Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Appropriate weapons system to be fitted to PHL's first SSV

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Appropriate weapons system to be fitted to PHL's first SSV

Weapons will be fitted to the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), the country's first strategic sealift vessel (SSV), to give the latter the capability to defend itself against possible threats.

At the moment, the Philippine Navy (PN) is now evaluating appropriate weapons systems for the 7,300 gross ton ship.

"We’re still looking at the design and the appropriate weapons to be attached to this vessel. Definitely we’re going to put weapons system in this particular vessel," Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said.

But since the BRP Tarlac is designated as a SSV, he stressed that whenever it goes on patrol or deployment, the PN's largest ship will be provided "force protection by our combat ships."

These escorting vessels will be provided by the PN's offshore combat force, he said.

"But definitely we’ll put in weapons systems, (so) at the very least she is able to defend herself," he said.

BRP Tarlac left the Surabaya shipyard of PT PAL (Persero) on May 9. She arrived in Manila Bay after a five-day voyage last May 14.

She can carry 500 troops at one time along with two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

She also has minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles and a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel.

The BRP Tarlac is one of the two SSVs acquired from PT PAL (Persero) for the a total of PHP3.8 billion.

The Filipino SSV was patterned after the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock. Her sister-ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017.

BRP Tarlac has an overall length of 120 meters,breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

Gov’t, Interpol intensify coordination vs. nuclear trafficking

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Gov’t, Interpol intensify coordination vs. nuclear trafficking

Local enforcement agencies and the world’s largest police organization, International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) in Manila are strengthening ties to keep people safe from nuclear trafficking and nuclear terrorism.

Involved agencies are the Manila International Airport, Philippine National Police, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Office for Transportation Security, Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Customs, and the Bureau of Immigration among others.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, Interpol screened passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as part of an international campaign against illegal trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.

The said screening of passengers and baggage, which was led by Interpol’s Radiological Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit, involved the use of specialized portable radiation detection equipment placed at passenger movement areas at NAIA Terminal 3, including the screening checkpoints and the immigration area.

These devices trigger an alarm if passers-by are positive of radioactive material. A mobile facial recognition system was also set up that identifies people involved in nuclear trafficking or with cases recorded in the Interpol database.

Results of the operation showed that no baggage or passenger was found to be with radioactive material during the conduct of the exercise.

MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado in a statement thanked the Interpol for forging collaborations that strengthen border control at primary gateways of the Philippines.

“More than ever, we are hastily transitioning to a world in which international borders are becoming less and less defined. In such a world, too, are rogue elements ready to take their chance at illegally transporting their resources,” Honrado said.

“It is, therefore, the responsibility of local enforcers to see to it that our borders are protected. I thank the Interpol for stressing its importance through this collaboration,” he added.

After the operation, training was also provided to local enforcement agencies involved in airport operations on nuclear trafficking and coordination procedures in such cases.

BRP Tarlac capable of command-and-control functions

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): BRP Tarlac capable of command-and-control functions

Aside from humanitarian and disaster relief and troop transport missions, the newly-arrived BRP Tarlac (LD-601), the country's first strategic sealift vessel (SSV), can also utilize as a command-and-control ship.

"We can utilize this ship (BRP Tarlac) for command-and-control purposes. She was designed to embark task forces and she has the communication systems (required) for that type of operation," Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said.

Command-and-control is the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commanding officer over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission.

Mercado said trained officers can be embarked for this command-and-control function, adding that BRP Tarlac has a particular area allocated for that task.

BRP Tarlac left the Surabaya shipyard of PT PAL (Persero) May 9. She arrived in Manila Bay after a five-day voyage last May 14.

She can carry 500 troops at one time besides, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

She also has minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles and a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel.

The BRP Tarlac was one of two SSVs acquired from PT PAL (Persero) for the sum of PHP3.8 billion.

The Filipino SSV was patterned after the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock. Her sister-ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017.

BRP Tarlac has a tonnage of 7,300 tons, overall length of 120 meters,breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

3 rebels, 1 trooper killed in series of clashes in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): 3 rebels, 1 trooper killed in series of clashes in Compostela Valley

Three New People's Army (NPA) fighters were killed along with a trooper from the 60th Infantry Battalion during a series of encounters in Davao Del Norte and Compostela Valley Wednesday afternoon.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the first encounter took place at 1:55 p.m. at Sitio Booy, Barangay Pinamuno, San Isidro, Davao Del Norte.

During the two-hour exchange of fires, two NPAs were killed along with one government trooper whose identity is being withheld pending notification of his next-of-kin.

Batchar said military units also recovered two improvised explosive devices (IED), a 200-meter length of detonating cord, blasting caps, subversive documents, a cellphone, and some personal belongings, along with the bodies of the fallen rebels.

In the second clash that took place 2:50 p.m. at Sitio Tugpahan, Barangay Imelda, Laak, Compostela Valley, pursuing troops recovered three M-16 automatic rifles and another IED.

In the third encounter in Sitio Booy which took place 5: 50 p.m., another rebel was killed while a AK-47 automatic rifle was recovered by government troops securing the area.

4 PAF officers, nabbed for estafa, post bail

From the Cebu Daily News (May 18): 4 PAF officers, nabbed for estafa, post bail

Air Force Lt. Gary Guinto (right, seated) and fellow Air Force officers are seen at the Warrant Section of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office. (CDN PHOTO/NORMAN MENDOZA)

Air Force Lt. Gary Guinto (right, seated) and fellow Air Force officers are seen at the Warrant Section of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office. (CDN PHOTO/NORMAN MENDOZA)
THE four Philippine Air Force personnel who were arrested last Tuesday based on warrants for a case of estafa issued by a court in Ormoc City, Leyte were released yesterday after posting P40,000 bail each.

Lt. Gary Guinto, 30; Staff Sgt. Elmer Dela Cruz, 40; Sgt. Angelo Rosema, 38; and Sgt. Gilbert Demayuga, 36, all members of the Philippine Air Force under the 560th Air Base Wing of Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base, were placed under arrest last Tuesday afternoon by virtue of a warrant of arrest for an estafa case.

They were turned over by the PAF Squadron Commander after the Lapu-Lapu City police led by SPO4 Remegio Ngujo failed to locate them at the air base last Monday.

Ngujo and his team left a message to 1st Lt. Emmanuel Palicpic, squadron commander, to surrender the four officers to the police.
Ngujo said the arrest warrants came from the Regional Trial Court Branch 35 of Ormoc City, issued by Judge Girlie Borrel-Yu, the presiding judge for the crime of estafa.

Ngujo said that the Air Force officers failed to settle their obligations in a lending firm, but Ngujo didn’t have the complainant’s information nor the amount involved.

The Air Force officers were brought to the City Prosecutor’s Office in Lapu-Lapu City where a P40,000 bail was set for each one’s temporary release.

However, they failed to post bail on time and had to spend a night in detention at the Lapu-Lapu City police detention cell.

After they posted bail yesterday, the Air Force officers were turned over to Palicpic, their squadron commander, who will conduct his own investigation against the officers.

Duterte reactivates Board of Generals

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17): Duterte reactivates Board of Generals

Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (May 16, 2016) said he has already ordered the reactivation of the Board of Generals in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that will directly work on matters on promotions and assignments of AFP and PNP officers in the country.

“Do not go to me for promotions or assignments. There is the Board of Generals which I ordered to be reactivated,” Duterte told reporters in a press conference here.

He said that as long as there is no corruption involved in the decisions that the board will arrive to, he will not overrule any of its recommendations.

“For those who want to be promoted, it must be based on the merit,” he added.

The board was created by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos through executive order no. 730 signed on September 10, 1981.

The body is headed by the Chief of Staff of the AFP as chairman with members that include the Vice Chief of Staff of the AFP; the Deputy Chief of Staff, AFP; the Commanding General of the Philippine Army; the Chief of the defunct Philippine Constabulary; the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force; the Flag Officer-In-Command of the Philippine Navy; and the Deputy Chief of Staff J-1 of the AFP as a non-voting member.

The board sets the criteria and recommends the promotion of top officers of the AFP and submits the names of the qualified people to the secretary of the Department of National Defense, then called the Minister of National Defense, for submission to the Office of the President.

Duterte also reminded those who will join the government under his administration not to get any endorsement from politicians and that their names, as applicants shall be published in national newspapers.

“Do not get any recommendations from anybody. After all, if something goes wrong and if anything will not work with you in the government, it is the president who will answer and bear the burden,” he said

TF-Davao ​has new commander

From the often pro=CPP online publication the Davao Today (May 19): TF-Davao ​has new commander

NEW COMMANDER. Col.Henry A. Robinson, Jr talks during the change of command in Task Force Davao headquarters, Wednesday afternnon. (Ace R. Morandante/

NEW COMMANDER. Col.Henry A. Robinson, Jr talks during the change of command in Task Force Davao headquarters, Wednesday afternnon. (Ace R. Morandante/
The Task Force Davao  has a new commander in Colonel Henry Robinson Jr., whose new duties were formally turned over to him by outgoing Colonel George Lalaquil during the Change of Command Ceremony, Wednesday, May 18.
Prior to his designation, Robinson was the chief of staff of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Division Inspector General of the 10th Infantry Division, Deputy Personnel Officer of the Philippine Army, and Commander of 23rd and 29th Infantry Battalions under the 4th Infantry Division.

Robinson said that the TF Davao will continue on its mission based on president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s guidance, and that if there is “teamwork with other components of the government agencies like the Philippine National Police and the law enforcement agencies, then there is no way that criminality would thrive in the city.”

“I have to wait for the guidance of our mayor Rodrigo Duterte, of course I am really glad and appreciate that he approved my designation here as the commander of Task Force Davao,” Robinson told reporters after the ceremony.

He said that the task force has accomplished “a lot” when it comes to criminality. “It’s basic function is to counter terrorism, we will not allow any terrorist action within the city of Davao,” he said.

The ceremony held at the TF Davao headquarters in Sta. Ana Wharf, here was presided by Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division.

The change of command took place, said Valencia, because former Task Force Commander Colonel Cristobal Zaragosa was designated as a brigade commander in Agusan del Sur before the elections. Adding that because of the election preparations and because they could not designate a full-time commander, Colonel Lalaquil assumed as OIC for 33 days.

The event was also attended by the city mayor’s chief of staff, Atty. Neil Dalumpines, in representation of the supposed guest of honor and speaker president-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

Talks between Duterte, communists underway

From The Standard (May 19): Talks between Duterte, communists underway

Talks are already underway between the Communist Party of the Philippines and the camp of President-in-waiting Rodrigo Duterte, the chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front, Fidel Agcaoili, said Wednesday.

The NDF also confirmed that Duterte has promised a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

“There were already talks with Mayor Duterte early  Tuesday  morning. We discussed how the peace process would move between the NDF and [the government],” Agcaoili said in a TV interview on CNN Philippines.

Duterte also bared plans to meet exiled CPP founder, Jose Ma. Sison, Agcaoili said.

On Tuesday  morning, the NDF negotiator handed Duterte a bag full of books from Sison, who is in exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Sison told The Standard in an interview  Tuesday  that he would offer an immediate and mutal ceasefire with the incoming administration as the leftists prepare to nominate members to join Duterte’s new Cabinet.
From Utrecht with love. National Democratic Front peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili hands over to President-apparent Rodrigo Duterte a bag full of books from Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison at Duterte’s temporary office in Matina, Davao City.
Agcaoili stressed the need for formal talks about procedures for the peace process.“There should be extensive discussions on mutual ceasefire and agreements on social, economic and political reforms,” Agcaoili said.

In another television interview  on Wednesday  night, Duterte said his decision for progressives to join the ranks of his government would ensure an improvement of ties with the communists.

“Remember that I was elected as president on a basis of [what] I said, I will try to improve things in this country and make it comfortable for everybody,” Duterte told GMA News.

On Monday, Duterte offered four Cabinet positions to the CPP, namely the departments of Agrarian Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, Labor and Employment, and Social Welfare and Development.

Asked about the seriousness of his pronouncement, Duterte said that he just wants an end to the ideological war that killed thousands.

“Why? The military faction is there, there are rightists in the government, the elite that controls the economy. Do you want to fight forever? Do you want to elect government after government, 20 governments in a row [and] you want to fight to death? Is that what you want,” Duterte said.

He also reiterated his campaign promise to talk to rebel groups—the New People’s Army, the Moro National Liberation Front, and Moro Islamic Liberation Front— during his term.

“The communist rebels are not criminals. They fight for ideology. The fight is intellectual. So that life will change, they need a new setup for a new order,” Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said in Filipino.

He added that he believed the military and police would be loyal to their commander-in-chief, despite their reservations over the involvement of communists.

“They trust Mayor Duterte. They believe in him.... They will follow the commander-in-chief,” he added.

NDF chairman Luis Jalandoni said Duterte plans to grant an amnesty to all political prisoners in a bid to end a four-decade communist insurgency.

“We are pleased that Duterte said there would be a general amnesty once he becomes president,” Jalandoni told radio dzMM in Filipino.

Jalandoni said there are currently 543 political prisoners, 88 of whom are sick and elderly. Out of the total, 18 are also NDF peace consultants while three were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The NDF chairman said peace negotiations with the Duterte administration would succeed because of his openness to work things out with the CPP.

“In our view, that’s a big factor so that we can obtain peace and national unity,” he said.

Peace talks between the Aquino administration and the CPP-NDF collapsed in February 2011, after the communists insisted on the release of its consultants as a prerequisite for talks.

But Agcaoili said their side demanded nothing, while Aquino said they had to lay down their arms.

Outgoing House deputy minority leader and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III  on Wednesday  said he has accepted the offer by Duterte to serve as peace negotiator with the communists.

Bello said Sison’s offer of an immediate and mutual ceasefire was a positive development.

“This could pave the way for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations,” Bello, former Justice secretary, said in a text message to The Standard.

At the same time, Bello said Duterte’s offer to give the communists four key Cabinet posts was a “gesture of building bridges.”

Bello had led peace talks with the communists in 2004, but those bogged down after the US included Sison and the CPP-NPA on its terrorist list.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, a member of the leftist Makabayan bloc, echoed Bello’s optimism about the peace talks.

Zarate said the Makabayan bloc in the House will fully support Duterte.

Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said the Armed Forces of the Philippines can easily adjust to the security plan that Duterte wants to pursue to unify the country and bring about genuine peace and security.

“We in the military can always adapt to any kind of situation, from war to peace and development. Who would not want this insurgency to end? If peace is attainable without killing each other, then let’s join hands to take that path,” Visaya said.

Duterte is expected to name Visaya as his first military chief after he called him a “vibrant general.”

Visaya is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class 1983.

Asked if the AFP’s anti-insurgency program Internal Peace and Security Plan or IPSP Bayanihan is history in view of Duterte’s overall peace plan to enjoin the communists led by Jose Maria Sison in his government, Visaya said this would be determined by the outcome of the peace talks.

“The president-elect knows very well what he is doing. We’ve a chain of command of which he is the commander-in-chief of the AFP,” Visaya said.

“We always want to attain peace as fast as we can because it has been 47 long, long years. The rebellion caused by the communist rebels had very damaging effects on our economy. Again, we’ve to stop killing each other, let’s unite because we’ve a bigger challenge that our sovereign nation is facing.... We’ve to hasten efforts to modernize our AFP,” Visaya added.

In a statement released  Wednesday, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay welcomed Duterte’s plan to release all political prisoners through a general amnesty.

“This will partly give justice to the political prisoners, whose rights were violated,” she said.

She said that at present there are 543 documented political prisoners languishing in different government jails across the country.

“Majority, if not all, of the political prisoners were detained based on trumped-up criminal charges against them, violating their rights under the GPH-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees,” Palabay said.

“There should be no set conditions on the release of political prisoners, especially the obligation to admit guilt because the political prisoners did not commit the crimes charged against them,” she added.

Karapatan records show that the political prisoners have been charged with common crimes such as arson, murder, frustrated murder and other similar crimes.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV  on Wednesday  warned that the communists would take advantage of Dutertes offer of Cabinet posts.

In a text message, the former Navy officer noted that there should be requisites to such a “generous offer.”

“Otherwise, Joma Sison and the other communists might take advantage and use this freedom, power and influence to actually strengthen their forces to pursue their cause,” Trillanes said.

“Do we really believe that Joma Sison will truly give up his communist aspirations? Would the political detainees to be given amnesty, like the Tiamsons, be swearing an oath of allegiance to our government and permanently lay down their arms?” said Trillanes.

He said trying to include leftists in the government had not worked during the time of the late President Corazon Aquino.

“We should learn from history,” he added.

Malaysia to strengthen peace efforts in Mindanao

From Free Malaysia Today (May 19): Malaysia to strengthen peace efforts in Mindanao


DAVAO CITY: Malaysia has promised to work with new Philippine President Rodrigo R Duterte to bring lasting peace to Mindanao which has been riven by conflict.

The Philippine’s Business Online quoted Malaysian Consul-General Abdullah Zawawi Tahir as saying Putrajaya would further strengthen its commitment for a lasting peace in Mindanao.

The Malaysian Government has been acting as the mediator in the peace process between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Aside from hosting the peace negotiations, Putrajaya has also sent top military officials to become part of the International Monitoring Team overseeing a ceasefire between the MILF and the Philippine military.

Business Online quoted Abdullah Zawawi, who has been the top Malaysian official in Davao City since 2012, as saying Malaysia considered Duterte as “the best leader for the job”.

Duterte was Davao City Mayor before contesting and winning the recent presidential election. One of his election pledges is to work towards ensuring lasting peace in Mindanao and bring development to the island.

Abdullah Zawawi said it was time for the Philippine government to develop Mindanao because it had a lot of resources, particularly human resources. However, he said, many of the skilled workers were outside the country.

Saying these Filipinos should “come home” to help the Philippines, he added that in Malaysia alone there were about 25,000 Filipino experts in information technology who could be enticed to come home if there were opportunities for them.

He said the Philippines could also learn from the experience of Malaysia in the implementation of a federal system of government.

Duterte has been pushing for federalism, which, he said, would help resolve the armed conflicts in Mindanao as well as alleviate poverty in the hinterlands, according to the report.

Philippine Militants Trying to Unite with Other IS Support Groups

From Benar News (May 16): Philippine Militants Trying to Unite with Other IS Support Groups


In this image taken from a video disseminated online by IS Lanao, a young person plays with a shot-down Philippine military drone.

The militant group Islamic State (IS) Lanao has claimed that it shot down a drone operated by the Philippine armed forces as it flew a reconnaissance mission over Lanao del Sur, on the southern island of Mindanao, in early May.

The group also released an online video showing in-flight images taken by the drone’s camera as it took off and came down, as well as footage of an IS Lanao fighter playing with the small unmanned aerial vehicle after it fell to the ground.

In the video titled “Allah is the Best of Those who Plot,” narrator Abu Hafs al-Mashriqi (alias Abu Hafs from the East) greets IS fighters in the Philippines in Arabic and urges Muslims to pledge allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

This move by IS Lanao to reach out to other threat groups and seek unification with them reveals an emerging IS centric threat landscape in the Philippines. If the disparate IS support groups link up, the threat posed by IS in the Philippines will be resilient and sustained.

Seeking acceptance

Islamic State Lanao is led by Abdullah Maute (alias Abu Hasan), a graduate of al-Azhar University in Egypt. The group was previously known as the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM).

Under the supervision of the Office of the Chief of Philippine National Police (OCPNP) a Task Force officially known by the acronym TFMKI was created in 2013 to dismantle the group.

Of the IS support groups, Islamic State Lanao is one of the groups that pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but IS Central, based in Raqqa, Syria, has not accepted IS Lanao.

The Philippine group is not a part of the country’s official IS branch, IS Philippines consists of three groups: al Harakat ul Islamiyah Basilan, led by Isnilon Hapilon; Ansar Khilafah Mindanao, led by Muhammad Jafaar Maguid (alias Tokboy); and Jund ul Tawhid, led by Amin Baco.

In its video, IS Lanao is reaching out for acceptance to IS Central and IS Philippines.
Mohd Najib Husen (alias Abu Anas Al Muhajir), who was appointed as head of the Ansar al-Sharia of the IS Philippines, was killed in a firefight with the Philippine military in Basilan in December. A Malaysian, Najib operated with other Malaysians.

These personalities and groups in the Philippines seek to emulate IS Central by attacking government forces, incarcerating Filipinos – including Muslims – and beheading “spies” and Christians.

In April, Islamic State Lanao took six Philippine sawmill workers hostage and demanded the release of an IS Lanao fighter captured two months earlier by the Philippine army. The group emulated IS Central by parading the men in orange jumpsuits. Thereafter, IS Lanao beheaded two of the men whom it branded as “disbeliever spies.”

Diffused groups

The IS threat in the Philippines is decentralized, diffused and evolving. There is no one central group. The Philippine government did not take the threat of IS seriously until the threat grew and expanded.

The reporting of the threat was both by government security agencies but also by the Filipino journalist Mohommad Saaduddin, who wrote about the emergence of the IS threat in the southern Philippines.

Those operating with IS support groups in the Philippines include other Southeast Asians and Arabs. A Moroccan fighter, Muhammad Khattab Al-Maghribi Al-Muhajir, who wore a black shirt bearing the IS logo, last month was killed in a clash between Philippine forces and IS Philippines.

Another group harboring foreigners is Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which also pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Although IS Central did not accept BIFF. The group, led by Ismael Abubakar, and Rajah Solaiman Movement, led by Ahmad Santos, hope to unite and work under the IS black banner.

In Maguindanao, BIFF hosted Malaysians Amin Baco and Zulkifli Bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman (the special operations group leader for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF]) prior to the killing of 44 members of a police tactical unit in Mamasapano in January 2015. It was a sad moment for the nation.

In Mindanao, the potential for threat groups to cooperate is high. Some MILF commanders have family connections or other ties to the key personalities in IS Lanao. Abdullah Maute is the cousin of Jannati Mimbantas, the present base commander of the MILF Northeastern Command based in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Some members of IS Lanao have links with the late Umbra Kato, the founder of BIFF. Fortunately for Manila, the MILF, under Haji Murad, opposes IS.

After Haji Murad assumed leadership, MILF’s relationship with the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah was severed. Unlike his predecessor Hashim Salamat, Haji Murad considered ASG, JI – and now IS –as strategic liabilities. The mainstream MILF cut ties with ASG and JI, but splinter groups within MILF, such as BIFF, have maintained links and hosted foreign fighters.

A win for IS

The downing of a drone operated by the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) is a victory for IS.

Islamic State Lanao is likely to share the technical capability with other threat groups. Because IS support groups in Southeast Asia are linked, they are likely to know about the technical capabilities of drones.

To fight against IS-centric threat groups, the AFP will have to study the operational failures and carefully plan and prepare operations. The Philippine government generated accurate intelligence reports but its military failed to act decisively.

Weeks before the May 9 presidential election, reports pointed to the “the terror group in Lanao” continuing to consolidate its position and planning an attack against government troops on election day.

On the eve of the election, the group attacked the local power grid. Similarly, IS Lanao operated a training camp in Jabal Uhud in Butig. However, the Philippine military was not able to dismantle the facility but only disrupt the training.

A larger body of highly trained troops willing to dominate the terrain, where IS has now established a presence, is now needed.

14 rebel returnees from Cotabato receive cash assistance —governor

From GMA News (May 18): 14 rebel returnees from Cotabato receive cash assistance —governor

14 former members of the New People’s Army from four towns in Cotabato received on Tuesday P50, 000 each under the rebel returnees assistance program, a provincial official said.

Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza said that at least P700, 000 in cash was given to the beneficiaries during a ceremony led by the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Top local executives as well as high-ranking Philippine Army and Philippine National Police officials witnessed the turnover rites.

 The former NPA rebels returned to the fold of law last year under the government's Balik Baril Program (BBP).

 Mendoza said the 14 rebel returnees were composed of 10 male and four female former combatants from the towns of Magpet, Arakan, Mlang and Kidapawan City.

She said the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) evaluated the livelihood project proposals of the returnees as a requirement for the release of the assistance fund.

 For his part, Interior provincial director Ali B. Abdullah said that the program is being offered to members of NPA who expressed the desire to abandon armed violence and willingness to be reintegrated in society.

 Also, he said the same batch of 14 returnees received last year P15,000 each as immediate assistance upon surrendering their firearms to authorities.

 Meanwhile, provincial social welfare office chief Vergilita Guilaran appealed to the public to help the government in making the integration process successful to encourage more rebels to return to the embrace of the government.

NPA owns execution of ex-cop on Gingoog City mayor's council slate

From InterAksyon (May 18): NPA owns execution of ex-cop on Gingoog City mayor's council slate

NPA guerillas stand in formation in a show of force in a hinterland village in San Luis, Agusan del Sur. ERWIN MASCARINAS, INTERAKSYON.COM

The New People’s Army (NPA) has released a statement owning the "execution" of a retired police officer and a candidate for city councilor in Gingoog City on Monday morning.

The communist rebels described retired officer Francisco Baguiz as an abusive man involved in oppressing indigenous communities, but Mayor Marie Guingona, who had picked him as part of her slate in the last elections, was shocked, describing him as a simple and kind man. "His death is a tragic loss for our city and our people. I vehemently and unequivocally denounce his dastardly murder."

According to the statement issued Wednesday by Ka Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA-North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command, some 50 rebels manning a "checkpoint" had carried out the " judgment for the punishment of death" on retired SPO4 Francisco “Dodong” R. Baguiz about 10 a.m. in Sitio Kidahon, Barangay Malinao, Gingoog City.

"For a long time, the Indigenous People (IP) and farmers had complained about land grabbing in Syoan, Malinao and other parts of Gingoog City. He also has a case with the revolutionary movement on the killings of tribal leaders and residents who are just defending their ancestral lands,” said the rebel leader.

Baguiz was the subject of an earlier operation by the NPA in December 2005, but survived the assassination try, said the rebels.“ Unfortunately, he did not learn and continued with his counter revolutionary activities and actions against the people,” said the NPA statement.

Ka Allan Juanito said Baguiz was also allegedly involved in extortion, using the name and logo of the NPA, "and anti-revolutionary activities by the cult-like group Gintong Araw in which Baguiz was believed to be the leader." 

The NPA statement claimed rebels confiscated two AR-15 assault rifles, 14 ammunition magazines, caliber .45 and .40 pistols and two radios.

Roger Gamayot Roselem, a former army militiaman and bodyguard to Baguiz, said in a police report that the victim, together with his sons and daughters and other members of the Gintong Araw religious group, were riding a Toyota Hilux enroute to Barangay Talisay when they were stopped by what turned out to be a rebel checkpoint.

Roselem's account to the police said: “More or less fifty fully armed men wearing army uniform blocked their way to Barangay Malinao. Baquiz was immediately handcuffed and brought alone 30 meters away, leaving his companions behind.”

The police report suggests that the victim suffered four fatal stab wounds in his body, resulting to his death.

Mayor shocked, demands justice

Gingoog City Mayor Marie Guingona expressed shock, as Baguiz was a part of her council line-up during the May 9 elections.

“Mr. Baguiz was a friend, a retired police officer, a member of our slate as a candidate for city councilor in the most recent local elections, and a long-time supporter. He was also a leader in our community, and a father to his many followers. His death is a tragic loss for our city and our people. I vehemently and unequivocally denounce his dastardly murder. I therefore call on all law enforcement agencies to do everything under the law to bring the vicious perpetrators to justice,” said Guingona.

Superintendent Surki Sereñas, spokesperson of Police Regional Office 10, said they are awaiting the statements of more witnesses.

“The regional police office is acting on it, we are just waiting for the witnesses to give out their statements and hopefully we can then file the case, hopefully as soon as possible. We condemn the act of violence in putting the law in their hands, this person is working for the community, a community organizer and a retired policeman,” said Sereñas.

Philippine Elections: Politics and Peace Make Strange Bedfellows

From the Asia Foundation (May 18): Philippine Elections: Politics and Peace Make Strange Bedfellows

On May 9, a record-breaking 81.6 percent of Filipino voters went to the polls to elect a new president. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who ran a tough-talking, polarizing campaign that focused on criminality and promised to instill law and order, won with over 38 percent of the votes.

On May 9, a record-breaking 81.6 percent of Filipino voters went to the polls to elect a new president. Voters line up in Butig Lanao del Sur. Photo by Derkie Alfonso
On May 9, a record-breaking 81.6 percent of Filipino voters went to the polls to elect a new president. Voters line up in Butig Lanao del Sur. Photo by Derkie Alfonso

Aside from issues of criminality, the Philippines also experiences a number of long-running conflicts involving armed groups including Muslim separatists, communists, clan militias, and private armies of politicians. As mayor of Davao, Duterte has a long history of dealing harshly with criminals and banning private armies, but at the same time, having cordial relations with insurgent groups, both Muslim and communist, that have a presence in the hinterlands of his sprawling city. During the campaign, one of the themes was his willingness to reach out.

Leaders of Moro separatist groups – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – have publically declared their support for Duterte, with the MILF’s chair calling him a “true son of Mindanao.” (Stay tuned for more analysis on implications for this peace process.)

Duterte and his team have also been in a very public conversation with the leadership of the communist insurgency, even going so far as to announce plans to give some cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The CPP is considered to be one of the oldest communist insurgencies in the world and its declared aim is to overthrow the Philippine government using guerrilla-style warfare.

Rodrigo Duterte (right) receives Army Sgt. Adriano Bingil (left, in white shirt) from the New Peoples Army in Barangay Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte on New Year’s eve, Dec. 31, 2015. Bingil was released after 104 days in captivity. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Rodrigo Duterte (right) receives Army Sgt. Adriano Bingil (left, in white shirt) from the New Peoples Army in Barangay Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte on New Year’s eve, Dec. 31, 2015. Bingil was released after 104 days in captivity. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

During the campaign period, Davao multimedia cooperative Kilab released video of Duterte chatting online with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair (and National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ “chief political consultant”) Jose Maria “Joma” Sison. Shortly before the elections, the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP, handed over batches of “Prisoners of War” (police and soldiers captured in encounters) to Duterte. Since the election, Joma has said that he expects Duterte to visit him in Utrecht, Netherlands (where he has been in self-exile for almost 30 years), although this seems unlikely now that the first presidential visits are expected to be to ASEAN countries. Much attention has been given to the fact that Duterte was Joma’s student for a college course in Manila in the late 1960s before Martial Law, and Joma has expressed his hope to visit the Philippines. Meanwhile, anti-American leftists in the Philippines connect with Duterte’s suspicion of U.S. motives and actions, most spectacularly around a 2002 suspicious explosion in Davao city that was followed by an American being spirited out of the country over Mayor Duterte’s objections.

Rhetoric notwithstanding, is it possible that Duterte’s personal connections and public pronouncements could accelerate peace negotiations with the NDFP, bringing to a close decades of communist-inspired internal warfare?

The task will be difficult, as demonstrated by many years of failed attempts at negotiation. The initial rounds of negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) under President Noynoy Aquino in 2010 and 2011 seemed to be making progress. However, talks then and subsequently foundered on the issue of release of detainees, said to be NDFP “consultants,” who are covered by the 1995 Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). When both negotiating panels flew to the Netherlands to open the sealed envelope that was supposed to contain the real names and photos of NDFP consultants, they found diskettes that the rebel group claimed to contain the relevant data. The diskettes, however, could not be decrypted leading to the decision not to release the detainees. The information was not forthcoming and the peace talks have repeatedly stalled since.

Nevertheless, Duterte and his team have indicated a willingness to release the detained NDFP consultants. However, the Philippine security forces have up until now been trumpeting their success in capturing the NPA leadership. The release of high-value individuals such as Wilma and Benito Tiamson (the leaders of the underground movement in the Philippines who were on the military’s most wanted list since 2012 and were arrested in Cebu in 2014) may be opposed by the security establishment, particularly as the government believes that many of those previously released returned to the armed struggle. Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the NDFP in the peace talks, has declared the Tiamsons as NDFP consultants and are therefore covered by JASIG. Jalandoni also said that the Tiamsons have acknowledgment letters as consultants from Silvestro Bello III, who had previously been chief government negotiator for these talks, and who Duterte will once again tap.

Substantive issues in negotiations with the NDFP are also likely to be difficult. No sooner had the Duterte transition team outlined their 8-point economic agenda than analysts denounced it as a continuation of “neoliberal strategies.” The leftist political party Bayan, which had allied with rival presidential candidate Grace Poe, declared Duterte’s economic agenda “a continuation of the neoliberal poison imposed on the people by the Aquino regime” – at which point a Duterte spokesman shot back that “the left continues to make the same mistakes and doesn’t learn.”
There are additional ideological issues that would arise in any negotiation or cooperation between the government and the NDFP. Duterte recently offered four cabinet positions to the communists: Environment, Agrarian Reform, Labor, and Social Work (DENR, DAR, DOLE, and DSWD). While the presumptive president agrees with the NDFP that the current agrarian reform program should be abolished they disagree on other issues. For instance, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) administers the government’s conditional cash transfer, which the World Bank has rated one of the best in the world, but the NDFP has demanded its termination on the grounds that it merely encourages mendicancy.

While Duterte has the political will, relevant background, personal connections, first-hand experience, and people on his team with experience in negotiating with the NDFP, many obstacles remain to peace negotiations. As the Communist Party of the Philippines said in its May 15 statement: “There will be no honeymoon with the Duterte regime” and “the people’s war is set to press forward under the Duterte regime.” While progress can be monitored, early movement is likely to be slow, and political contestation will continue.

[Anna Tasnim Basman is an assistant program officer for The Asia Foundation in the Philippines, and Steven Rood is country representative there. Basman can be reached at and Rood at and @StevenRoodPH on Twitter. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.]

Islamic State In Southeast Asia: Internalized Wahhabism Is Major Factor – Analysis

From Eurasia Review (May 18): Islamic State In Southeast Asia: Internalized Wahhabism Is Major Factor – Analysis (By Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid1)

 Southeast Asia and Islamic State

Southeast Asia and Islamic State

The ascendancy of the terrorist outfit the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh – after its Arabic acronym, seemed to have eclipsed other manifestations of global Islamist violence. ISIS’s notoriety is attributable to, among other things, its spectacular brutality, territorial gains and apocalyptic ideology. ISIS believes that its feats will trigger the advent of the promised Islamic saviour, Imam al-Mahdi, who will lead Muslims to ultimate victory in the Al-Malhamah al-Kubra – the Great War between good and evil, Islamic eschatology’s equivalent to the Battle of Armageddon. ISIS’s official online journal, Dabiq, is named after a northern Syrian town which features in eschatological traditions as one of the battlefields.2

According to ISIS’s methodology, violence is deliberately employed and sensationalized worldwide as a ‘trauma weaponizing’ exercise. Emotional trauma is intentionally inflicted in order to not only instil fear, anger and hopelessness among populations under its control, but also to sow impressions of ISIS’s invincibility among the larger viewing public.3 Such a tactic was instrumental in attracting large numbers of Muslim youths, including from Southeast Asia, to embark on a life-time journey of hijrah (emigration) to areas administered by ISIS in the Middle East. Credible reports indicate that not a few Southeast Asian Muslims from seemingly harmless backgrounds have joined the ranks of ISIS, even forming Malay-speaking chapters such as Katibah Nusantara and its rival Katibah Masyaariq.4

A great number of them, comprising mostly Indonesians and Malaysians, were radicalized by ISIS’s online propaganda before travelling to the Middle East. Many were arrested along the way by security forces. Between 95 to 98 percent of Malaysia’s ISIS’s recruits, for example, are believed to have been inducted via social media, with numbers fast increasing beyond the estimated 200 joint Indonesian-Malaysian fighters in Katibah Nusantara.5 Lamentably, in Indonesia, incarceration serves not as an obstacle to but rather a potential medium of terrorist indoctrination.6 Indeed, being within prison walls have not deterred veteran radicals such as Abu Bakar Baasyir from swearing allegiance to ISIS via cyberspace. It was in jail also that Abu Bakar Basyir met Aman Abdurrahman, who is today considered Indonesia’s chief ISIS ideologue after his pledge of loyalty to the group in April 2014.7 However, they have reportedly fallen out with one another over the Islamic legality of resorting to judicial review to quash one’s conviction whilst serving a prison sentence.8

Since the terrorist attack in Jakarta on 14 January 2016, Southeast Asian governments have come to realize that ISIS-inspired attacks on home soil, however uncoordinated the plans may have been and even if they involved different factions vying to seize the initiative to boost their legitimacy in the eyes of their parent Middle Eastern organization, pose a real threat. From late 2015 onwards, both Malaysia and Indonesia have been constantly mentioned in ISIS’s magazine Dabiq as targets for terrorist operations. The message to the would-be militants is chilling enough: they need no longer bother to emigrate to lands of the ISIS caliphate if circumstances do not permit them to do so. They are, however, encouraged to commit their macabre deeds anywhere else where ISIS’s foes are present:
As for the Muslim who is unable to perform hijrah from dārulkufr to the Khilāfah, then there is much opportunity for him to strike out against the kāfir enemies of the Islamic State. There are more than seventy crusader nations, tāghūt regimes, apostate armies, rāfidī militias, and sahwah factions for him to choose from. Their interests are located all over the world. He should not hesitate in striking them wherever he can. In addition to killing crusader citizens anywhere on the earth, what, for example, prevents him from targeting Rāfidī communities in Dearborn (Michigan), Los Angeles, and New York City? Or targeting Panamanian diplomatic missions in Jakarta, Doha, and Dubai? Or targeting Japanese diplomatic missions in Bosnia, Malaysia, and Indonesia?9

Such instigation by ISIS targets not only operatives with known networking linkages to ISIS but also, more frighteningly, lone wolves whose daily movements are unlikely to be within the security apparatus’ surveillance radar. According to Malaysian terrorism researcher Ahmad el-Muhammady, potential militants are instructed to blend in with local communities, secure their trust so as to avoid detection, and exhibit no outward sign of embracing puritanical beliefs.10 ISIS is known to have praised lone wolf attackers such as Man Haron Monis, who held 18 people hostage in a Sydney café before being gunned down in December 2014,11 and might unabashedly even claim credit for such daring stunts.

Developments such as those outlined above have prompted some security experts to forecast an impending proclamation of a satellite ISIS caliphate in Southeast Asia, but with the Philippines rather than Indonesia and Malaysia being the more likely candidate as the host for such a node. The weakness of the anti-terrorist infrastructure in the Philippines, plus recent pledges of support from local militants of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), are cited to back such a foreboding.12 From a longer term perspective, however, Joseph Liow, in an expert testimony before the USA House of Representatives Committee, recently warned that the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which was responsible for a spate of terrorist attacks across Indonesia including the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, poses a more resilient and durable threat to Southeast Asia.13 This remark dovetails with another observation, that since its apparent overshadowing by ISIS, JI has been diligently focusing on disseminating radical ideology rather than engaging in fifth column armed strikes.14


The apparently growing appeal of Islamist extremism in Southeast Asia is reflected in the results of several surveys conducted over the past few years by the USA-based Pew Research Centre. While there is little doubt that religious extremism in itself still lacks general appeal among the Muslim populace of Indonesia and Malaysia and indeed the entire ummah, the relatively low level of concern over rising Islamist extremism among Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims indicates a worrying trend of institutionalization of radical interpretations of Islam in the general Islamic landscape of both countries. Pew’s Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey, for instance, reveals that only 26 percent and 20 percent of Malaysian and Indonesian Muslims respectively are very worried about Islamist extremism. Among those who are very concerned about the ISIS threat, only 48 percent of Malaysian Muslims and 25 percent of Indonesian Muslims share similar concerns about Islamist extremism.15

More Malaysian Muslims (11 percent) express a favourable view of ISIS than do Indonesian Muslims (4 percent).16 Proportionately more Indonesian Muslims (53 percent) express worry about Muslim extremist groups than do Malaysian Muslims (8 percent), who are more worried, at 31 percent, about Christian extremists.17 Malaysian Muslims also vary significantly from their Indonesian counterparts in apocalyptic fervour, with 62 percent of the former in comparison to only 23 percent of the latter expecting Imam al-Mahdi’s advent during their lifetime.18 The survey results, while not amounting to an endorsement of radicalism per se, do however support the thesis that the understanding of what constitutes religious extremism has shifted in a more rigid direction, and perhaps more so in Malaysia than in Indonesia. In other words, an extremist attitude of yesteryears may now not be seen as being radical enough to warrant serious attention from the authorities.

Quoting from surveys that portray significant portions of Malaysian Muslims as approving measured violence against those deemed enemies of Islam,19 both Joseph Liow and James Chin lament the role of the Malaysian state in politicizing Islam in narrowly essentializing terms, in contrast with Islam’s rich and pluralistic intellectual tradition, thus setting the stage for the acceptance of Islamist extremist categories into mainstream public discourse on Islam.20 Chin further pinpoints Malaysia’s ethnocentric Islamic discourse, obsessed as it is with the idea of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) and now given a new brand of legitimacy as Ketuanan Islam (Islamic supremacy) supposedly aimed at creating a Malay- Islamic state, as the prime source of the radicalization of Malaysian Islam such as to threaten Malaysia’s character as a democratic nation state.21

Other commentators have sought to downplay the religious factor in explaining Southeast Asian Muslims’ seemingly uncharacteristic turn towards Islamist extremism of late. In attempts to perhaps absolve Islam of blame for the violent antics of Muslim terrorists, they display a typical social science bias against religion as a mobilizing force by mainly looking at socio-economic conditions and personal motivations as overriding factors in the gravitation towards Islamist violence.22

Whichever way we try to explain it, the phenomenon of rising Islamist extremism in Southeast Asia is cause enough for worry for the future of both intra-Muslim and inter-faith relations in the region, once a proud bastion of harmonious plural societies. While such a scenario may still be short of a crisis, and the majority of Southeast Asian Muslims remain moderate in character, the mainstreaming of categories and traits once discursively located in the Islamist radical fringe is undeniably a cause for concern. The fact that actual ISIS networks in Southeast Asia remain weak and haphazard is secondary to the ideological conditioning, some of which have been supported by elements of the state whether consciously or inadvertently, that opens the door for acceptance of pro-Islamist orientations by the masses.23 In such a pro-Islamist-driven climate continuously fuelled by widespread Islamophobia, solitary terrorist stunts that are ISIS-inspired though not directly ISIS- connected,24 can potentially destabilize Southeast Asia’s religio-cultural pluralism in the long term.


In nailing down the growth of extremist tendencies within Southeast Asian Islam to the institutionalization of Islamism in the body politic, parlance and psyche of Muslim political actors in the region, it is important not to bark up the wrong tree. The problem here lies with Islamism rather than Islam per se. Islamists or adherents of Islamism have ideologically politicized Islam such that matters of faith, spirit and morality – cardinal elements of a religion, are overwhelmed by politico-legal considerations in efforts to accomplish the ostensibly noble task of erecting an Islamic state (dawlah Islamiyyah). Driven by the belief that Islam provides comprehensive solutions to all problems of life once its systems are implemented, a political Islamist invariably regards a sharia-based juridical state on earth as the be-all and end-all of the Islamic struggle.

Such fervent conviction in the completeness of Islam as a way of life has given birth to haraki (movement)-type Islamist groups worldwide, many of which are modelled upon and cemented linkages with Egypt’s Ikhwan al-Muslimun (MB: Muslim Brotherhood). While MB founder Hassan al-Banna (1906-49) was known to have been a member of the Hasafiya sufi (spiritual) order, the exile of MB activists particularly to Saudi Arabia in the wake of regime-orchestrated repression radicalized MB’s discourse by marrying the thoughts of Sayyid Qutb (1906-66) with the theological principles of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) of Nejd, notorious for his abhorrence of sufism and large-scale excommunication (takfir) of fellow Muslims. This ideological combination produced the violence-legitimating strand of salafi-jihadism, as represented par excellence in the person of Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989) of Al-Qaeda and the Afghan war fame.25 Essentially a merger between Qutbism and Wahhabism, salafi-jihadism in Southeast Asia is epitomized by JI.26 In this unholy ideological alliance, what has effectively happened is the Wahhabi co-optation of Salafism, referring to the school of thought that advocates a return to the puritanical teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and the pious predecessors (al-salaf al- salih) among his companions and early generations i.e. until 300 years since his death. This Wahhabi hijacking of Salafism, marshalled by such scholars as Nasiruddin al-Albani (1914- 99),27 was not confined to Southeast Asia. Under the patronage of Saudi Arabia and powered by petrodollars, it became an ummatic trend such that the term salafi as now employed in global Islamist terminology refers almost exclusively to the Wahhabi-Salafi trend.28

The problem with Wahhabism is its takfiri ideology resulting from an exclusivist understanding of Islamic monotheism (tawhid), which arguably led to widespread bloodshed against those deemed to have fallen outside the scope of Islamic faith. In the history of Wahhabi expansionism in Arabia, which ensued from Muhammad ibn Abd al- Wahhab’s political collaboration with a tribal leader, Muhammad ibn Saud (1710-1765), violence was wantonly perpetrated against Muslims accused of committing shirk (idolatry) and bid’ah (blasphemous innovation). Research into Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s own writings, plus testimonies from his contemporaries among both friends and foes, confirms his sanctioning and even encourages militant jihad against Muslims deemed to have crossed the line of apostasy by way of polytheistic behaviour.29 In addition, the Wahhabi doctrine of al-wala’ wa al-bara’ (loyalty and disavowal) advocates total separation in all spheres of Muslim and non-Muslim lives, thus promoting a dichotomous worldview of two distinctive abodes i.e. of Islam and infidelity, being irreconcilably entangled in a state of perpetual war where violence is normal and civilian loss of lives legitimized as unavoidable collateral damage. As a consequence, Islam becomes essentialized as Islamism – a supremacist and ethnocentric dogma that instrumentalizes coercion and violence as its most potent weapon.30

Whilst the more extreme tendencies of Wahhabism have been much toned down throughout the years by the Saud ruling dynasty in the interest of modern statehood and international relations norms, Saudi Arabia’s dissemination of Wahhabi thought in the guise of Salafism has proceeded apace since the 1970s. This evangelical fervour was further buoyed by its desire to outflank post-revolutionary Iran in the rival claim for the true mantle of an Islamic state, with traditional Wahhabi antipathy of Shi’ism to boot. Under the guise of ummatic unity, Saudi institutions such as the Rabitah al-‘Alam Islami (MWL: Muslim World League) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) have served as conduits for exporting Wahhabi dogma worldwide. The transmission process in Southeast Asia has been well documented, penetrating structures of Muslim states, ruling parties, charity associations, non-governmental organizations, Islamist movements and educational networks.31 Ironically, the Sauds themselves have been under tremendous pressure lately to prove their steadfastness to Wahhabi ideals.32 Hence the emergence of ISIS, whose target is to re-enact the first Saudi state (1744-1818) lock, stock and barrel, even if it necessitated armed conquest, enslavement of the vanquished and decimation of heretics and recalcitrant populations. The present third Saudi regime, arising from Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud’s (1875- 1953) takeover of Riyadh in 1902 and the proclamation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, is seen by ISIS to have betrayed the pristine ideals of Wahhabism.33


Four decades of Salafization have altered the face of Islam in Southeast Asia. Although it would be inaccurate to equate Salafization with Islamization, it would conversely be unwise to dismiss the important presence of Wahhabi elements in various Islamization programmes initiated and supported by Muslim politicians. In the landscape of Islamist activism in contemporary Southeast Asia, there exists general acceptance of Wahhabi-inclined authors such as Sayyid Qutb, the Pakistani Abul A’la Maududi (1903-1979) to whom Qutb was intellectually indebted, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab himself, and a host of Saudi- affiliated scholars such as Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz (1910-99), Nasiruddin al-Albani, Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaymeen (1925-2001) and Saleh al-Fawzan (1933- ). Their writings are increasingly defining mainstream Islam in Southeast Asia, despite being doctrinally at odds with tenets of traditional Islam as championed by the likes of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Indonesia, and repackaged today as Islam Nusantara.34 NU acts as a bulwark against the Wahhabi-driven deculturation of Islam – a process also sometimes termed as ‘Arabization’, 35 which Olivier Roy has recently identified as a major cause of radicalization.36

In Malaysia, there hardly exists a countervailing force against the Wahhabi-Salafi discursive onslaught. Hence, despite the existence of a national fatwa (legal ruling) pronouncing Wahhabism as unsuitable for Malaysian society,37 the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Asyaf Wajdi Dusuki, has defended Wahhabism in Parliament as being part of mainstream Sunni Islam.38 Such a view is in sync with that of Haji Hadi Awang, President of the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS: Parti Islam SeMalaysia) and an alumnus of the Islamic University of Madinah, but conflicts with those of orthodox Sunni theologians who consider Wahhabism an aberration if not as being outright deviant.39 Such conflicting signals do not help in the government’s purported crusade against ISIS, which critical voices within the Saudi religious establishment have come to accept as sharing similar Wahhabi-Salafi roots with the Saudi state.40

At the same time, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak recently declared that Malaysia- Saudi Arabia relations have reached unprecedentedly high levels,41 as symbolized by the latter’s willingness to let Najib off the hook with regard to the controversial RM2.6 billion (USD681 million) donation he purportedly received from the Saudi royal family. In legitimating his embattled premiership during the 2015 United Malays National Organization (UMNO) General Assembly, Najib appealed to the opinion of a fatwa council member of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Dr. Sulaiman Saloomi, on the illegality of deposing the government.42 It is no accident that Najib has also been on record for praising the courage of ISIS fighters during an UMNO function in June 2014.43 Such remarks speak volumes about the religious orientation of the ulama (Islamic scholars) who are advising Najib and his government.

About the author:

 1 Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid is Visiting Senior Fellow, Malaysia Studies Programme, ISEAS- Yusof Ishak Institute (1 September 2015 – 31 May 2016). Emails:,

This article was published by ISEAS as ISEAS Perspective 24, ISSUE: 2016 NO. 24 (PDF)

2 See for example, Timothy R. Furnish, ‘Obama on ISIS: Oft In Lies Truth Is Hidden’, The Counter Jihad Report, 11 September 2014, kubra/; Muhammad Haniff Hassan, ‘Selective Nature of Islamic State’s Armageddon Narrative’, Eurasia Review, 9 February 2015, armageddon-narrative-analysis/ (both accessed 2 May 2016).
3 Aref Ali Neyed, ‘Extremism, Trauma and Therapy: Addressing the Rise of ISIS in the Middle East’, seminar presented at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, 28 March 2016. Dr. Aref Ali Neyed is Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and chief operations manager of the Libya Stabilization Team during the revolution which toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
4 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Disunity Among Indonesian ISIS Supporters and the Risk of More Violence, IPAC Report No. 25, 1 February 2016, pp. 2-3.
5 Farik Zolkepli, ‘Militants threaten revenge’, The Star Online, 25 January 2016, malaysia-for-stepping-up-campaign-against-group/; Hariati Azizan, ‘Taking the fight to IS online’, The Star Online, 7 February 2016, fight-to-is-online/ (both accessed 3 May 2016).
6 Dirk Tomsa, ‘The Terror Attack and its Implications for Indonesian Regional Security’, ISEAS- Yusof Ishak Perspective, No. 5 (2016), 5 February 2016, pp. 5-6.
7 Peter Chalk, Black flag rising: ISIL in Southeast Asia and Australia (Barton: ASPI, 2015), pp. 12-13; ‘The rise of IS ideologues increase’, The Star Online, 26 January 2016, grapples-with-charismatic-cleric/ (accessed 2 May 2016).
8 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Disunity Among Indonesian ISIS Supporters and the Risk of More Violence, p. 1.
9 Quoted in MEMRI, ‘Issue 11 of ISIS’s English Language Magazine ‘Dabiq’ A General Review’, September 9, 2015, (accessed 3 May 2016). For the specific threat to Malaysia, see Dina Murad, ‘Local militants rely on translated ‘handbooks’’, says terrorism expert’, The Star Online, 16 January 2016, handbooks/; Hariz Mohd, ‘Malaysia a target of IS’, New Straits Times Online, 18 April 2016, (both accessed 3 May 2016).
10 Interview with the author, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 12 February 2016. See also, Dina Murad, ‘Militants instructed to blend in’, The Star Online, 16 January 2016, gives-tips-on-evading-detection-and-how-to-plan-attacks/ (accessed 3 May 2016).
11 Chalk, Black flag rising, pp. 22-3.
12 Chalk, Black flag rising, pp. 15-6; Per Liljas, ‘ISIS Is Making Inroads in the Southern Philippines and the Implications for Asia Are Alarming’,, 14 April 2016, ‘ zamboanga-mindanao-moro-islamist-terrorist-asia-philippines-abu-sayyaf/; ‘IS may set up caliphate in Southeast Asia, experts say’, The Star Online, 30 April 2016, (both accessed 3 May 2016).
13 Jeremy Au Yong, ‘‘JI, not ISIS, is bigger threat’ to South-east Asia’, The Straits Times Online, 29 April 2016, (accessed 3 May 2016).
14 Tomsa, ‘The Terror Attack and its Implications for Indonesian Regional Security’, p. 6, fn. 18.
15 Jacob Poushter, ‘Extremism Concerns Growing In West and Predominantly Muslim Countries’, Pew Research Center Global Attitudes & Trends, 16 July 2015, muslim-countries/ (accessed 10 May 2016).
16 Jacob Poushter, ‘In nations with significant Muslim populations, much disdain for ISIS’, Pew Research Center Factank, 17 November 2015, tank/2015/11/17/in-nations-with-significant-muslim-populations-much-disdain-for-isis/ (accessed 10 May 2016).
17 The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society, ‘Chapter 2: Religion and Politics’, Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life, 30 April 2013, politics/) (accessed 10 May 2016).
18 The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity, ‘Chapter 3: Articles of Faith’, Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life, 9 August 2012, muslims-unity-and-diversity-3-articles-of-faith/ (accessed 11 May 2016).
19 For example, 27 percent Malaysian Muslims view attacks on civilians as sometimes or often justified (‘Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups’, Pew Research Center Global Attitudes & Trends, 10 September 2013, share-concerns-about-extremist-groups/), and a surprisingly high 18 percent, as compared to only 7 percent of Indonesian Muslims, consider suicide bombing as justifiable (The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society, ‘Chapter 2: Religion and Politics’, Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life, 30 April 2013, politics-society-religion-and-politics/) (both accessed 10 May 2016).
20 Joseph Chinyong Liow, ‘Malaysia’s ISIS Conundrum’, Brookings Opinion, April 2015,; James Chin, ‘Clear and present danger from the Islamic State’ Brookings Opinion, 16 December 2015,
(both accessed 10 May 2016).
21 James Chin, ‘Malaysia: Pseudo-democracy and the making of a Malay-Islamic state’, in Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Democratization, edited by William Case (London: Routledge, 2015), pp. 399-409.
22 See for example, Maszlee Malik, ‘ISIS in Malaysia: A Case Study’, Discussion Paper for ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute Regional Outlook Forum 2016, 12 January 2016, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore; Norshahril Saat, ‘Terrorism should not be viewed through religious lenses’, TODAY Online, 15 January 2016, viewed-through-religious-lenses (accessed 11 May 2016).
23 See the differential approaches of the Indonesian and Malaysian governments in handling the upsurge of radicalism in Geoffrey Macdonald, ‘How to ISIS-Proof a Muslim-Majority State’, The National Interest, 14 March 2016, 15476; and Zachary Abuza, ‘Terror attack could rip apart Malaysian society’, Southeast Asia Globe, 7 March 2016, (both accessed 11 May 2016), respectively.
24 The likelihood of such attacks is interrogated in Thomas Murphy, ‘When IS is Not IS: Terrorism in Indonesia’, Australian Institute of International Affairs, 25 February 2016, (accessed 11 May 2016).
25 Marc Lynch, ‘Islam Divided Between Salafi-jihad and the Ikhwan’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 3, no. 6 (2010), pp. 467-87.
26 Zulkarnain Haron and Nordin Hussin, ‘A Study of the Salafi Jihadist Doctrine and the Interpretation of Jihad by Al Jama’ah Al Islamiyah’, KEMANUSIAAN: Asian Journal of Humanities, vol. 20, no. 2 (2013), pp. 15-37.
27 Zulkarnain Haron and Nordin Hussin, ‘A Study of the Salafi Jihadist Doctrine and the Interpretation of Jihad by Al Jama’ah Al Islamiyah’, p. 20.
28 Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From The Extremists (New York: HarperOne, 2005), pp. 75-94.
29 See for example, Hamid Algar, Wahhabism: A Critical Essay (New York: Islamic Publications International, 2002); Engku Ibrahim Engku Wok Zin, Abdul Rahman Mahmod and Syed Hadzrullathfi Syed Omar, ‘Syaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abd Al-Wahhab dan Kaitannya dengan Isu Takfir’ [Syaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abd Al-Wahhab and His Relationship with the Issue of Takfir], Jurnal Islam dan Masyarakat Kontemporari, vol. 4, no. 1 (2011), pp. 61-72; and Hersi Mohamad Hilole, Wahabi Sesatkah Mereka [Are Wahhabis Deviant?] (Batu Caves: PTS Millenia, 2012).
30 Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft, pp. 198-9, 206-49.
31 See for example the essays by Alexander Horstmann, ‘Transnational Ideologies and Actors at the Level of Society in South and Southeast Asia’; Noorhaidi Hasan, ‘Transnational Islam in Indonesia’; Rommel Banlaoi, ‘Transnational Islam in the Philippines’, and Joseph Chinyong Liow, ‘Local Networks and Transnational Islam in Thailand (with emphasis on the southernmost provinces)’, in Transnational Islam in South and Southeast Asia: Movements, Networks and Conflict Dynamics, compiled by Peter Mandaville, Farish A. Noor, Alexander Horstmann, Dietrich Reetz, Ali Riaz, Animesh Roul, Noorhaidi Hassan, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Rommel C. Banlaoi, and Joseph C. Liow (Seattle: NBR, 2009), pp. 48-50, 121-40, 167-88, 189-208. On the Malaysian case, see Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, ‘Salafi Ulama in UMNO: Political Convergence or Expediency?’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 36, no. 2 (2014), pp. 206-31,
and Asmady Idris, Malaysia’s Relations with Saudi Arabia 1957-2003 (Kota Kinabalu: UMS Press, 2015), pp. 159-210.
32 James Dorsey, ‘Saudi Arabia’s Future: Will Al Saud’s Partnership with Wahhabism Hold?’, RSIS Commentaries CO16046, arabias-future-will-al-sauds-partnership-with-wahhabism-hold/#.VzQ8A9J97cs; Ben Hubbard, ‘ISIS Turns Saudis Against the Kingdom, and Families Against Their Own’, New York Times Online, 31 March 2016, wahhabism.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=1 (both accessed 12 May 2016).
33 Cole Bunzel, The Kingdom and the Caliphate (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2016), pp. 4-7.
34 Gwenael Njoto-Feillard, ‘Ripples from the Middle East: The Ideological Battle for the Identity of Islam in Indonesia’, ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Perspective, No. 42, 13 August 2015.
35 Martin van Bruinessen, ‘Ghazwul Fikri or Arabization? Indonesian Muslim Responses to Globalization’, in Southeast Asian Muslims in the Era of Globalization, edited by Ken Miichi and Omar Farouk (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 61-85.
36 Olivier Roy, ‘Why Arab farmers won’t become militant suicide bombers’, The Straits Times Online, 29 April 2016, militant-suicide-bombers (accessed 12 May 2016).
37 JAKIM, ‘Pandangan Mengenai Golongan Wahabi’ [View on Wahhabis], 23 December 2013,; ‘No place for Wahhabism in Malaysia, fatwa council says’, Malay Mail Online, 1 March 2015, council-says (both accessed 31 January 2016).
38 Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, ‘Wahabi bukan ajaran sesat’, 27 April 2016, 6879/1313553488674695/?type=3&theater (accessed 12 May 2016).
39 Abdul Hadi Awang. Fahaman & Ideologi Umat Islam [Thoughts and Ideologies of the Muslim Ummah] (Batu Caves: PTS Islamika, 2008), pp. 25-27; K.H. Sirajuddin Abbas, I’itiqad Ahlussunnah Wal-jamaah [The Sunni Creed] (Kota Bharu: Pustaka Aman Press, 1991), pp. 309- 34.
40 See for instance the public admission by Sheikh ‘Aadel al-Kalbani, a former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, in ‘Senior Saudi Salafi Cleric: ISIS is a True Product of Salafism’, (accessed 12 May 2016).
41 Rahimy Rahim, ‘PM: Saudis respect Malaysia’, The Star Online, 4 March 2016, (accessed 1 April 2016).
42 Najib Razak, ‘Najib’s speech at UMNO General Assembly 2015 (full text)’, 84645 (accessed 12 May 2016).
43 Melissa Chi, ‘Be brave like ISIL fighters, Najib tells Umno’, Malay Mail Online, 24 June 2014, (accessed 12 May 2016).

About the Author

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), an autonomous organization established by an Act of Parliament in 1968, was renamed ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute in August 2015. Its aims are: To be a leading research centre and think tank dedicated to the study of socio-political, security, and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. To stimulate research and debate within scholarly circles, enhance public awareness of the region, and facilitate the search for viable solutions to the varied problems confronting the region. To serve as a centre for international, regional and local scholars and other researchers to do research on the region and publish and publicize their findings. To achieve these aims, the Institute conducts a range of research programmes; holds conferences, workshops, lectures and seminars; publishes briefs, research journals and books; and generally provides a range of research support facilities, including a large library collection.