” a Bayan statement released at a press conference yesterday added.

It said the 20-point people's demands are:

*The continuation of the 5 th and succeeding rounds of formal peace talks with the NDF without any preconditions, and the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms within the year;

*The lifting of martial law in Mindanao and a stop to aerial bombings in Marawi and other parts of the country;

*The freeing of all political prisoners as a matter of justice and in compliance with government's obligations to the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law;

*The recall of Department of Labor and Employment Order No.174 and,in cooperation with other labor groups, the issuance of an executive order that would prohibit all forms of labor contracting;

*Support for labor's demand for a national minimum wage of P750 a day, and the certifying of measures in Congress to set the basic salary of government employees at P16,000 a month;

*Certifying as urgent measures in Congress to reduce income taxes for rank and file employees ahead of any other measure that seeks to raise taxes on basic goods and services;

*The issuance of an executive order for a 2-year moratorium on the conversion of agricultural lands recommended by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council;

* The provision for freeNational Irrigation Authority services as well as irrigation subsidies to small farmers nationwide;

*An order for all state colleges and universities to implement a “No tuition policy” starting this school year;

*The distribution of about 50,000 idle AFP and PNP housing units nationwide to the homeless with basic facilities for electricity, water and sanitation;

*Issuance of an executive order to stop the further privatization of public hospitals;

*The prohibition of the participation of American troops and their private military contractors in military operations inMarawi and other parts of the country;

*A halt to the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the cancellation of the remaining military exercises set for this year under the VFA;

*Orders forthe PNP and AFP to stop the extrajudicial killings;

*Pull out the military and AFP-backed paramilitary groups from Lumad communities in Mindanao and the safe return of evacuees to their communities;

*Overhaul of the Philippine National Police to weed out corrupt and abusive police personnel;

*The implementation of closure and suspension orders of former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez against erring mining companies;

*Asserting through diplomatic means the Philippines sovereign rights over the West Philippines Sea;

*Overhauling the Energy Regulatory Commission and prosecute its commissioner and officials who have connived with industry players in burdening the consumers; and

*Ensuring the Commission on Appointments' confirmation of Secretaries Judy Taguiwaloand Rafael Mariano to their posts.

‘NPA terrorizing Negros'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 22): ‘NPA terrorizing Negros'

The New People's Army is bent on terrorizing Negros Island Region, Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander said yesterday.

Six policemen and a civilian died yesterday in separate attacks initiated by the New People's Army in Sitio Gi-ob, Brgy. Magsaysay, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. Three policemen and two civilians were also hurt, military records showed.

Aying said the attempt of the NPA to kill Guihulngan City Councilor Eddie Dela Rita and the inhumane killing of the six policemen and a civilian is a clear manifestation of their true intent of terrorizing the Negros Island, to prove that peace and development is far from realization.

Col. Eliezer Losañes, commanding officer of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade, said “this barbaric act will not go unpunished”.

“We will continue to conduct pursuit operation to give justice to our law enforcers who are simply performing their duties,” Losañes said.

“This actions of the NPA simply show their true nature, that they are indeed terrorists and that they continue to deceive the people to advance their selfish interest”, he added.

. Dela Rita, who was initially reported as missing, and his driver survived and were under police custody. But the councilor's body guard Michael Jambalos was killed, Senior Inspector Armilyn Vargas, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 18, said.

Supt. Arnel Arpon, Guihulngan City police chief, one of the six policemen who died in the ambush, used to be assigned as police chief of Bago and Sipalay cities in Negros Occidental, before he took up a career advancement course, for his promotion to the rank of senior superintendent.

The other policemen killed were Senior Police Officer 2 Mecasio Tabilon, SPO1 Jesael Ancheta, SPO2 Chavic Agosto, and PO2s Alfredo Dunque and Alvin Bulandres.

Wounded were PO3 Jordan Balderas, PO2 Jorie Maribao, and SPO4 Jerome Delara, De la Rita and his driver.

The two ambush incidents took place as the Communist Party of the Philippines ordered tactical offensives against government forces, following plans of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao for another five months.

Before the ambush in Guihulngan, the NPA in central and northern Negros claimed responsibility for the ambush of a sugar planter and his driver in Calatrava, the liquidation of a former Army soldier in Canlaon City and a leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army in Salvador Benedicto.

Col. Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, recalled that Dela Rita was among those being targeted for liquidation by the NPA, and his name was found in documents recovered during an encounter with communist rebels last month in Negros Oriental.

The Guihulngan City Police Station in Negros Oriental, where Arpon served as police chief, and thecpolice stations of Himamaylan and Kabankalan cities in Negros Occidental, are also among the targets for attack by the NPA, the seized documents showed.
Arpon led a group of 15 policemen, who tried to rescue Dela Rita and his two companions, but they were ambushed by about 60 suspected NPA rebels armed with high powered weapons , Losañes said.

It was a certain Edward Jimenez, a local government employee, who reported to the Guihulngan City Police Station that Dela Rita was ambushed in the barangay, a Police Regional Office 18 report showed.

Aying said the NPA atrocities will continue if security forces and the public will not be vigilant. He also revealed that there are some politicians who are helping the rebel group to get even with their political opponents.

The 303rd Infantry Brigade and the Regional Public Safety Battalion 18 have already shifted some of their troops to central Negros, to help in the conduct of pursuit operations against the rebel ambushers.

Two years ago, the provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental were both declared as peaceful and ready for further development by their respective provincial governments, and concurred in by the Philippine Army.

Photo: A scene from the ambush site in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 22): Photo: A scene from the ambush site in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental


A scene from the ambush site in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, posted on several Facebook walls yesterday

Between Butig and Marawi, Maute Group came prepared – drones, scanners, ‘unli’ bullets – for siege: soldier

From InterAksyon (Jul 23): Between Butig and Marawi, Maute Group came prepared – drones, scanners, ‘unli’ bullets – for siege: soldier

Army 1Lt. Kent Fagyan narrates the war against terrorists in Marawi City during the joint session of Congress on the extension of martial law. At right is AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo M. Año. PHIL. STAR PHOTO BY BOY SANTOS

Before the Maute siege began May 23, the military had confronted the Maute Group for weeks in other parts of Lanao del Sur, but the extremists’ campaign to take over the progressive Islamic city – with an eye to courting full recognition from the Islamic State – was obviously made with “unlimited” firepower and advanced weaponry.

This was the observation given lawmakers by a commanding officer of an Army unit that is seeing action in Marawi City, as members of both chambers of Congress met in joint session Saturday to tackle President Duterte’s bid to extend martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2017. Congress voted to grant the 150-day extension, with 261-18 of the total of attendees from both Senate and the House of Representatives.

The unit of 1Lt. Kent Fagyan, commanding officer of the 15th DRC, of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, 1st ID PA, was among the first sent to confront the Maute group in Marawi when some 200 members descended on the city, and laid siege to it. He witnessed them occupy the poblacion and raise the ISIS’ black flag.

Weeks before that, his unit was also among those deployed by the military to root out the Maute members from their lairs in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Fagyan himself was also the veteran of a much earlier siege, in Zamboanga in 2013, when he was platoon leader at the 44th IB.

‘Maute better armed in Marawi’

“Comparing sa mga previous encounters with the Maute Group saka dito sa Marawi, upgraded po yung dito sa Marawi kasi meron na po silang, maraming 50 calibre, may radio frequency scanner, may drones saka parang unlimited yung bala nila [Compared to our previous encounters with the Maute Group, we noticed they had upgraded their weaponry: they had lots of 50 caliber rifles, radio frequency scanners and drones. Their bullets seemed unlimited],” said Fagyan, who was presented by security officials called in to brief Congress Saturday on the status of the anti-Maute campaign before the lawmakers tackled the martial law extension.

The 29-year-old officer had a sling on one arm, having been wounded in one encounter.

Besides the vastly “upgraded” weaponry of the Maute Group, Fagyan said government troops also had a much more difficult time – compared to the Zamboanga siege – because most of the homes and buildings where the skirmishes took place since May 23 were made of solid concrete and had 3, even 4 floors.

The Maute Group took defensive positions in most of these fortified buildings, just waiting for soldiers to come out and then pick them out one by one. “So yung Maute Group kung lalabas kami, ang gagawin lang nila titirahin kami, so kailangan naming dahan-dahan talaga.”

From darting about corner by corner, block by block, the soldiers would then enter certain houses and buildings to check for the presence of extremists or civilians stranded by the fighting.

“So hindi kami kailangang magpakita sa mga kalsada kasi titirahin kami. So kailangan naming butasin yung mga pader; dun kami papasok, and then sa mga bahay naman magkakalapit [So we don’t expose ourselves on the streets as they will hit us. We’d often bore holes through some houses and then get through those holes.]”

They would use those homes to monitor for the enemy’s presence and possible resistance before moving in to another location. If they sense resistsnace they would use tear gas or, if resistance is quite strong, grenades.

Going floor by floor and room by room was hard “because the enemy knew those places well; for every area they had a vantage position,” said Fagyan, speaking mostly in Filipino.

At one point, a comrade of his sat on a chair and sensed something hard beneath, which turned out to be an improvised explosive device (IED). “Mercifully, it did not explode. And then, in the next house, which the Maute Group had abandoned, they also put IEDs, so we were always very observant.”

They tried everything to avoid casualties, but it was tough going every step of the way. “Mahirap talaga yung ginagawa namin. As much as possible iniiwasan namin na may casualty sa amin pero magaling din po yung kalaban, so ‘yun po yung ginagawa namin.”

The extremists took dozens of civilians, some of whom earlier claimed they were forced to do chores for the Maute Group, and some were summarily executed.

Fagyan said their unit bumped into several unarmed civilians, and their SOP was to quickly interrogate them to make sure they were not deliberately planted by the enemy.

He said most of those in his unit had been in training for one month, and subsequently were deployed in Marawi the past two months. That means they had not gone home the past three months, but that “kahit stressed kami ginagawa namin yung trabaho namin [even though we are stressed we tried to do our job] to liberate Marawi.”

Fagyan thanked all those who reached out to the soldiers with both material and moral aid.

“Sa konting pagbigay nyo ng damit, tubig, malaking bagay na po ‘yun kasi doon hindi ka makakain sa tamang oras, hindi ka makatulog kasi putok dito putok doon, almost 24 hours na [The clothes, water and other stuff you gave meant so much to us because out there we rarely ate on time, we couldn’t sleep because of the constant sound of gunfire].”

Sen. Richard Gordon praised Fagyan for his courage and patriotism.

“I just want to commend you for your bravery,” Gordon said, noting, “that is to hard to bear for a 29-year-old . . . to fight and see your brothers fall dead or to fight your fellow Filipinos . . . so you don’t find pleasure [in] it, hindi ka natutuwa, nahihirapan ka [killing them doesn’t make you happy; it’s hard].”

If checkpoint personnel wear stag uniform, they must be fake: AFP

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 21): If checkpoint personnel wear stag uniform, they must be fake: AFP

IF THE MEN manning checkpoints are in incomplete uniform and even wearing non-military boots, then they are posers.
Military and police authorities yesterday informed the public how to spot a fake checkpoint from the legitimate one.

This as communist rebels posed as Task Force Davao personnel in conducting a checkpoint in the boundary of the City and Arakan, North Cotabato on Wednesday. An encounter ensued as members of the Presidential Security Group passed along the highway.
Speaking on Wednesday’s AFP- PNP press conference, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said they have always been reminding the stakeholders, particularly the motorists and commuters, to verify if the checkpoint is legitimately done by government forces.

“We are really following protocols if we are conducting checkpoints,” Batchar said. “It is very important (for the public to know) so they can immediately relay to us information (if they are indeed fake checkpoints).”

The military officer said in conducting the checkpoints, the soldiers and police should be in proper uniform bearing name plates that can easily be visible.
“If they could observe that persons conducting checkpoint are in stag uniform and wear (non-military) boots, then it is already a manifestation that it is not a legitimate checkpoint,” Batchar said. “It is a threat already,” he explained.

He said checkpoint should be in a lighted area and must be visible to the incoming vehicles.

The vehicles used by the checkpoint personnel should have proper government marking, and not private-owned vehicles, he said.
If those manning the checkpoint have varied firearms and communication equipment, they could be posers.

He said the commuters, at all time, can ask those conducting the checkpoint of their units if they have doubts.

“The (the commuters) can call us to verify if there is a checkpoint conducted by the particular unit in the area, he added.

Batchar said they have been reminding their troops to be vigilant since the rebels target government forces.

Sr. Supt. Samuel Gadingan, director of Davao del Sur Police Provincial Office (DSPPO), also said that they also coordinate with their AFP counterpart in every checkpoint they conduct.

“Our checkpoint is almost the same with the AFP,” Gadingan said.

He said even random checkpoints need coordination to avoid any misencounter.

Gadingan said he has directed the Provincial Public Safety Company to conduct aggressive operation against the armed group.

PEACETALK: This Bangsamoro Basic Law is our new formula for the very elusive peace in Mindanao

Posted to MindaNews (Jul 22): PEACETALK: This Bangsamoro Basic Law is our new formula for the very elusive peace in Mindanao (By Ghazali B. Jaafar)

(Message of Ghazali B. Jaafar, Vice Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission during the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the BTC to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Malacañan Palace on July 17, 2017)

Mr. President,

It is four months since the Bangsamoro Transition Commission officially began its task crafting the new Bangsamoro Basic Law, which started during the Plenary Session in Cotabato City on March 6, 2017. And finally, the BTC Commissioners signed the draft basic law on June 16, 2017 or three (3) months and ten (10) days to be exact.

Mr. President, we can still remember the exhortations you made to us during the launching of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which was held on February 24, 2017 in Davao City.

Allow me to quote you, Mr. President, Put your hearts into it, (unquote), you said so Mr. President and that is precisely what we did as a collegial body.

And so today, we are submitting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) wherein we put our energy, dedication, collective intellect and with one singular interest, and that of the Bangsamoro people.

Conscious of the need for the implementation of signed agreements, particularly the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), we have made this new proposed BBL, faithful to the letter and spirit of the CAB and considerate of other agreements gained through decades of peace process such as the Tripoli agreement and the Final Peace agreement.

In fact, the new proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is now more inclusive, being a product of a Commission whose composition also reflects the widest inclusivity of all important stakeholders in the prospective Bangsamoro.

Again, let me quote you, Mr. President, Navigate the hindrances and obstructions, (unquote) you also told us that Mr. President.

Time, resources and unexpected events may have caused us difficulties, but these factors have been overcome by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission because we simply cannot allow these things to hinder or obstruct us in the performance you mandated us.

We believe that this new proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) reflects the diversity of interests of the Bangsamoro people, non-Bangsamoro indigenous people and settler communities; yet, these interests are all united under one goal of establishing a just, dignified and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro, in Mindanao and the country in general.

We humbly submit this new proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the best antidote to violent extremism that has wrought havoc in many parts of the Bangsamoro.

Once legislated, this new BBL would erase the doubt on the peace process, that mistaken notion, which is fueling violent extremism among some Moros.

Mr. President, this Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is our new formula for the very elusive peace in Mindanao. The recent tragedy in Marawi City can only lead to the isolation and public hatred over the extremists. We believe that what they have done to the people of Marawi City they did it out of frustration.

What our people need is a just and dignified peace. They need the promises of peace that this Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) offers. Once established, the Bangsamoro government would be at the forefront of keeping public order and safety, dispensing justice within the bounds of law, and addressing the basic requisites of a good life long denied to the Moros.

The leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as signatory to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and the leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front as signatory to the Tripoli Agreement and the Final Peace Agreement are committed to the fulfillment of the signed agreements, which practically cover all the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. We need the passage of this proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) into law so that we can start rebuilding our lives.

We Moros truly believe that in your time and under your leadership, Mr. President, we your Moro brothers and sisters, as you have publicly declared, would see the dawning of a government in the Bangsamoro homeland which they truly deserve.

On behalf then of the entire Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), and the Bangsamoro people in general, and in behalf of the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and in behalf of the several hundreds Martyrs or Sahid of the Moro struggle I humbly submit to you Mr. President as our brother, as our leader, and as our President the new proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Thank you Mr. President.

PEACETALK: You have been given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice by entrenching the Bangsamoro

Posted to MindaNews (Jul 22): PEACETALK: You have been given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice by entrenching the Bangsamoro (By Al Haj Murad Ebrahim)

(Message of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  on the occasion of the submission of the BBL to President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacanang Palace on 17 July 2017)

Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh, Very Good Evening:

At the outset, allow me to thank the leadership and the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission for completing its task of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Let me congratulate all of you for a job well done. The composition of the commission, which drew its membership from government, the MNLF, and the MILF demonstrated our ability to rise above our partisan interests and to work for the welfare of our people.

As we submit today the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, we consign to the President the hope and dreams of the Bangsamoro people; As we hand over to your Excellency the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, we put our trust and confidence in the process of government; As we submit to you Mr. President the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, we hold on to the promise of the fulfillment of the covenant we signed three years ago with government.

Today marks the end of our active participation in the shaping of the Basic Law and commences our complete trust in the ability of government to deliver on the promise of peace and development in our homeland. As government takes over the shepherding of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we can only hope that the spirit that inspired us to forge ahead with peace despite all the challenges will animate our partners in government to enact a law that shall embody our people’s dreams and aspirations.

We have gone this far in our journey to peace because we hold on to the belief that together we can better achieve peace and fulfill our mutual commitment to uplift the condition of our people. That partnership has brought us to this stage; That partnership I hope will carry us forward to the establishment to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.

We live in very dangerous times. A couple of years ago, as we watched with agony the systematic dismantling of the first draft of the BBL in Congress, we also observed with growing concern the increasing frustration of our people and the fearful rearing of the ugly head of violent extremism.

Today we watch with utter disgust at the destruction that violent extremism has inflicted on the City of Marawi. These misguided people have filled the vacuum created by our failure to enact the Basic Law and fed into the frustration of our people.

Even as we speak, fighting and destruction in Marawi continues.

I ask, therefore, that we pause for a minute of silence and say a prayer for the brave men and women who stood against violent extremism, for the civilians who have died and for those who have displaced, for those who have shown courage by saving lives despite putting their lives in danger, and for the hundreds of civilians still trapped in the conflict zone and whose suffering no words can describe. (Pause for Silence).

The danger of violent extremism is that it feeds into the frustration of our people and takes over the narrative of historical injustice so that it can justify its virulent ideology which in reality is never linked to the national aspiration of a people. But because it exploits the narrative of historical injustice, it is important to address legitimate grievances and correct historical injustice so that it will be denied any semblance of legitimacy.

Mr. President, we hear you speak of the need to address historical injustice committed against our people and we marvel at the ease with which you narrate the historical basis of our cause. Today, at a crucial moment in our history, you have been given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice by entrenching the Bangsamoro Government-the embodiment of the legitimate aspiration of our people, through the enactment of the this Bangsamoro Basic Law. We trust you. We trust that you will shepherd the passage of this law and see through the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government.

By this document Mr. President, you would have taken the first step in correcting the historical injustice committed against our people and laid the foundation for a more just country. By this joint action, we have co-founded a new Philippines-a new country firmly set on the unshakable foundation of justice and truth, and bequeath upon our succeeding generation a country united but respecting and drawing strength from its diversity.

Finally, let me express on behalf of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people our very sincere appreciation to Secretary Jess Dureza for recommending to the President the certifying of the BBL as urgent Bill during its endorsement to Congress. We pray to Allah that the President will highly consider such important step which will ultimately hasten the process and ensure that the agreed Road Map in the Peace Process will be met, inshaAllah.

Thank you very much and may peace be with you all.

Duterte inspects troops in besieged city

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 21): Duterte inspects troops in besieged city


Military photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show President Rodrigo Duterte speaking to soldiers and inspecting seized ISIS weapons.


Military photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show President Rodrigo Duterte speaking to soldiers and inspecting seized ISIS weapons.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday inspected troops battling local ISIS fighters in the besieged city of Marawi where security forces seized a major bridge previously held by militants, officials said.

Officials said troops also recovered the body of a slain militant and 9 assorted weapons, including an M60 machine gun, a grenade launcher and 3 rifles after they cleared 16 buildings and occupied the Mapandi Bridge.

Duterte also inspected some 500 assorted high-powered firearms recovered in Marawi since the battle began in May 23 when ISIS militants occupied the city in an effort to put an Islamic State province and the military told the President that 427 extremists had been allegedly killed since the start of the violence. It was unknown how the military came up with the number of enemy casualties or whether it was based on intelligence reports or body counts. But nearly 100 soldiers and about four dozen civilians also perished in the war.

“I have to be here to visit you. Your life is not less important than mine. All of our lives are equally important. We are here to die for our country,” Duterte told soldiers in the frontline, but he became emotional while talking when he remembered how reading the daily security briefer from Marawi units devastate him every night. “I grieve every time i learn that soldiers die every day in Marawi.”

Duterte, clad in a camouflage uniform, was accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, military chief General Eduardo Año, Army Chief Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda and military adviser Arthur Tabaquero, among other officials.

“I say a little prayer for those who have fallen. I grieve for all the deaths, both civilians and soldiers, especially that I was the one who made you come here,” Duterte said and vowed to put up a 50-billion trust fund for the children of the military and police, and to supply the troops best equipment. “I urge you to continue to fight for your country and always remember that I will fight for your rights.”

Rebels continue offensives

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 23): Rebels continue offensives

Communist rebels have vowed to continue attacks on military targets as government peace negotiators failed miserably to convince the separatist group to sign a ceasefire accord and pursue talks aimed at ending the decades-old insurgency in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte has trashed peace negotiations with communist leaders and abandoned efforts by his peace negotiators to convince rebels to stop attacks on government and military targets.

Rebels demanded the immediate release of nearly 500 political prisoners, mostly commanders and leaders of the New People’s Army, as a condition for the resumption of the stalled talks. Duterte already freed over 2 dozen communist leaders, but the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said the President should have released all political prisoners.
Just last week, rebels killed a pro-government militia and wounded 5 presidential guards in separate attacks in North Cotabato’s Arakan town in the restive southern Philippine region.
NPA rebels, who set up a checkpoint on the highway, attacked a convoy of presidential guards who were part of Duterte’s security group while heading to Cagayan de Oro City.

The ambush sparked a firefight, but there was no report of enemy casualties. The rebels also overran a detachment manned by militias and killed one of them. The attack occurred a day after rebels swooped down on the house of Vice Mayor Emmanuel Suarez of Surigao del Sur’s Cortes town. Suarez and his family were unhurt from the raid, but the rebels seized several firearms and warned the politician to do something to stop illegal fishing and logging in his town.

The daring attack on soldiers coincided with Duterte’s proposal to extend the martial law until the end of the year. Duterte declared martial law after local ISIS militants occupied Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province in an effort to put up an Islamic State province in the region. Fighting still raging in the besieged city and hundreds of people had died from the violence that already displaced over 200,000 more.

AirAsia extends free baggage allowance, meals to military personnel

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 22): AirAsia extends free baggage allowance, meals to military personnel

AirAsia announced on Wednesday that it will extend free baggage allowance to all AFP military personnel.

On their Facebook Page, AirAsia Philippines CEO Captain Dexter Comendador said that “in recognition of their incredible sacrifice, the airline company will extend free baggage allowance of up to 40kgs including in-flight meals and snacks to all AFP military personnel on a peace-keeping mission to any of AirAsia’s flights upon presentation of official ID and mission order.”

This after a concerned ‘netizen’ narrated and posted a photo on her Facebook account on how other passengers helped three soldiers, who are headed to Marawi City and Cotabato, with their excess baggage. Captain Comendador also recognized the passengers who helped the soldiers in the spirit of Bayanihan among Filipinos.  

The AirAsia Philippines CEO also said that the free baggage allowance and meals to soldiers is effective immediately.

Phl Army in need of 200 new soldiers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 22): Phl Army in need of 200 new soldiers

Philippine Army is currently in need of 200 soldiers to strengthen its forces.

In a statement, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander Brigadier General Casiano Monilla said it is open to applicants aged 18-26 years old, at least 5’2” in height, single, has at least one year in college related to security and education courses, interested in serving the country, and interested to be part of the Philippine Army.

Requirements for the said recruitment include certification of good moral character, medical and physical tests, and other basic requirements.

“Public Affairs Office and TRADOC Recruitment Office will help those who are interested and qualified to comply with all the requirements,” Monilla said.

Recruitment process is up to September 2017.

“Those who are qualified and interested may visit the TRADOC Recruitment Office and Public Affairs Office in Camp O’Donell, Capas, Tarlac to secure a copy of application form and for further details,” Monilla furthered.

They may also contact 09508862772, 09052553944 or 09162541399 for more information.

Lorenzana vows to intensify crackdown vs Maute with ML extension

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): Lorenzana vows to intensify crackdown vs Maute with ML extension

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said government troops will strive even further to end the ongoing Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City once and for all.

Lorenzana made the statement following the huge majority of Congress jointly voting for the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"With the overwhelming vote of confidence from our legislature and the ardent support of the Filipino people, your defense department will strive even more to deal with the rebellion decisively and expeditiously," he said in a statement Sunday.

The Congress, in a 261-18 vote, affirmed the need to extend Presidential Proclamation Number 216 extending Martial Law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus until Dec. 31 as initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It was declared in effect in Mindanao after Maute Group terrorists conducted a series of attacks in Marawi City following the botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.

"Makaaasa ang sambayanan na hindi namin sasayangin ang tiwalang ito. Gagampanan ng ating Hukbong Sandatahan ang pagtatanggol sa bayan at mga mamamayan nang buong katapatan," Lorenzana stressed.

He added that Maute Group terrorists or other lawless elements, wishing to reform and turn themselves in, will be accepted and given the necessary support by the government for their betterment.

"But if you persist in your crooked ways, the Armed Forces and the police will come after you without let up," Lorenzana pointed out.

Duterte: No more talks with NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Duterte: No more talks with NDF

Peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) dimmed as President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday declared "No more talks with the communists".

He also called on all communist leaders, who were released conditionally by the government to allow them to participate in the negotiations, to surrender

"You surrender and do not resist arrest," Duterte urged. He said he will pursue their arrest after government deals with Marawi crisis if none of them will surrender.

"I will hunt you down," Duterte warned in an interview at the sidelines of the 4th Davao Investment Conference.

The President gives another 50 years of fighting with the communists.

Speaking before the business sector during the 4th Davao Investment Conference at SMX Convention Center here on Friday, Duterte expressed his disappointment over latest pronouncements of the CPP over the declaration of martial law.

He said the communists had declared that the talks are not conducive under a situation of martial law.

I am only responding to what they are saying, he told reporters.

The President was also angered by the tag "bully" given to him by the CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison.

He also condemned continued fighting and killing of his soldiers.

On Wednesday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) called off back channel talks after communist rebels attacked the security of Duterte in Arakan, North Cotabato.

“I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPA,” Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said.

Dureza said the situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to this time.

North Cotabato grenade attack hurts 5

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): North Cotabato grenade attack hurts 5

Five persons were injured here when an unidentified man tossed a hand grenade in a house where a village official was dining with friends Friday night, police said.

Chief Inspector Julius Malcontento, Carmen town police chief, said the grenade attack transpired in a house in Purok Pag-asa, Barangay Gen. Luna, Carmen, North Cotabato at about 6:45 p.m.

Malcontento identified the victims who sustained shrapnel injuries as David Orteza, 50; Joel Aragon; Henry Nobleza, 54; and Darwin Ortiz, 15, a special child, all residents of Barangay Gen. Luna, and Armando Aquino, 51, of Barangay Barangay Aringay, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Malcontento said Barangay Gen. Luna chairperson Renato Ortiz Jr. and his companion-farmers were having dinner in the house of one Larry Mundo in Purok Pag-asa who was hosting a dinner with the four farmer victims in his home in Purok Pag-asa when a man tossed a hand grenade and quickly fled.

Chairperson Ortiz was unhurt.

“Our initial finding shows it was triggered by land dispute involving the victims and the attacker,” Malcontento said. He refused to reveal the names of personalities involved in the land dispute.

Responding police officers chased the suspect who managed to elude arrest under cover of darkness.

Malcontento said the police Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) are still determining the kind of hand grenade used by the attacker.

Investigation continues.

Gov't soldiers capture NPA campground in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Gov't soldiers capture NPA campground in Palawan

Government troops in southern Palawan were able to capture a New People's Army campground suspected to be a training area for improvised explosive devices (IEDs)-making on Friday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Danilo Facundo,commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4), on Saturday said ​the capture of the NPA site happened ​during clearing operations, several hours after his troops clashed with the armed rebels at Sitio Ilyan, Barangay Malihud, Bataraza on Friday.

The NPA camp was discovered at Sitio Kambingan, only a kilometer north of the encounter site in Sitio Ilyan.

“It appears this is the campground where they are training to make IEDs to do more roadside bombing activities that may hurt innocent civilians. Losing this is definitely a major stumbling block to the rebels in Palawan,” he said.

Facundo said the site was abandoned by the NPA​ terrorists​ because of the Marines’ pursuit operations as a result of the Malihud encounter.

Recovered from the ​area were numerous components for IED-making and some mutinous documents.​
The base camp has ​21 existing small and large single-story buildings made of crude indigenous materials, a tower guard post tree house, an advance post, a ​sizable outhouse for assemblies, and more than a few reinforced underground shelters.

Meanwhile, Western Command (WESCOM) ​s​pokesperson Captain Cherryl Tindog said with the breakdown of government peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF after the resurgence of their extremist activities, Team WESCOM gave assurance that it would continue its conduct of focused military operations and humanitarian activities in Palawan​.

She thanked the help of partner communities in reporting the sightings of armed rebels which led to the capture of the campground.​

“The CPP-NPA-NDF will continue to lie to defend their acts of violence, but the people of Palawan know better -- this extremism will only hurt innocent lives,” she said.

The capture of the NPA campground in Malihud ​happened after President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he would no longer talk with the CPP-NPA-NDF for peace.

PNP vows to bring to justice rebels behind bloody Negros Oriental ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21): PNP vows to bring to justice rebels behind bloody Negros Oriental ambush

The Philippine National Police (PNP) vowed to track down and bring to justice the New People's Army (NPA) rebels who ambushed and killed six of its police officers in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental Friday morning.

Also wounded in the incident were five policemen.

PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said they strongly condemned this latest rebel atrocity.

"The PNP condemns the recent attack by NPA rebels around 9:50 a.m. Friday in Magsaysay, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental. The victims were responding to a reported ambush of SB Edison Dela Ritta when also ambushed by the NPA rebels and killed six responding policemen, including its City Chief of Police, Supt. Arnel Arpon and five others (SPO2 Necasio Tabilon, SPO1 Jesael Ancheta, PO3 Chouvic Agosto, PO2 Alvin Paul Bulandres, & PO2 Alfredo Lastimoso Dunque). Also wounded were SPO4 Jerome Delara, PO3 Jordan Balderas, & PO2 Jorie Maribao," he said.

He added the PNP will not stop until the perpetrators are made to answer for the crime.

AFP chief recommended ML extension till yearend to Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): AFP chief recommended ML extension till yearend to Duterte

Caption: President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Armed Fores chief, Gen. Eduardo Año, in this file photo.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, Gen. Eduardo Año, on Saturday admitted that he recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.
Año made the statement before lawmakers during the interpellation of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman in a special joint session of Congress on Duterte’s request for martial law extension.

As implementor of martial law in the southern Philippines, Año gave the recommendation to Duterte to prevent a repeat of the attack launched by Daesh-inspired groups in Marawi City.

”We recommended sir up to 31 December of 2017 because as I’ve said, we wanted to finish all these Daesh-inspired groups so that there will be no repeat of the Marawi attack in the future,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is martial law administrator, said he also gave the president a recommendation about a “specific area and a definitive time” regarding the martial law extension. Lorenzana, however, did not give further details.

When asked about the extent of devastation brought about by the Marawi crisis, Año said “so many catastrophic and destructive effects” of the ongoing rebellion have been caused, not by the military, but by the Maute terrorist group that occupied the now strife-torn city.

”The crisis in Marawi introduced the AFP to a newly-evolving type of urban warfare typical of the ISIS takeover to those of Iraq, notable of which are total disregard for civilian lives, cruelty to captured human beings both captured combatants and innocent individuals, and the nature of looting and pillaging occupied areas of Marawi,” the AFP chief said.

”We are doing our very best to be able to end the crisis at the soonest possible time… so that we can start the reconstruction of Marawi.”

Daesh is another name for the ISIS or Islamic State. (FMC/ANP/PNA)

Gov't troopers killed in ongoing Marawi City crisis now at 105

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Gov't troopers killed in ongoing Marawi City crisis now at 105

As of Saturday afternoon, the number of military personnel killed in the ongoing efforts to clear Marawi City of remaining Maute Group terrorists has been placed at 105.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo confirmed this in a message on Saturday.

The death toll was as of 2 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile the Maute Group terrorists killed in the fighting, which is now on its 61st day, was placed at 428 also as of 2 p.m. Saturday.

The lawless elements executed 45 civilians while government troopers recovered 526 Maute weapons and rescued 1,723 hostages.

Fighting in Marawi City started last May 23 when goverment troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon.

ML extension, an acclaim and challenge for military - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): ML extension, an acclaim and challenge for military - AFP

With Congress, in a Special Joint Session, voted for extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday said it takes the affirmation as an acclamation and challenge to totally eliminate the remaining Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

"It's an acclamation of the sacrifices of every Soldier, Airman, Sailor, and Marine who died; or were wounded or whose limbs were lost fighting or while supporting the fight to retake Marawi and liberate the hostages," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

Arevalo said the task to neutralize the terrorists-extremists and degrade their capability; to rescue civilians trapped or held hostage; and to set the conditions for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City-- is daunting.

"But your AFP, aware of the enormity of the job that still needs to be done and the great expectations of our people, will measure up to the test," he added.

And while the AFP thanked the people for their overwhelming support and manifestation of appreciation, Arevalo said the military urged fellow Filipinos to join hands and fight violent extremism and never allow its seeds to take roots in their midst.

"Only by accompanying our words of commitment with our resolute and united actions will the forces of good reign over that of evil," he added.

The 17th Congress, voting jointly --261 as against 18-- affirmed the need to extend Presidential Proclamation Number 216, extending Martial Law and the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus until Dec. 31 as initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It was declared in effect in Mindanao after Maute Group terrorists conducted a series of attacks in Marawi City following the botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.

ISIS’ Core Helps Fund Militants in Philippines, Report Says

From the New York Times (Jul 20): ISIS’ Core Helps Fund Militants in Philippines, Report Says

Philippine troops evacuating civilians this month from Marawi, a southern city that was seized by militants aligned with the Islamic State. Credit Jorge Silva/Reuters
The central command of the Islamic State in Syria has funneled tens of thousands of dollars to militants in the Philippines over the last year, most likely aiding their spectacular seizure of the southern Philippine city of Marawi, a report released Friday said.

The report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a research institute based in Jakarta, describes how Mahmud Ahmad, a high-level Islamic State figure from Malaysia, who is based near Marawi, worked through the group’s chain of command to Syria to get money and international recruits to help local militants seize territory in the Philippines for the caliphate.

The report provides insight into a question that has bewildered policy makers since militants affiliated with the Islamic State swept into Marawi two months ago: How were they able to seize an important city in the southern Philippines, and what if any role did the Islamic State’s central command play in the seizure?

The city has remained largely under the control of the militants for nearly two months despite a government military campaign to retake it with ground forces and aerial bombardments.

Underscoring the severity of the situation, President Rodrigo Duterte said that of the estimated 600 militants in Marawi, about 220 are still believed to be fighting, a sharply higher estimate than the military’s recent assertions that only around 60 were left there.

Mr. Duterte gave the figure this week in urging the Philippine Congress to extend martial law through the end of the year, and he noted that the insurgents were still in control of central Marawi and that their leadership remained intact.

After the militants seized Marawi in late May, they raised the Islamic State flag and declared the establishment of a new province of the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Some senior politicians in the Philippines have dismissed the Maute Group, the major Islamist militant group behind the seizure of Marawi, as “ISIS wannabes,” characterizing it as a drug mafia with little in common with the ideologically driven Islamic State fighters.

But the institute’s report suggests that Islamic State commanders in Syria took the Maute Group’s strategic ambitions seriously.

The Islamic State’s ability to financially support its Philippine offshoots appears limited mainly to periodic Western Union transfers of tens of thousands of dollars, the report found, suggesting that direct support from Syria was a relatively minor factor in the Maute Group’s ability to seize Marawi.

The report argues that local recruiting and fund-raising among pious Muslims who resented the Philippines’ central government have probably played a more significant role in the insurgents’ successes.

Smoke billowing after an airstrike in Marawi in June. Nearly two months of government efforts have yet to fully dislodge the militants. Credit Jorge Silva/Reuters

The institute’s research is based on field visits this year to Mindanao, the island where Marawi sits, interviews with people close to Indonesian militants in the Philippines, and militants’ messages obtained from Telegram, the highly encrypted messaging service used by the Islamic State. Last week the Indonesian government announced it would ban some features of Telegram, because of how useful the app has been for terrorists.

Intercepted chats show that the Islamic State has a sophisticated command structure in Southeast Asia, allowing for complex coordination among its supporters across the region.

In one instance from last year, two Indonesian militants were connected via a Malaysian contact to another militant based in Thailand who helped them support a prison break in that country. The goal was to free a group of Uighurs, members of a Muslim ethnic group from western China, who had been detained there.

Though the prison break was initially successful, the Uighurs were eventually recaptured by the Thai police. Still, the report notes, “The story illustrates how well-connected the ISIS network has become, with an Indonesian connecting as easily with contacts in Turkey, the Philippines and Thailand as with his own friends in prison.”

International coordination of Islamic State leaders with Southeast Asian militants may amplify the terrorism threat to neighboring Indonesia, the report said.

The last 18 months have produced a steady trickle of low-casualty Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in Indonesia, but until now the actions have tended to be poorly planned and executed. For example, two Indonesian suicide bombers struck in the Kampung Melayu neighborhood in East Jakarta in May, but only three victims were killed.

A major concern for the Indonesian government is that some of the 20-odd Indonesian fighters who have joined up with Islamic State groups in Mindanao will acquire the equipment and expertise to commit serious terrorist attacks at home.

The report calls for Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to improve their security services’ coordination and intelligence sharing, so that the names of key suspects are passed along.

Still, the first step is ousting the Islamic State from Marawi.

When Marawi was seized in late May, Mr. Duterte pledged that the militants would be defeated quickly. But on Thursday he said that during recent operations to clear the city, the military recovered 75 million pesos, or $15 million, from one of the militants’ homes, a clear indication that they stocked up arms and money for the fight.

At least four villages, which make up the city’s commercial district and are home to roughly 800 structures, are in rebel hands, he added.

He also said the militants’ leadership “largely remains intact,” contrary to earlier military reports. Clashes continued into Friday as the military struggled to make advances.

The self-styled leader of Islamic State in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, who leads the Abu Sayyaf insurgent group, is still at large, as are the brothers who lead the Maute group.

[A version of this article appears in print on July 21, 2017, on Page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Report Shows Reach of ISIS In Philippines.]

Winning the war with IS in the Philippines, but losing the peace

From The Economist (Jul 20): Winning the war with IS in the Philippines, but losing the peace
The army is close to recapturing a militant-infested provincial capital

THE Philippine army has been fighting for two full months to take back control of the southern city of Marawi from a violent and determined coalition of jihadist groups. The battle for Marawi, a mainly Muslim city of 200,000 with a lush lakeside setting and a proud sense of its culture, erupted when the government got word that Isnilon Hapilon was hiding there. Mr Hapilon, a leader of a notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang, Abu Sayyaf, pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) three years ago. In return, IS declared him the “emir” of the Philippine province of its caliphate. When the armed forces went to arrest him, up to 700 fighters emerged out of nowhere and, in the name of IS, seized the city. Ominously, foreign fighters and even veterans of Mosul are thought to be involved, including militants from Chechnya, Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

The army has fought back hard, claiming to have killed 411 combatants. Its spokesman, Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, now talks of “mopping up”, with the remaining insurgents penned into an area of a square kilometre, encompassing the commercial district. But the militants do not scruple to use human shields—dozens of civilians have already died, and 300 are thought still to be trapped. That limits the army’s room for manoeuvre.

The army, too, has taken losses: nearly 100 soldiers killed and over 850 wounded out of a force of about 3,000. In Marawi this week it was clear the battle was far from over, with new units arriving in the city and helicopter gunships flying in for an afternoon attack, the thump of their rotors briefly drowning out the rattle of machineguns and the snap of sniper fire.

The outcome is not in doubt. But President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent predictions of a swift victory were far from the mark. Meanwhile, evacuees languish in their tens of thousands in dirty camps. A growing number realise they have no home to return to—much of the city has been flattened.

The Philippines has had its share of conflict, particularly in Mindanao, a poor and restive southern island that is home to most Filipino Muslims. But this is the heaviest urban fighting since the second world war. Marawi came as a shock. Whenever one or other of a welter of bandit groups declared an IS affiliation, the authorities had tended to dismiss it as boastful self-branding.
The Maute group is a case in point. It is based in Lanao del Sur, the province of which Marawi is the capital. Even after it pledged allegiance to IS in 2015, many mistook it for a low-grade family mafia, with links to Marawi’s former mayor, Solitario Ali, whom Mr Duterte has denounced as a drug lord.

Yet both Omar Maute (said by the army to be dead) and his brother, Abdullah, had studied in the Middle East. They had links with jihadists in Indonesia. At home, they even recruited from among faculty and students at Mindanao State University in Marawi. The Maute group put up over half the fighters who seized Marawi, all the while advertising its role on social media. All this suggests unusual sophistication and strength.
Mr Hapilon is now thought to be injured and sheltering in Marawi’s biggest mosque (which the army is reluctant to attack, fearing a propaganda disaster). Abdullah Maute still seems to be in Marawi too, while his parents have been caught trying to escape. Some hope this will prove to be the end of the Maute gang and of Mr Hapilon.
Perhaps. But their propaganda is already painting the city’s destruction as the army’s fault. The dead jihadists leave behind orphans to be fed a diet of revenge. The pestilent, overcrowded prisons of the Philippines and Indonesia will continue as prime recruiting grounds for extremism. Meanwhile, that the Mautes, Abu Sayyaf and two smaller groups were able together to seize a medium-sized city shows how IS ideology can unite disparate groups to devastating effect. That IS is nearing its end in the Middle East should not be misconstrued. The wilds of Mindanao offer a destination for retreating jihadists. For young South-East Asian extremists, says Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Marawi “has put the Philippines on the map”.
Mindanao’s the time

And so Mr Duterte will not lack reasons to extend the 60-day imposition of martial law in Mindanao that is about to expire. He suggests keeping it till the end of the year, but some allies argue for five years, till the end of his term. More will become clear in his annual state of the nation address on July 24th. The army says martial law makes it easier to conduct house-to-house searches and seize weapons. It insists it has no wish to govern—suspects are handed over to civilian courts. But opposition politicians and civil-society groups say martial law undermines accountability in a region desperately short of it—and raises questions about the long-term intentions of Mr Duterte, an avowed authoritarian.

Martial law will surely complicate the broader “peace process” in Mindanao. In 1996 the government struck a deal with Muslim separatists to create an autonomous region in the Muslim-majority areas of the island; it broke down five years later. In 2014 a similar deal was struck with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the region’s main insurgent group. As a measure of its commitment to peace, the MILF has been working to get humanitarian supplies to Marawi’s residents and to broker the release of civilians still stuck in the battle zone.

Mr Duterte supports autonomy, but has muddied the process with vague proposals on federalism. Meanwhile, the MILF’s inability to head off the fighting in Marawi, even though many of its members have relatives in the Maute group, has undermined its authority. Some of the MILF’s younger members are said to be disaffected with its ageing leadership. When the battle for Marawi ends, the war for hearts and minds begins.
[This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "Mosul in Mindanao"]

Abu Sayyaf member dead, soldier wounded in Sulu clash

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jul 20): Abu Sayyaf member dead, soldier wounded in Sulu clash

AN ABU Sayyaf Group (ASG) member was killed while a soldier was wounded in a clash in the province of Sulu, the military said on Thursday, July 20.

The Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) said the clash occurred around 6:50 a.m., Thursday, at Sitio Kabbon Latih in the village of Latih, Patikul town.

The JTFS said the troops were on focused military operations when they clashed with a group of bandits.

The bandits who figured in the clash were followers of Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Jamiri Jaong Jawhari alias Amah Bers, Basaron Arok, and Amah Ollah.

The bandits fled to different directions.

The troops recovered the remains of a slain Abu Sayyaf bandit and three high-powered firearms at the clash site.

The JTFS withheld the identity of the wounded soldier except in saying he belongs to the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion.

The task force said the focused military operations continue in a bid to rescue the hostages in the island province of Sulu.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding captives 24 hostages, including 16 foreigners.

2 missing after Abu Sayyaf rebels torch Basilan sawmill

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 21): 2 missing after Abu Sayyaf rebels torch Basilan sawmill
Two persons went missing when Abu Sayyaf gunmen stormed a sawmill in Maluso, Basilan on Thursday, authorities said Friday.

Maluso Mayor Hanie Bud told the Inquirer that Dodong Divinagracia, 50; and his son, Ily, 25, were manning the sawmill when Abu Sayyaf gunmen came and set the place on fire.

“We are waiting for updates as the military and barangay (village) officials concerned are still in the area,” Bud said.

Supt. Nickson Muksan, the Basilan police chief, said a civilian had reported that the gunmen included Abu Sayyaf members Pasil Bayali and a certain Otoh Dobol and that the Divinagracias were taken as hostages.

Army foils BIFF attacks in Maguindanao towns

From the Manila Times (Jul 20): Army foils BIFF attacks in Maguindanao towns

Government forces on Wednesday night aborted simultaneous planned attacks of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao towns, officials said.

Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesman forthe Army’s 6th Infantry Division, confirmed to The Manila Times that the BIFF planned to carry out attacks in Datu Salibo and Sharief Aguak towns on Wednesday evening at about 9 p.m.

The plan, however, was repelled after residents and local government units tipped off authorities about the BIFF plot.

“We already received information from local communities that the BIFF was planning simultaneous attacks… We were able to repel it,” Encinas said.

No one was hurt in ensuing clashes that lasted 10 minutes.

Encinas described the Wednesday evening incidents as “encounters” because “the troops were able to fire first before the attackers,” denying reports from the terrorist Islamic State (IS) that the government troops were ambushed.

IS supporters, in a Telegram channel on Thursday morning, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Soldiers of the Cross were ambushed by the fighters of the Islamic State in Sharif Aguak and Datu Salibo, Maguindanao around 9 p.m. yesterday [Wednesday] evening,” the militants said through Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the IS.

NPA claims death of Revolutionary Proletarian Army commander

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Jul 20): NPA claims death of Revolutionary Proletarian Army commander 
THE New People’s Army (NPA) under the Roselyn Pelle Command (RPC) claimed the death of 35-year-old Charlie Buli-Buli, a commander of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) in Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental.

RPC spokesperson Ka Cecil Estrella, in a press release dated July 17, said they killed Buli-Buli as they believed that he initiated murder cases and land grabbing activities.

Estrella said Buli-Buli also threatened small farmers and was involved in a gun-for-hire group that protects the alleged illegal logging activities of a politician.

Buli-Buli was also behind the hold-up incident in San Carlos City in 2005, the NPA leader said.

Last July 8, Buli-Buli was shot to death by nine unidentified men at Sitio Agbalasyang, Barangay Bago on the way to his farm, with his 14-year-old nephew.

Buli-Buli died on the spot while his nephew was unharmed.

Police recovered 13 fired bullets of M16 rifle, two cartridges of M203, and a cartridge of .9mm caliber.

Reds defy Duterte, kill 7 in another attack

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 22): Reds defy Duterte, kill 7 in another attack

 FIGHTING MOOD President Duterte in combat gear during his visit to Marawi City on Thursday. —AFP

Seven people were killed as communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels staged more attacks in Negros Oriental province on Friday, a day after President Duterte said he had lost interest in peace talks with the communist insurgency.

“I do not want to talk peace,” Mr. Duterte told troops late Thursday when he visited a military camp in Marawi City, about 3 kilometers from where soldiers were battling Maute group rebels.

Automatic gunfire and artillery shelling were heard during his four-hour visit, which was kept secret for security reasons. He distributed watches, supplies and equipment.

“After you finish here, after you decimate the fools there, we will reorient. It’ll be the NPA next,” said the President, who was dressed in a camouflage uniform and combat boots.

“Because they already owe us a lot. I no longer want to talk with them. They killed many of my soldiers and police, even those who just went to the market,” he said.

The rebels responded with the attack in Guihulngan City, killing one civilian and six policemen, including the city’s police chief, Supt. Arnel Arpon.

Also killed were SPO2 Mecasio Tabilon, SPO1 Jesael Ancheta, PO2 Alvin Paul Bulandres, PO2 Alfredo Dunque, SPO2 Chavic Agosto and a still unidentified civilian, police said.

SPO4 Jerome Delara, PO2 Jorie Maribao, PO3 Jordan Balderas and two others were wounded in the ambush at Barangay Magsaysay in Guihulngan.

Arpon and his men were responding to the report of Guihulngan City Councilor Edison Delarita that he was ambushed along with his driver and two others.

NPA plans

Senior Insp. Armilyn Vargas of the Negros Island regional police said Delarita was among four people targeted for liquidation by the NPA.
The NPA was also planning to attack the police station in Guihulngan as well as those in Himamaylan and Kabankalan in adjacent Negros Occidental, Vargas said.

But Col. Eliezer Losañes, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade pursuing the NPA rebels, said he believed the real NPA targets were the police and their stations.

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said the Guihulngan attack was staged only hours after the 62nd Infantry Battalion battled NPA rebels in Calatrava, Negros Occidental province.

NPA ‘atrocities’

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described the recent series of attacks by the NPA as “atrocities” staged despite ongoing peace talks.

Lorenzana cited the NPA attacks in Gumaca, Quezon province, where they burned equipment owned by government contractors; the killing of a policeman in Bukidnon; the landmine blasts in Quirino province where six soldiers were hurt; the destruction of plantations in Surigao del Sur; the killing of soldiers buying food in a Palawan market; and the attack on members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in North Cotabato.

“We are all for peace. Who doesn’t want peace for our country?” Lorenzana asked.

“[But] we can only talk about peace when both sides mean what they say,” he said. “The treacherous communist-terrorist NPA has once again shown their utter lack of empathy [with] our suffering countrymen.”

While government peace negotiators have tried to show sincerity and integrity during the talks, Lorenzana said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of the communist movement, “reciprocated [with] double talk and treachery.”

Collective decision

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the attacks were the main reason the government decided to cancel informal talks set for the weekend in the Netherlands.

“I called up our third party facilitator in Norway. This is the group that supports some of the expenses and I explained we won’t pursue with the back-channel talks in the meantime,” he said.

Dureza said it was the government’s collective decision to postpone the informal talks until “the atmosphere is conducive for the peace talks.”

Dureza said “the incident in Arakan, North Cotabato, has a great impact [because] the PSG doesn’t usually engage the NPAs” and yet they were attacked.

Joma: Digong ‘buang’

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, however, said Mr. Duterte’s decision to cancel the informal talks showed the President had “gone mad.”

“It’s really hard to talk with a lunatic who takes pride in extrajudicial killings,” Sison said in an online interview on Friday.

“There can be no peace negotiations if there is no armed struggle and no challenge in combat, especially if the other side is drunk with power and thinks he can just order revolutionaries to surrender,” Sison said.

Esperon: Joma ‘obsessed’

On Thursday, Sison claimed Mr. Duterte was only using the communist insurgency as a pretext to extend and expand martial law because of the President’s “obsession with martial law and mass murder.”

But National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon dismissed Sison’s remark and suggested it was Sison who was obsessed with “armed struggle.”

“If you are the leading advocate of federalism which distributes power to the regions, are you obsessed with power and martial law?” Esperon said.

“[President Duterte] even apologized to the people of Marawi and to the people who have been inconvenienced. I think he is obsessed with good governance. He is obsessed with developing Mindanao. He’s obsessed with serving the people,” he said.

“Can we say that of Mr. Joma Sison?” Esperon asked. “Maybe Joma Sison also has an obsession. Is he obsessed with armed struggle? I don’t know. But, of course, there is democratic space for the good professor.”

The President himself seemed piqued by the public bashing he had been getting from Sison, who used to be his professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines.

Hundred year war

“You got that right, 100 percent,” Mr. Duterte said of Sison’s earlier remark that he was bullying people. “I bully people who want to overthrow the government. That is my job.”

“I believe you, Mr. Sison. You are right. We should stop talking because you are wasting our time,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City hours after the Guihulngan attacks.

“The war that you are talking about has been here the last 50 years. Let’s renew it for another 50 years. Let the Filipino sacrifice, the poor, the lumad. Let them die,” Duterte said.

“Let us renew the fighting for another 50 years. Anyway, all of us will not see the light of day on this revolution of yours,” he said.

Mr. Duterte repeated a claim he made months ago that “Sison is dying. He has trouble in his stomach and the Norwegian government doesn’t want to pay the hospital.”

“He won’t last long, but who will be left behind? You,” he said, addressing Mindanao tribesmen who have joined the communist rebellion.

IS terrorists guarding P1.4-B loot in Marawi

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 22): IS terrorists guarding P1.4-B loot in Marawi


Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists holed up in Marawi are guarding around P1.4 billion in cash and jewelry looted from the city, a government official said on Friday.

The official, who asked not to be identified because he was not allowed to speak on the matter, said government security forces learned that the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the city were guarding 70 bags of loot, each worth around P20 million.

“They’re not leaving because they have 70 bags from looting [and the loot] is about P20 million per bag,” the official said.

“We have a video of that,” he added.

Hostages forced to loot
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army’s 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Marawi, said earlier this month that the terrorists had forced hostages to convert to Islam, take up arms against government forces, serve as sex slaves and loot millions of pesos in cash, firearms, ammunition, gold and jewelry from houses and business establishments in Marawi.

Herrera said at least 10 hostages who had escaped separately from their captors disclosed the looting the terrorists forced them to undertake.

“They believe that the amount of cash and valuable items looted could be worth more [than P500 million], as there were several other groups being forced by terrorists to loot and steal for them,” he said.

The stolen items were stored in a mosque, “received by designated Maute members who were keeping a list for accounting,” he added.

The terrorists, who stormed Marawi on May 23 to establish an enclave for the Middle East-based IS jihadist group in Southeast Asia, are believed to be holding around 100 hostages, including a Catholic priest.


Government forces have pushed the terrorists into a box in the city center, where the gunmen have split into small groups and holed up in houses and high-rise buildings, the military said.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Friday that the military expected to retake Marawi “in a few more days.”

He said there were around 70 remaining terrorists who controlled around 600 houses and buildings concentrated in three villages in the city center.

Esperon said the military, which had around 7,000 soldiers in the battle zone, was recapturing 40 to 50 houses and buildings a day.

“I would say the area is now constricted to three barangays, it’s about 49 hectares. We used to have the main battle area in 12 barangays. But now, it’s in only three barangays,” Esperon said.

“But this is where we have the built-up area, the center of the poblacion of Marawi. And so, we expect a slower advance. But nonetheless, our troops are determined and they have learned so much from the past experiences,” he added.

Esperon said the terrorists who attacked the city originally numbered more than 660, including 20 foreign fighters.

“Of course, that number has been reduced. We would admit some have escaped. We are not certain of the 70 remaining but that is the estimate of our snipers,” he said.

Via Telegram, Western Union: How ISIS in Syria funded Marawi terrorists

From Rappler (Jul 22): Via Telegram, Western Union: How ISIS in Syria funded Marawi terrorists

A report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict details how funds are transferred from the Middle East to the Philippines, and how foreign fighters are recruited to join the siege

CONFLICT. A Philippine Marines armoured personnel carrier speeds away in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on May 30, 2017, as fighting rages on the eighth day. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

CONFLICT. A Philippine Marines armoured personnel carrier speeds away in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on May 30, 2017, as fighting rages on the eighth day. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

MANILA, Philippines – In January 2017, an Indonesian terrorist named Achmad Supriyanto alias Damar, a member of the extremist group Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD), was contacted by a Malaysian professor named Dr Mahmud Ahmad. Damar had done a short training course in Basilan in Western Mindanao 8 months prior. 
Dr. Mahmud asked Damar’s help to get funds from Syria to the Philippines.
He then gave Damar, who was based in Banten, Indonesia, an account to contact via messaging app Telegram. The person instructed him to go to East Java in Indonesia, and once there, gave him another person to contact via Telegram.
Damar followed instructions. He went to the town told to him via Telegram, where he met a man he did not know. The man gave him an envelope with $10,000 or about P500,000
Similar instructions were given to Damar by Dr. Mahmud in February, which resulted in a $25,000 cash release. In March, Damar was asked to contact an operative in Syria directly. The operative, Munawar, gave him instructions via Telegram to pick up $20,000 from another Indonesian town.
Every single time, Dr. Mahmud asked Damar to send the money to different recipients in the Philippines via Western Union.
Foreign cash
Damar’s account was revealed by Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), in a report released on Friday, July 21, titled “Marawi, the ‘East Asia Wilayah’ and Indonesia.” (READ: Marawi inspired, strengthened pro-ISIS fighters in region – report)
It's not clear how IPAC got hold of Damar's account of what happened – whether in an interview with him or interrogation reports.
Indonesia arrested Damar in March 2017. In May, another man was nabbed, Rohman Septriyanto, who took Damar's place as the cash pick-up point person.

The report said that the arrested Indonesians “explained how the Malaysian arranged for funds to be sent from Syria through Indonesia and then on to the Philippines through Western Union.” The disclosures were made before the May 23 attack on Marawi, IPAC said.
The report added that the money transfers from Syria through Indonesia to the Philippines, “were likely used for the preparation of the Marawi attack.”
But it also raised the concern of other transfers from Indonesia to other countries that are still unknown.
All this indicates that the command structure in Marawi, which refers to itself as the East Asia Wilayah, received funding from ISIS in Syria – although the amount is unclear.
“According to the Philippines armed forces commander, ISIS channeled $600,000 through Dr. Mahmud, but he provided no details,” the report said.
IPAC also said that Dr. Mahmud was the main facilitator of ISIS funding for Marawi operations to be laundered through Indonesia. His whereabouts remain unknown.
On May 23, clashes between the military and local pro-ISIS terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, erupted in the capital of Lanao del Sur province. This, after the military moved to hunt down Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who had been spotted in the city.

The military said the raid served to foil a terror plan to seize Marawi City. As of July 10, 2017, the fighting, which continues to this day, has claimed the lives of more than 500 people, including soldiers and cops, rebels, and civilians.

The siege prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao, which is supposed to lapse on Saturday, July 22.

But on Saturday, the Senate and the House will hold a special session to tackle Duterte's request to extend martial law in his home region up to December this year.

Local funding
Aside from ISIS funds, there were also local funds funneled to Marawi, the report said, citing P80 million or $1.5 million cash and checks found in a Marawi house by soldiers. (READ: Maute Group waves ISIS black flag on Marawi streets)
But there’s another source of funding often overlooked, that the report points out: funding from local families.
The report said that the youth that were recruited by pro-ISIS fighters in Marawi “were reportedly devout youth from well-off families with the ability to contribute substantially to the cause.”
“Pro-ISIS groups also reportedly raised funds through supporters working at Muslim charities and dakwah centres, though not necessarily with knowledge or approval of the organisations involved,” the report added.
The report also noted that Duterte "accused the Mautes of raising funds through illegal drug-dealing but without offering evidence."
Foreign fighters
It was not just funding that pro-ISIS fighters sought from foreign supporters, but fighters as well.
Around early May, calls for Indonesians to come to the Philippines were explicit, according to the report.
"If you find it difficult to go to Sham [greater Syria] because of cost and security concerns, why not try the Philippines? Truly, our brothers in the Philippines are awaiting your arrival, why are you so slow in answering their call?" the report quoted one call for support. (READ: ISIS to followers in SE Asia: 'Go to the Philippines')
Another one said, "Does it make sense that we have a neighbor being attacked by a swarm of criminals, but we aim for a further neighbor rather than one closer by? We give more importance to the further neighbor and make the closer one lower priority? Brothers, this is not to demean efforts to emigrate to Sham, but to advise those of you who are still in the land of kafir but have not yet set out on your journey: if you find it hard to get to Syria, strengthen the ranks in the Philippines."
The report claimed that two main ISIS networks in Indonesia – some from JAD, and others from a smaller group called al-Hawariyun – eventually joined the fighting in Mindanao and sent about 20 fighters to the Marawi front.
All foreign fighters wanting to join the fighting in Marawi were also said to have first gone through Dr Mahmud. (READ: Regional intel: ISIS fighters in Mindanao triple PH's estimate)
The report warned that once these Marawi veterans return to their home countries, through their links through Dr Mahmud and to Syria, they could “not only train Indonesia’s extremist to a higher level of competence but become the instruments for the implementation of a regional ISIS strategy.”
“The risks won’t end when the military declares victory,” said Sidney Jones, IPAC director.
“Indonesia and Malaysia will face new threats in the form of returning fighters from Mindanao, and the Philippines will have a host of smaller dispersed cells with the capacity for both violence and indoctrination.”