Saturday, September 30, 2017

BIFF resorts to diversionary tactic

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): BIFF resorts to diversionary tactic

Police and military authorities in Maguindanao said the twin explosions of improvised bomb in Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS), Maguindanao on Wednesday was a diversionary tactic by ISIS-inspired group that has been the subject of air strikes and artillery fire from the military.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao police director, told reporters after a joint peace and security joint coordinating meeting of police and military in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao that the explosion set off by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Barangay Semba injured two soldiers, a police officer and a village chair.

“This is the signature armament of the BIFF,” Tello said of the twin explosions.

The BIFF Esmael Abdulmalik faction has been the subject of joint Army and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) offensives. About 60 BIFF had already been killed and about 25 on the side of the MILF which is fighting alongside with the Philippine Army.

According to Colonel Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, the strength of the BIFF Abdulmalik faction is dwindling.

He estimated the remaining members to about 40 to 45 and the military will continue hunting them with the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad (Unity).

Fighting between former comrades, MILF and BIFF, erupted in early August after the ISIS allied group headed by Abdulmalik tried, but failed, to hoist ISIS black flag in communities identified with the MILF.

Army and MILF became partners against the BIFF as contained in the 1997 ceasefire agreement where the MILF must help the government in getting rid of lawless elements and terrorists in Maguindanao and other areas.

The BIFF bolted out of MILF in 2008 due to ideological differences.

According to Tello, the Maguindanao police will always support the military campaign against BIFF Abdulmalik faction who, according to intelligence reports, had been aided by Malaysian and Indonesian terrorists.

More Army and police checkpoints have been established in Maguindanao major highways as the government expects the BIFF will set off bombs to divert military offensives.

On Tuesday, the Army foiled bombing plot in North Cotabato with the arrest of Muslimin Ladtugan with power explosives in a raid in Midsayap, North Cotabato.
Ladtungan, a bomb expert of the BIFF Abdulmalik faction, was out to set off bombs in populated areas of the province as diversionary tactics, according to Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao.

Dead Maute group members now 736

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): Dead Maute group members now 736

The number of slain Maute Group terrorists in the ongoing military operations in Marawi City has now climbed to 736, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said on Friday.

He said this includes the 21 remains or cadavers recovered during Thursday's operations.
Government losses are now placed at 153 troops. Civilians executed or killed by the terrorists is still at 47 while rescued Marawi City residents are at 1,733.

Recovered weapons numbered at 789, including 82 recovered Thursday.

Fighting in Marawi City broke out after a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader IsnilonHapilon last May 23.

Earlier, Defense Secretary DelfinLorenzana said that lives of surrendering Maute Group terrorists will be spared provided they surrender peacefully.

He made this statement after Lanao Del Sur 2nd District Rep. Mauyag Papandayan told him that some of the surviving terrorists have expressed willingness to surrender.

"I told him no problem. In fact, Western Mindanao Command troops are going around with bullhorns daily in Marawi City (urging them to surrender). If they want to surrender, then they must come out with their hands up and our soldiers will not kill them, our troops don't kill surrendering people," he said.

Once these terrorists surrender, the DND chief said it is up to the courts to determine what kind of charges and sanctions would be meted against them.

PH, US marines to hold 1st 'KAMANDAG' exercises

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30): PH, US marines to hold 1st 'KAMANDAG' exercises

American and Filipino marines are set to conduct the first iteration of the "Kaagapay ng mga Mandirigma ng Dagat" (KAMANDAG) exercises on October 2-11.

The maneuvers will be held in Clark and Basa air bases in Pampanga; Marines Barracks Camp Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite; Crow Valley in Tarlac; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales; and Aurora, Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) spokesperson Capt. Maria Rowena Dalmacio said Friday.

The KAMANDAG is a bilateral exercise that focuses on capability development on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, internal security operations and counterterrorism.

The joint military exercises will also focus on revitalizing the inter-operability of the Philippines and US militaries in post-crisis response through the conduct of disaster rehabilitation and rural development projects.

These will materialize through the engineering civic action program (ENCAP) and medical action program (MEDCAP) activities to be conducted in Northern Luzon, particularly in Casiguran, Aurora.

Local residents will benefit from the MEDCAP, while two schools in Casiguran, Aurora will benefit from the ENCAP, where engineers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will also participate.

DSWD DROMIC Report #1 on the Armed Conflict in Batangas City, Batangas as of 29 September 2017, 6PM

Posted to the Relief Web (Sep 29): DSWD DROMIC Report #1 on the Armed Conflict in Batangas City, Batangas as of 29 September 2017, 6PM

Published on 29 Sep 2017 View Original


On 24 September 2017, a gun battle between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (NPA) and a faction of National People’s Army (NPA) led by Mario Macaraig, alias Jethro, of the NPA front “Honda” occurred in Mt. Banoy in Barangay Talumpok Silangan, Batangas City. The firefight started around 8:50 a.m. after members of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force chanced upon a supposed rebel encampment.

Number of Affected Families / Persons

To date, 113 families or 490 persons have been affected in Batangas City, Batangas in Region CALABARZON (see Table 1).

Creation of defense university pushed

From the Business Mirror (Sep 30): Creation of defense university pushed

In Photo: President Duterte addresses troops during his visit to the 2nd Mechanized Brigade on May 26, 2017, on the outskirts of Iligan City in southern Philippines. At left is Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año and at center is Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana.

AN official of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) is pushing for the creation of a National Defense University (NDU), which is envisioned to produce a greater number of Filipinos with defense and security backgrounds and elevate the subject of security to a national level.

The establishment of an NDU could not be more timely and appropriate, as the country is facing both internal and territorial threats, with the domestic challenge coming from a three-pronged threat, including terrorism.

NDCP Executive Vice President, retired Major Gen. Rolando Jungco, said a draft on the creation of the proposed NDU has already been submitted to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for review prior to congressional submission.

This early, the proposal already earned the support of several legislators, including Sen. Loren Legarda and Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon of Muntinlupa.

Legarda, like a few number of lawmakers, is a graduate of the NDCP and is a reserve officer of the Philippine Air Force. Biazon, on the other hand, is a former Customs commissioner under the Aquino administration and son of retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rodolfo Biazon, also a former senator.

The proposed NDU, if approved by Congress, shall offer baccalaureate and postgraduate degrees in defense and security courses. It is eyed to initially rise at the compound of the NDCP inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.


IN pushing for the creation of an NDU, Jungco noted that the Philippines is the only country in the region without such a school, which is an irony, as the country counts the most number of security challenges among the states in Southeast Asia.

Jungco said that in Indonesia and Thailand, you cannot be a lawmaker unless you have gone through their defense universities.

China, on the other hand, has two defense schools—one for defense and another for science and technology.

The Thai and Indonesian examples are what Jungco and the other proponents of the NDU want the Philippines to emulate.

Jungco said the NDU should have as students members of Congress, noting that some lawmakers do not have a full grasp of, or could not fully understand, national security and its surrounding issues.

He said its intention is to develop, harness and encourage the lawmakers to think strategically for defense and security.

Defense Act revision

WHILE there may have been support for the creation of an NDU from members of Congress, it may take time, however, before it could be set up, as the proposal has to be incorporated into an updated National Defense Act of 1935.

Jungco said the law only talks about the military. The Department of National Defense (DND) along with its other attached agencies are not even mentioned in the law.

The military, or the Armed Forces of the Philippines, falls under the DND.

In revisiting the Defense Act through the creation of the NDU, Jungco said they also proposed the inclusion of the DND and its agencies, including the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, the NDCP, Office of Civil Defense and the Government Arsenal, in the law.

The National Defense Act of 1935 is the only defense law in the country.

If the creation of the NDU materializes, it will have a mixture of civilian and military students.

Jungco said the students of the university should include lawmakers, all generals of the AFP with no exemption, and others in the civilian sector, including businessmen.

“Ideally, it would be under the Commission on Higher Education, but focusing more on defense and resource management,” Jungco said.

Philippines Plans Low-Key Upgrades in Disputed Spratly Islands

From Voice of America (Sep 29): Philippines Plans Low-Key Upgrades in Disputed Spratly Islands

FILE - Philippine troops march as a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane carrying Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials, sits on the tarmac at the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed Spratlys chain of islands in the South China Sea, April 21, 2017 in western Philippines.

The Philippines has found funding for the biggest in a series of infrastructure upgrades planned on the islets it holds in the contested South China Sea, a move that will gently remind other countries, including China, of Manila’s claims.

Money from the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program will next year fund the paving of a 1,300-meter-long gravel and dirt runway on Thitu Island, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was quoted saying this month. Thitu anchors Manila’s holdings in the Spratly archipelago, which is also disputed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The runway upgrade is expected to lead to repairs of barracks, water systems and other infrastructure on nine Spratly islets controlled by the Philippines per a pledge in April from the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte. The 15-year Modernization Program hatched in 2012 has a budget of $2.56 million this year.

FILE - Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana tours the Philippine-claimed island of Pag-asa, also known as Thitu, during his visit to the Spratlys chain of islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017.

Manila’s upgrades would serve as a reminder, yet one unlikely to outrage other countries, that it intends to hold on to its nine Spratly features.

Beijing, the most aggressive claimant in those 100-plus islands as well as the broader South China Sea around them, has befriended the Philippines over the past year but only after years of diplomatic hostility that some Filipinos fear could resurface.

“I imagine there’s a feeling that the time has come to consider other options,” said Jonathan Spangler, director, South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “I just think it’s more like a hedging thing, like making sure you don’t go all the way in one direction.”

FILE - Protesters shout slogans and display placards outside of the Chinese Consulate in protest of China's occupation and island-building in the disputed Spratly Island group in the South China Sea in Makati city's financial district east of Manila, Philippines.

After China parked research vessels over an ocean plateau off the Philippine Pacific coast, Duterte faced public pressure to resist Beijing again. In April he vowed to upgrade the Spratly holdings.

Two months ago, a Chinese vessel apparently planted its national flag on Sandy Cay, which lies in the Philippine-controlled part of the Spratly chain, touching off more concerns among Filipinos. Both countries prize the sea for its fisheries and fossil fuel reserves.

Ambitions for the Spratly Islands

​The Philippines can help lock in its Spratly claims by showing human habitation and economic activity, Spangler noted. About 100 civilians, many connected to military activity, live on Thitu Island, the chain’s second largest natural land form at 37 hectares (91 acres). Some in the Philippines advocate opening it to tourism.

Lorenzana visited Thitu in April to “check on the condition of the residents,” according to a defense department statement.

The unpaved runway can only allow military aircraft, mostly for transport, limiting who can access the island, analysts say.

Plans to refurbish infrastructure in the Spratly Islands fits with a “natural order of things” that any country would do to improve defense, said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school. The modernization budget must be spent, he added.

“I wouldn’t read too much in this. Clearly it’s defensive in nature,” he said. “It’s a routine part of modernization.”

The Philippine military ranks No. 50 in the world on a list of 133 countries tracked by the research database

Thitu, in the Spratly Islands

Mixed Sino-Philippine relations

Tighter relations with China also reduce the urgency of bulking up military facilities on the islets for defense or offense, said Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines.

“Overall I don’t think they will put anything in really big at this point, if you go by how the government is very friendly towards China,” Batongbacal said.

After Manila won a World Court arbitration case against Beijing, which was told it lacked a legal basis for much of its South China Sea claims, Duterte offered to set aside maritime disputes that had festered since 2012. In October, China pledged $24 billion in aid and investment to the Philippines.

But China’s stationing of research vessels off the Pacific coast over a feature called the Benham Rise, and the Sandy Cay flap, keep its friendship with the Philippines in check, other analysts say. China also controls Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing spot that lies inside the Philippine exclusive economic zone west of Luzon Island. In many years it declares fishing moratoriums that encompass Philippine waters.

The Sandy Cay incident shows that China may be “engaging in a coercive demonstration around Thitu in order to dissuade the Philippine authorities from carrying out long-planned repairs and extensive infrastructure upgrades,” said Euan Graham, international security director with the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Muted reactions

But China has officially kept quiet about the runway upgrade as well as other infrastructure plans on the Philippine-held islets. Those plans also marked a scaling back in April from Duterte’s original idea of visiting Thitu himself and planting his national flag.

Taiwan and Vietnam sometimes issue protest statements when they sense threats to their Spratly claims but seldom follow up.

“Depending on how the bilateral relationship goes, China might even let it go quietly, as long as Duterte remains to be China-friendly,” said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

3 Marines hurt as NPA rebs ambush military convoy

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): 3 Marines hurt as NPA rebs ambush military convoy

Three Marines were wounded after suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) waylaid a military convoy heading back to their detachment in San Vicente town in Palawan province Saturday morning.

Report from Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan (Mimaropa) police said personnel of the Philippine Marines battalion landing team (MLBT) on board an M35 and an elf official Marine service vehicle were ambushed by suspected NPA rebels at a forested area just two kilometers away from the Marine detachment in Barangay (village) Itabiak at around 6:45 a.m.

The Marines were from El Nido going to the MLTB headquarters in Barangay Minara in Roxas town when they were fired upon by the rebels. Despite under heavy fire, the government forces were able to fire back at the attackers, forcing the rebels to retreat.
Wounded in the incident were Technical Sergeant Restituto Selvino, 30; Corporal Melvin Villa, 44; and Cpl. Christian Day Rentillo, 29.

The wounded military men were immediately brought to Roxas District Hospital and later transferred to Puerto Princesa City for treatment.

Cop killed in NPA ambush in Masbate

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Cop killed in NPA ambush in Masbate

 Suspected New People’s Army (NPA)rebels waylaid and killed on Saturday a policeman who was on board a police service vehicle near a dump site in Monreal town in Masbate province, report reaching the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said.

Senior Inspector Maria Luisa Calubaquib, Bicol police spokesperson, said Police Officer 2 Mervin Capellan, who was assigned at the Monreal police station, was killed in the rebel attack that took place at about 6:18 a.m. in Sitio (sub-village) Tamborong in Barangay (village) Poblacion.

She said the victim was driving the police van and was negotiating a road near the town dump site when he was shot to death by at least 20 suspected communist rebels. Capellan died instantly due to bullet wounds.

Calubaquib said the slain cop was on his way back to the town police station after taking the police van to a carwash service center for cleaning.

Mayhem in Marawi

From The Diplomat (Sep 29): Mayhem in Marawi (By Zachary Abuza)

Is the Philippines up to the task of handling the latest wave of Islamist terrorism?

Mayhem in Marawi
Image Credit: Romeo Ranoco, Reuters
On May 23, a unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operating on a tip, moved in on a safehouse in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, where a top Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon, was said to be holed up. It was a setup. What was supposed to be a quick operation turned into a four month quagmire, with a death toll of some 147 members of the security forces and 45 civilians. Like the botched Mamasapano raid in January 2015 that led to the death of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Forces, this was a tactical fiasco with strategic consequences. The Philippines is once again seen as the weak link in regional security, at a time when the Islamic State has lost nearly 90 percent of its territory in Iraq and Syria and is seeking local conflicts in the post-caliphate era. With a city in rubble, and the majority of its 400,000 population still displaced, angry, and not confident in the government’s ability to rebuild it and prevent future attacks, Moro grievances continue to grow, as new groups proliferate and metastasize.

An Intelligence Failure

By every measure, Marawi was a glaring intelligence failure. The AFP is spread thin. In addition to a resurgent New People’s Army, the AFP is confronting the splintering of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a revived Abu Sayyaf, and a panoply of small groups that pledged bai’at to the Islamic State. The context of Marawi was the government’s abject failure to grasp a rapidly devolving security situation.

Starting in March 2016, Abu Sayyaf began a campaign of maritime kidnapping, taking 65 sailors and fishermen from six separate countries in maritime operations. Two more individuals were killed during ship-boardings, and scores more were either not taken or released. But the spate of maritime attacks put significant diplomatic pressure on the Philippine government, which acquiesced to the demands of Malaysia and Indonesia to establish joint maritime patrols, and ceded the right of hot pursuit into Philippine waters.

Abu Sayyaf then attempted a raid in the resort region of Bohol, in the otherwise peaceful Visayas, in April 2017. While the AFP had claimed success in driving Isnilon Hapilon and his men out of Basilan, they had little understanding of why they moved to Marawi, in the Marano-dominated region of Lanao del Sur.

Hapilon was the first Southeast Asian to declare his allegiance to the Islamic State, done in a YouTube video in July 2014. In the following months, at least six other Philippine-based groups followed suit. The government and AFP repeatedly downplayed the threat, as late as mid-2017, calling them “ISIS wannabes.”

In part this was because the Islamic State did not immediately recognize any of the groups. Finally, in January 2016, Al Naba, a central ISIS media organ, stated that ISIS had established a “branch” in Southeast Asia and recognized Hapilon as the Emir of Islamic State militants in Southeast Asia, and called on other cells, including Ansar al-Shariah, Ma’rakah al-Ansar, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines, and al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah, which is based in Basilan, to act as “battalions” under his command.

[Read the full story here, in The Diplomat   Subscription required for full article.]

Councilor, nephew of kidnap problem-solver, kidnapped

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Councilor, nephew of kidnap problem-solver, kidnapped

A photo of Ezzeddin Soud Tan lifted from his Facebook account —JULIE S. ALIPALA
The scourge of kidnappings was brought to the doorstep of an influential Sulu political clan, whose patriarch had been involved in some of the province’s most successful negotiations to free kidnap victims.

Ezzeddin Tan, councilor of Jolo town in Sulu province and nephew of former Sulu Vice Gov. Abdusakur Tan, was taken by armed men in Indanan, another town in Sulu, on Wednesday.

Ezzedin, in his late 20s, was biking in the village of Tagbak in Indanan when he was kidnapped, said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, head of the anticrime multiagency Joint Task Group Sulu.

Sobejana said Tan was a member of Tausog Bikers Club.

During his kidnapping, he was with at least 11 other bikers. The suspects, however, took only Tan.

Sobejana said Tan’s group was on its way back to Jolo when the armed men struck.

The provincial government immediately organized a crisis management team for the recovery of the victim.

“Search and rescue operations are ongoing,” Sobejana said.

Ezzedin’s uncle, Abdusakur, had been involved in successful negotiations to free kidnapping victims in the past.

In January, a Korean kidnap victim was turned over by Abdusakur to Presidential Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza.

Last year, a number of Indonesians who were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf were turned over to the former governor.

The Tans are an influential political clan in Sulu.

Sulu and Basilan, provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are known as areas where the homegrown terror and crime group Abu Sayyaf operate and maintain bases.

Abu fugitive, carnappers apprehended in Basilan

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 30): Abu fugitive, carnappers apprehended in Basilan

An Abu Sayyaf jail escapee and two carnappers were nabbed in separate operations in Basilan.


Boy Indama was apprehended through the joint efforts of the troops from the 74th Infantry Battalion, Lamitan City Police Station, and Regional Public Safety Battalion in Lamitan City at 12:45 p.m. last September 28, 2017.

Indama is an Abu Sayyaf member under Furuji Indama who escaped from Basilan Provincial Jail on December 13, 2009.

He has an existing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention in Barangay Magcawa, Al-Barka, Basilan.

Indama was immediately brought to the Lamitan District Hospital for medical attention and was subsequently turned over to the Lamitan City Police for proper disposition and documentation.

Meanwhile, troops from the 4th Special Forces Battalion on checkpoint in Barangay Cabunbata, Isabela City, Basilan apprehended two carnappers last Thursday at 7am.

Salam Aslatan and Nuruddin Duray, both of legal age, had been sought by law enforcers for carnapping.

Seized from their possession were two motorcycles owned by Mursid Halikin, a resident of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

The apprehended carnappers and the recovered items were turned-over to the Isabela City Police for proper disposition.

Duterte says peace talks with Reds just ‘a waste of money’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): Duterte says peace talks with Reds just ‘a waste of money’

President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo from an RTVM video)

“Gastos lang yan.”

This was how President Rodrigo Duterte responded when asked if he was still keen on the resumption of the peace talks with the communist rebels during an interview with state-run PTV4 aired on Friday night.

“Wala namang mangyari diyan,” he said when asked if he would still send Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza and chief government negotiator Seilvestre Bello III to Norway.

Norway is the third party facilitator between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Duterte had previously said he was open to resume peace talks if the communists declare a ceasefire.

In July, Duterte ended the peace talks with the communists following a series of attacks carried out by the NPA against government forces. He even said that he will not allow the resumption of peace talks unless the NPA stops its extortion activities.

The fifth round of peace talks with the rebels was suspended on May 27, after the government panel withdrew from the negotiating table after the CPP ordered NPA guerrillas to intensify attacks against security forces.

Islamic State Suffers a Setback in Marawi

From BenarNews (Sep 29): Islamic State Suffers a Setback in Marawi (By Rohan Gunaratna)


Soldiers guard a lakeside mosque near Marawi after several gunmen aboard a boat were spotted near the area, Sept. 28, 2017.

With timely international military and intelligence assistance, Philippine security forces have successfully contained, isolated and eliminated the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) in Marawi.

Almost 700 Filipino and foreign fighters who embraced IS ideology and practice have been killed in four months of intense combat. Fewer than 70 IS fighters now hold a battle space of less than 10 hectares. The troop advance has been slow, as the urban area is heavily mined with snipers and explosives. IS also holds three dozen hostages, some of whom have turned fighters or supporters under duress.

IS in Marawi compared its initial success to the IS siege of Mosul, and copied IS practices in Syria and Iraq.

IS Marawi burned the police station and the city jail and freed the inmates. It executed officials, including the chief of intelligence of Marawi. It occupied homes and raided shops to replenish supplies. IS Marawi videoed its members executing Christians in orange uniform, and forced young female hostages to become sex slaves, referring to them as goats.

After burning Saint Mary's Cathedral and Dansalan College, IS took hostage Christian leaders, staff, teachers and students. To the hostages, some of whom became fighters, IS preached its ideology, which has been rejected by the Muslim population at large. Some 350,000 people were displaced from Marawi and surrounding areas, and parts of their city were reduced to rubble.

The largest IS-centric groups – Islamic State Lanao (ISL) led by the Maute brothers, and Islamic State Philippines (ISP) led by Isnilon Hapilon – sieged the Islamic City of Marawi on May 23. The ISP and ISL engaged in a fierce battle with over 12,000 military and police personnel, supported by U.S. and Australian forces. But contrary to IS expectations, Maranaos were shocked by the siege, and rejected the IS presence.

The lack of public support severely weakened the militants’ ability to hold Marawi. Their project to establish an IS province (wilayat) failed.


With the death of many of the directing figures of the fight – including Abdullah, Utto and Mahdi Maute – the battle in Marawi is coming to an end. Nonetheless, a dozen local groups that have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have resumed their activities in other parts of Mindanao.

Unless the threat is managed with exceptional care, IS will persist and is likely to spread from Mindanao to Sabah in Malaysia, and to eastern Indonesia.

The most active of the threat groups operating outside Marawi is the IS-directed Jamaah Al Muhajirin wal Anshor (JMA), a group in the southern Philippines with extensive links to foreign fighters.

JMA is attacking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest armed group, which is working with the Duterte government to establish a permanent peace.

Guided by IS, JMA is determined to breakup MILF. IS believes that its attacks will fracture MILF and that pro-IS members within MILF will splinter and join IS-centric groups.

Esmael Abdulmaguid (alias Abu Turaipe), who leads JMA, is adept at attracting foreign fighters. The latest encounter between MILF and JMA was at Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao on Sept. 27. As the battle in Marawi comes to an end, the clashes elsewhere in Mindanao are likely to increase in frequency, scale and magnitude.

End game

Until the IS siege of Marawi on May 23, 2017, the Philippine government was in denial of an IS presence in Mindanao. However, the response of the Philippine government to the Marawi siege was decisive.

The fighting lasted over four months, for three reasons.

First, the government underestimated IS ideology and fighting capabilities, especially the use of snipers and explosive devices. Second, the terrain could not be effectively cordoned and sealed. Third, the Philippine military units were trained for jungle and rural warfare, not urban warfare.

Until August 2017, the infiltration and exfiltration of IS from the Main Battle Area (MBA) enabled IS to replenish its human losses and material wastage. The fighters formed three layers of defense protecting Hapilon, Abdullah and Omarkhayam. With huge battlefield losses, the MBA is isolated, but the remaining quality leadership and the human shield of hostages will protract the fight for another few weeks.

The deaths of several leaders and experienced fighters in Marawi represent the most significant loss the IS has suffered in the Philippines to date. Abdullah Maute was IS operational leader in Marawi until August 2017, when he was killed in combat. Having lived and studied in Marawi, Abdullah planned and led the fight there under the symbolic leadership of Hapilon, overall emir of IS in the Philippines.

Today, Omarkhayam Maute, the vice emir, has succeeded his brother Abdullah, despite injuries suffered during the fighting. With the saturation of Philippine security forces in Marawi, the fight against IS is steadily coming to an end. Both Hapilon and Omarkhayam must fight or flee. Yet they are unlikely to flee and link up with other IS-centric groups. The chief adviser to Hapilon, Dr. Mahmud bin Ahmad of Malaysia, has fabricated a suicide vest, which he is likely to wear in the final battle.

The landscape ahead

Hapilon, a longtime leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, has instructed his IS men to merge with pro-IS fighters within the ASG rank and file of Radulan Sahiron, and to plan armed attacks in different places in Mindanao. They wish to target the cities of Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato. Both ISP and ISL fighters have planned to conduct terrorist activities in the municipalities of Lumbatan, Bayang, Tugaya and Madalum in Lanao del Sur, around Lake Lanao. Some of these plans have been intercepted and disrupted.
However, IS Philippines cannot hold territory unless it has a stronger fighting force. As long as the MILF led by Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim is intact, IS Philippines will not achieve its immediate goals. Demography and geography limit IS expansion and dominance in the southern Philippines. Unless MILF breaks up and a large faction joins IS, the rise of IS is not an existential threat to the Philippines.

Nevertheless, the IS-centric threat landscape outside Marawi is growing. In Mindanao, several groups have joined IS. And the very presence of IS in Mindanao threatens not only the Philippines but its neighbors.

After having attempted and failed to create a province (wilayat) in the eastern edge of Asia, IS central in Syria is thinking long-term.

It intends to build IS forces in the southern Philippines and infiltrate neighboring Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.

IS created its East Asia Division with the intention of expanding from the Philippines to parts of Northeast and Southeast Asia. If IS spreads to Sabah in Malaysia and to eastern Indonesia, it will pose a significant challenge to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the entire region.

[Rohan Gunaratna is professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technology University and head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.]

3 explosions hit Maguindanao in a week

From Rappler (Sep 30): 3 explosions hit Maguindanao in a week

Troops in Maguindanao are fighting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, another ISIS-linked local terror group   

Another explosion rocked the province of Maguindanao on Friday, September 29, the 3rd to hit the province this week.

Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division, said the explosion rocked the town of Guindulungan on Friday but no one was hurt. He said the military had cleared the area but troops were placed on "double alert."
A report obtained by Rappler shows the incident happened along the Cotabato-Insulan national highway at 7:30 pm on Friday.

Encinas said investigators had yet to identify those responsible for the explosion.

Troops there are fighting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the breakaway group of the dominant Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The BIFF has reported links with interantional terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS).

Twin blasts hit nearby town Datu Odin Sinsuat on Wednesday, September 27. Four people sustained shrapnel wounds that infliced minor injuries, said Encinas.
They are Barangay Semba Chairman Pendatun Sinsuat, Barangay Kagawad Sinarimbo Lalaog, Police Officer 2 Bobby Guialani Pendililang, and Army Sergeant Eddie Cane.

The 4 were responding to an explosion near an Army training camp in the barangay when a second explosion took place.

The military tagged the BIFF as responsible for the blast, supposedly to divert military attention from operations against them.

The military said the BIFF initially planned to reinforce the Maute Group in Marawi City. Troops there were instructed to keep local terrorists from crossing to neighboring province Lanao Del Sur, where Marawi City is located.

Sandiganbayan receives transmittal letter of Nur Misuari bail

From GMA News Online (Sep 29): Sandiganbayan receives transmittal letter of Nur Misuari bail

The Sandiganbayan has officially received the transmittal letter from the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) saying Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari has successfully posted a P460,000-bail in connection with his graft and malversation case.

On Friday, Third Division Clerk of Court lawyer Dennis Pulma said the anti-graft court received the original copy of the bail bond via mail on September 28.

Pulma added Executive Judge Emmanuel Carpio of the 11th Judicial Region-Davao City approved the bail as per his order dated September 19. Judge Carpio is a brother of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

Misuari was charged with three counts each of graft and malversation through falsification for allegedly conspiring with his co-accused in giving "unwarranted benefits, advantage and privilege" to three private companies.

Arrest warrants were released on two counts each of graft and malversation since the Sandiganbayan ordered the prosecution to present further evidence on the remaining counts.

The case stemmed over the alleged anomalous procurement of educational materials worth P115 million during Misuari's term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2000 to 2001.

The Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of Misuari on September 5.

Misuari, however, met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City where they discussed issues on federalism and the proposed Bangsamoro region despite the MNLF leader's standing warrant of arrest.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza later confirmed that Misuari already posted the cash bond needed to secure his provisional liberty.

Dureza said the meeting between Misuari and Duterte pushed through at the Matina Enclaves since they received information that his bail was already being processed.

5 Militant Leaders Killed in Marawi: Philippine Military

From BenarNews (Sep 30): 5 Militant Leaders Killed in Marawi: Philippine Military


Smoke billows from buildings in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, as fighting between government troops and Islamic State-linked militants continue, Sept. 16, 2017.

Philippine troops have killed five top Islamic State-linked militants in Marawi, including Abdullah Maute, but Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute are still holed up with the remaining combatants in the southern city, officials said Friday.

Abdullah and his lesser-known brothers Madhi and Utto were killed together with two foreign fighters during recent clashes in Marawi, according to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, the regional military chief. Galvez did not identify the foreigners.

Galvez made the announcement four days after voicing optimism that the Marawi gun battles would be over in “10 days or two weeks.”

Abdullah and his brother Omarkhayam were the leaders of the Maute gang, a ragtag band of militants who backed Abu Sayyaf chief Isnilon Hapilon – the acknowledged commander of the IS in the region – when his forces took over Marawi city on May 23.

“Our report was that Abdullah, Madhi and Utto were killed along with two foreigners,” Galvez told reporters. “This is judgment day for them. Our troops are now pushing hard. I believe some of the Maute members are very desperate.”

It was not clear whether the five militant leaders were among 16 cadavers recovered by soldiers Thursday from the rubble of Marawi’s frontline.

Galvez said police had collected DNA samples from each of those cadavers to ascertain their identities. He would not say what his basis was for announcing the Maute deaths.

The military had erroneously reported in June that Omarkhayam Maute had died, only to retract that statement.

Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, was believed still in command of the remaining militants, estimated by officials to number between to 45 and 80, along with several foreign fighters, in the battle zone.

"So our initial findings, Omar and Hapilon were the two defending the positions," Galvez said Friday.

Close to ending?

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the fighting was close to ending. On Thursday, troops intercepted a small number of militants who were believed to be trying to reinforce the Marawi militants through the porous borders of Lake Lanao.

Fighting was still raging in that area, and there were fears the fighting could spill over to other Muslim areas in the south, officials said.

With the latest development on the ground, Galvez expressed hope that the military would soon recover a substantial portion of the 10 hectares (24.7 acres) still controlled by the militants.

“In the next three days, we believe that we will have substantial results because for the past two weeks, we have a major breakthrough in terms of enemy killed and recovered firearms,” Galvez said.

At least 736 enemy fighters, 153 government forces and 47 civilians had been killed in fighting during the past four months, the presidential palace said Friday.

More than 1,700 civilians trapped in the fighting or taken hostage had been rescued, and a cache of unexploded homemade bombs and more than 700 firearms had also been recovered from slain militants, officials said.

Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the military’s task force in the area, said ground troops had also seized six sacks of coins used by Maute militants as components for their homemade bombs.

“They are using it as shrapnel. There are instances our troops were hit by coins,” Brawner said, adding that the coins were part of currencies looted by the gunmen from local banks.

Toll on evacuees

The fighting has emptied Marawi of its more than 200,000 residents, with thousands now sheltering with relatives and in packed evacuation camps.

Supplies have not yet run dry, and donations keep coming in. But officials said health and sanitary conditions were fast deteriorating.

Health officials said that at least 56 evacuees had died of various illnesses in the camps, nine of them infants born in the squalor.

Dr. Alinader Minalao, the provincial health administrator, said that based on their records, many of those who had died perished from complications related to pneumonia, severe dehydration and heart diseases.

13 Maute terrorists, 2 soldiers killed in Marawi push

From Rappler (Sep 30): 13 Maute terrorists, 2 soldiers killed in Marawi push

'Despite yesterday's casualties, today the government forces will fight harder,' says Colonel Romeo Brawner, Task Group Ranao deputy commander

MARAWI PUSH. Troops continue to advance in the battle area in Marawi City. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

MARAWI PUSH. Troops continue to advance in the battle area in Marawi City. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

The military said 13 Maute fighters and two soldiers were killed in separate gun battles in Marawi City on Friday afternoon, September 29.

The death toll rose to 155 government troops, 749 terrorists, and 47 civilians, based on the latest military report released on Saturday, September 30.

Troops have taken most of the strongholds of the Maute Group but fighting continues in an area near Lake Lanao where the remaining fighters of the local terrorist group were pushed back. (READ: Bodies, firearms retrieved from former Maute stronghold)

"Despite yesterday's casualties, today the government forces will fight harder [to end the war] so that the rehabilitation of Marawi can continue unhampered," said Colonel Romeo Brawner, Task Group Ranao deputy commander.

AFP shows video of alleged looting by Maute members

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): AFP shows video of alleged looting by Maute members


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday presented an aerial footage of alleged acts of pillaging or looting being committed by Maute group members in the main battle area in Marawi City.

We can see items, boxes, sacks being taken from a seemingly residential building,” Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi deputy commander Col. Romeo Brawner said Friday.

The video is undated and the exact location is still being determined by authorities.

“This reinforces the revelations of rescued former hostages that the terrorists are looting important materials inside the MBA,” Brawner said.

Reports of looting by the terrorists have surfaced since the early part of the crisis that started May 23. Accounts of hostages who were rescued or escaped have said that the terrorists looted houses and establishments.

Government forces also recovered ATM money vaults from Landbank, which was turned over to the bank’s manager.

They also recovered a sack containing coins believed to be used as shrapnel by terrorists in making improvised explosive devices.

Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia of JTF Marawi said the terrorists were using other kinds of metals such as nails and bolts as shrapnels.

“In previous incidents we are wondering why some wounded have coins in their wounds. Ito pala yun, ngayon natin establish na ginagamit nila ang mga coins sa shrapnel (This was it. Now we can establish that they are using coins as shrapnel),” he said.

Two more Marawi mosques remain in the hands of Maute —military

From GMA News (Sep 29): Two more Marawi mosques remain in the hands of Maute —military

[Video report]

Only two more mosques remain in the hands of the ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City, but government troops are confident they will be able to retake them in a week or two, GMA News' Jun Veneracion reported on 24 Oras on Friday.

The report said the Philippine flag was raised at the White Mosque on Friday morning, after it was retaken by the military from the terrorists after 130 days of fighting.

The mosque served as the Maute group's logistics area and was also the place where they hid their hostages, the report said.

"With the capture of the White Mosque this morning, we are now placing 'yung area na ginagawalan natin sa 300x300 or less. More or less 8 to 9 hectares, " said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, commander of the military's Western Mindanao Command.

"Ten to 15 days tapos na ito," he added, referring to the conflict in Marawi City that has been raging since May 23.

The report said the terrorists are already weakened by lack of food and ammunition, prompting three of them to surrender recently.

It added that the military believes in three days' time the defense of the Maute group in Marawi City can be considered negligible.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the judgment day for them," Galvez said in a press briefing.

The report said 15 bodies of suspected terrorists were found near Bato Mosque, which has already been retaken by government soldiers, on Thursday. It was at the this mosque where the Maute group assembled their improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Among the items seized from Bato Mosque were six sacks of coins. The military said coins were used as shrapnels by the terrorists for their IEDs.

"There have been instances already in the past where our troops have been hit by coins," said Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao.

NPA rebel surrenders in Kalinga

From Sun Star-Baguio (Sep 28): NPA rebel surrenders in Kalinga
MEMBER of the New People’s Army based in Kalinga province voluntarily surrendered to the government September 24 at Barangay Pantikian, Balbalan.

Local officials of pantikian and Balbalan coordinated with the police in the surrender of Joseph Masadao, 53, single, resident of Sitio Ubel, Gawaan, Balbalan.

 Masadao was an alleged member of Milisyang Bayan (MB) under the command of Marcial Dagay operating in the province of Kalinga and nearby provinces.

 The alleged rebel voluntarily surrendered to the joint personnel of Balbalan Municipal Police Station, 3rd MC, Regional Public Safety Batallion, Police Regional Office in the Cordillera and members of the 50th IB of the Philippine Army.

After his surrender, Masadao was immediately brought to the Western Kalinga District Hospital for Medical treatment and later referred to Kalinga Provincial Hospital, Tabuk City for further medical attention after suffering an injury caused by the eroded tunnel at Gaang Gold Mining.

The rebel returnee is now under the protection of the authorities, and is undergoing processing for facilitation of benefits and financial assistance given by government to start a new and peaceful life.

PRO-COR regional director Chief Superintendent Elmo Francis Sarona said Masadao is just one among other rebels who opted to withdraw their armed struggle for them to be with their families and to seek for a reformed life in the community.

 “This is why we encourage more rebels to return to the folds of the law,” added Sarona.

“The continuous surrender of the members of the NPA only manifests that the intensified programs of the government troops to counter the insurgency problem in the region is effective thus rebels are starting to surrender and return back to the folds of the law,” Sarona added

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Philippine Troops and Pro-IS Reinforcements Clash Near Marawi

From BenarNews (Sep 28): Philippine Troops and Pro-IS Reinforcements Clash Near Marawi


Philippine troops guard a lakeshore village near the southern town of Bacolod Kalawi near Marawi after several gunmen aboard a boat were spotted near the area, Sept. 28, 2017.

Heavy fighting broke out Thursday between government forces and gunmen sent to reinforce militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) who are cornered in the southern Philippine city of Marawi after four months of clashes, military officials said.

BenarNews journalists saw black smoke billowing from Balut, a sparsely inhabited island about three km (1.8 miles) from downtown Marawi, after air force planes dropped bombs and fired rockets at enemy positions.

The island lies in Lake Lanao, a 340 square-km (130 square-mile) body of water that militants have used to travel into and out of the devastated city.

About 70 militants, remained but some were trying to escape on the lake as they ran out of food, water and ammunition, said Col. Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of the local military task force.

However, Brawner said he was certain the militants in Balut were part of the militants’ reinforcements, and not from the battlefront in the city.

How they landed on the island was not clear, but officials indicated that troops had not sealed off entry and exit points in and out of Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city that has been reduced to rubble since the fighting started on May 23.

Some civilians reported seeing gunmen traveling on boats, Marawi Mayor Abdul Mohaiman Dipatuan told BenarNews.

“There were no residents in that island, so probably they are terrorists” out to support Abu Sayyaf and Maute fighters, Dipatuan said.

Jun Sangcopan, a resident of Bacolod Kalawi, a town near Lake Lanao, said he saw four boats loaded with armed men heading into Balut and the nearby lakeside towns of Tugaya and Ganasi.

Brawner said a military contingent was deployed quickly to check on Balut island, but encountered heavy resistance.

“There’s an ongoing operation right now. The report said at least seven armed men were seen but we believe several more were there,” he told BenarNews.

“They were reinforcements. We are certain nobody was able to get out from the main battle zone in Marawi,” Brawner added.

He said there are strong indications Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, the IS leader in the Philippines, was still inside the main battle area with Omar Maute, a local militant leader.

At least 711 militants, 172 military and police officers and 47 civilians have been killed since hundreds of extremists, backed by foreign fighters, seized Marawi, the biggest security challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

Balut Island [Richel V. Umel/BenarNews]

Army, SAF engage in encounter with rebels

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Sep 29): Army, SAF engage in encounter with rebels
THE 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police -Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) engaged in a firefight with suspected members of New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay San Isidro, Toboso, Negros Occidental early Thursday morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Darrell Bañez, commander of 62nd IB, said yesterday the troops and police were conducting community security patrol in the area when they encountered about 10 armed men around 5 a.m.

“The firefight lasted for about two minutes,” Bañez said. No casualties were reported.

Additional troops were sent to the area to track down the armed men.

The joint combat operation of 62nd IB and PNP-SAF is in response to the reports they received from residents about the presence of armed men in the village.

Bañez expressed his gratitude to the community for their full cooperation that helped the government troops ensure peace and order in the province.

Colonel Eliezer Losañes, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade, said hot pursuit operation is ongoing.

New People’s Army admits killing of RPA-ABB leader

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Sep 28): New People’s Army admits killing of RPA-ABB leader

THE Armando Sumayang Command South West Negros Guerilla Front of New People’s Army (NPA) owned up the killing of a commander of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental three weeks ago.
In a press statement dated September 27, Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the rebel group, said Jovanie Banista, 50, a sixth district commander of RPA-ABB based in Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City, had engaged in illegal gambling and illegal drugs as protector, particularly in areas of Bantayan, Magballo and Manduaw in Kabankalan City.
Guerrero added that Banista was also involved in corruption and illegal logging.
She said that Banista was hired as a personal bodyguard and hitman of politicians in southern Negros especially during the elections last year.
The rebel group also alleged that Banista was an instrument of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police in counter-insurgency operations against the revolutionary movement.
They added that he was also involved in human rights violation against civilians, and in hold-up incidents victimizing businessmen.
On September 9, Banista was gunned down by about 12 armed men on his way home from Barangay Bantayan.
 In August 2014, he was seriously wounded when he was also ambushed by the same assailants at Purok Cubay in the same village.

AFP troops seize large NPA camp

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 29): AFP troops seize large NPA camp

Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – Combat maneuvering troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently seized a large New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Sitio Side 4, Barangay Mangayon, Compostela town, Compostela Valley (ComVal) province, said 2nd Lt. Honeylee Joy S. Maunahan, acting Civil Military Operation (CMO) officer of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion (66th IB) on Friday.


She said an estimated one-hectare NPA camp was seized by the operating troops of the 66th IB following an armed encounter against some 50 heavily armed NPA rebels Thursday morning.

A small unit team was sent for an operation in the area of Dash 7 at Sitio Side 4, Barangay Mangayon, Compostela town, to confirm the report regarding the presence of a large number of communist rebels composed of guerilla-Front Committee 25 and guerilla-Front Committee 20 and Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 8 of the CPP-NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, the 66th IB CMO officer said, in a statement sent to The Manila Bulletin on Friday.

The firefight started at around 10 a.m. when the three NPA terrorists who were laying landmines along a road fired upon the troops, she said.

“The team was able to hold and sustain the hour-long firefight where they served as forward observer for the artillery fires toward the enemy location,” she said.

The 66th CMO officer also said the delivery of accurate artillery fires and the bravery of the team members despite being outnumbered forced the rebels to withdraw and abandon their camp.

The reinforcing 1st Platoon Bravo Company, 66IB, and the small unit who was earlier engaged, conducted the assault which resulted in the seizure of the NPA camp, she said.

Recovered in the encounter site were one M16A1 rifle, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assorted enemy personal belongings, food stuff and other war materials, she said.

There was no casualty on the government side while the communist rebels were believed to have incurred casualties as per reports received by the unit from the civilians, she added.

“This is a strong statement that 66 th IB will not allow incursion of peace spoilers and we have been continuously winning back the mass bases the NPA have gained during the ceasefire,” also said 667th IB commander Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, in the same statement.

The encounter is an evidence that many people now are against the communist wrongdoings and are willing to sacrifice for the protection of peace in this part of the region, Lt. Col. Parungao added.

LOOK: PH special forces demo anti-hijacking operations

From Update Philippines (Sep 28): LOOK: PH special forces demo anti-hijacking operations

PAF photo

710th Special Operations Wing (SPOW) of the Philippine Air Force together with other special units of Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines on September 18 conducted a capability demonstration on anti-hijacking operations as part of Tempest Wind 2017.

The anti-hijacking demonstration was conducted at Air Force City, Clark Air Base, Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Tempest Wind 2017 aimed at testing and improving the ability of United States and Philippines to rapidly plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations. It was held at various locations in the Philippines and Hawaii.

PAF photo

“Tempest Wind presented an unprecedented opportunity for comprehensive training for both senior leaders and action officers,” US Ambassador Sung Kim said.

“Through this exercise we learned together, strengthened our critical relationships, and pinpointed areas of weakness, making both of our countries better, stronger and more prepared to confront 21st century challenges,” he added.

US, PH set for military exercises for 2018

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 28): US, PH set for military exercises for 2018
The Philippines and the United States are now determining the joint military activities for next year following the successful conclusion of a drill designed to train Filipino and American troops in fighting terrorism.

Philippines-US flags / Image courtesy of crossed-flag-pins/ Manila Bulletin
“Admiral Harry Harris of the Pacific Command and General Eduardo Año of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are leading the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board annual meeting in Hawaii this week to determine the slate of joint activities for next year,” US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim disclosed in his remarks delivered at the conclusion of Tempest Wind, a counterterrorism drill between the Philippines and the US. “We look forward to another successful year of opportunities to train together and learn from each other.”

According to Ambassador Kim, Tempest Wind was “unique in important ways and went far beyond our normal array of joint exercises.”
“It was a challenging inter-agency drill for both sides, intended to test and improve the ability of our nations to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations,” he said.

The drill involved over 1,200 US and Philippine civilian and military participants and simulated a scenario involving a real commercial airliner filled with 150 actors who played hostages creating a realistic environment to test bilateral, inter-agency decision-making and tactical response.

“Tempest Wind presented an unprecedented opportunity for comprehensive training for both senior leaders and action officers,” said Kim. “The exercise involved everyone from senior officials of our national security agencies to the brave soldiers and police officers who do the front-line work of defending our safety and security.”

The top American diplomat in Manila said through the exercise the Philippines and the US “learned together, strengthened our critical relationships, and pinpointed areas of weakness, making both of our countries better, stronger and more prepared to confront 21st century challenges.”

“Tempest Wind was the latest and very significant example of our close ties,” said Kim. “The United States will continue to support Philippine counterterrorism efforts and work jointly to address shared threats to the peace and security in the region.”

What Did the New US-Philippines Terror Drills Achieve?

From The Diplomat (Sep 29): What Did the New US-Philippines Terror Drills Achieve?

The inaugural iteration of Tempest Wind bears attention within the broader context of the alliance.

What Did the New US-Philippines Terror Drills Achieve?
Image Credit: US Embassy Manila
Over the past week, the United States and the Philippines have held the first iteration of a new, recently unveiled counterterrorism drill. Though both treaty allies have long developed a range of bilateral exercises, the holding of this one bears attention given the ongoing efforts to boost counterterrorism cooperation amid concerns around the Islamic State as well as the broader context for ties under the leadership of Rodrigo Duterte.

As I have noted before, despite all the focus on Duterte’s fierce anti-American rhetoric, U.S.-Philippine defense ties have seen more of a downgrading than a severing (See: “Will Duterte End the US-Philippine Military Alliance?”). In addition to some refocusing and renaming in terms of exercises, there have also been some new forms of cooperation advanced as well in response to ongoing challenges, be it in on maritime security amid transnational crimes in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas or on counterterrorism following the Marawi crisis that erupted in May (See: “US Terror Aid to Philippines Signals Enduring Defense Ties Under Duterte”).

On September 15, the U.S. Embassy in Manila had publicly announced for the first time that the two governments would embark on a new bilateral, whole of government counterterrorism drill called Tempest Wind in mid-September, despite the fact that the two sides had agreed on this last year.

As I noted in an earlier piece, Tempest Wind, which had been approved as a new exercise by the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) back in November 2016, was to include not just drills, but additional military assessments, national level engagement, and subject matter expert exchanges taking place in both the Philippines and Hawaii, which is where the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) is located (See: “US, Philippines Launch New Drill”).

From September 18 to 26, the two countries conducted the first iteration of Tempest Wind in Clark Field, Pampanga. More than 1,200 U.S. and Philippine civilian and military officials participated in the exercises, which focused on improving the ability of both countries to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism and security operations.

The exercise included a scenario that used a real commercial liner filled with more than 150 actors portraying hostages. In the exercise scenario, terrorists linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) hijacked a passenger plane from Sydney, Australia bound for Hawaii and forced it to land in the Philippines. After negotiations failed, forces on the ground were forced to conduct a tactical response, resulting in the killing of the eight hijackers and the rescue of 162 Filipino and American passengers.

Following the exercise, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim discussed the details of what had occurred and its significance. Lorenzana emphasized the challenging and realistic nature of the exercise for both sides, and Kim described Tempest Wind as a unique initiative that “went far beyond our normal array of joint exercises.”

In terms of the broader context of U.S.-Philippine defense ties, the conclusion of Tempest Wind came as defense officials from the two countries meet for the MDB-SEB annual meeting in Hawaii to discuss joint exercises for 2018, led by Admiral Harry Harris of PACOM and General Eduardo Ano of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). As details continue to emerge, they will offer some concrete indicators of what we might expect in U.S.-Philippine defense ties for the following year.

MILF: The BBL, Congress and its Legislative Process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 28): The BBL, Congress and its Legislative Process

CAMP DARAPANAN, SULTAN KUDARAT, MAGUINDANAO-( September 28, 2017) -  The BTC-crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law has been filed last Tuesday, and numbered as HB 6475. The bill is sponsored by no less than the Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rudy Farinas, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema of 1st District of Maguindanao, and Rep. Ruby Sahali of Tawi-Tawi as principal sponsors and about 80 congressmen/women attested to co - author the same.

In this recent development, many groups are asking what is next now that BBL is filed; How congress will do its mandate and what is their limitations; How legislative processes works. For the sake of those who are not familiar on how laws are enacted by congress, Luwaran is humbly sharing the details.

CONGRESS: The highest lawmaking body in the Philippines and its power is vested by Philippine Constitution.

It is a bicameral body consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is composed of the congressmen / women elected from their legislative districts and partylist representatives. The Senate on the other hand is made up of senators, elected at large on a national level.

With the key function to craft laws, the congress produces two principal documents, bills and resolutions. Resolutions convey principles and sentiments that address either of the houses. Bills are legislative proposals that may become laws.

Here is a summary of how a bill becomes a law. (obtained from official website of the Senate). Filing / Calendaring for First Reading. A bill is filed in the office of the Secretary where it is given a corresponding number and calendared for First Reading.

FIRST READING: Its title, bill number and authors name are read on the floor after which is referred to proper committee.

COMMITTEE HEARINGS / REPORT: Committee conducts hearing and consultation meetings. It then approves the proposed bill without an amendment, approves it with changes or recommends substitution or consolidation with similar bills filed.

CALENDARING FOR SECOND READING: The committee report with its approved version is submitted to the Committee on Rules for calendaring for Second Reading.

SECOND READING: Bill author delivers sponsorship speech on the floor. Senators engage in debate, interpellation, turno en contra and rebuttal to highlight the pros and cons of the bill. A period of amendment incorporates necessary changes in the bill proposed by the Committee or introduced by Senators themselves on the floor. Senators vote on the Second reading version of the bill. If approved, the bill is calendared for 3rd Reading.

VOTING ON THIRD READING: Printed copies of the bill's final version are distributed to the Senators. This time only the title of the bill is read on the floor. Nominal voting is held. If passed, the approved Senate bill is referred to the House of Representatives for concurrence. (At the House of Representatives, the lower chamber follows the same procedures of " three reading principles. "

BACK TO THE SENATE: If the House approved version is compatible with that of the senate, the final versions enrolled form is printed. If there are certain differences, a Bicameral Conference Committee is called to reconcile conflicting provisions of both versions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Conference Committee submits report on the reconciled version of the bill, duly approved by both chambers the Senate prints the reconciled version in its enrolled form.

SUBMISSION TO MALACANANG: Final enrolled form is submitted to Malacañang. The President either signs it into law or vetoes it, and sends it back to the Senate with veto message. If the President fails to do either, the bill will lapse into law after 30 days.

Those are the processes on how a bill becomes a law. A reminder to our Honorable Legislators that it is now your chance to leave a legacy to the Bangsamoro people. There is no other way of correcting historical injustices suffered by them except by passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is CAB complaint and let the Supreme Court decide if there will be legal infirmities as alleged by some.


(Editors note: The writer sought permission to go on indefinite medical leave)

MILF: BTC Chair Jaafar holds Presscon with Foreign Media

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 29): BTC Chair Jaafar holds Presscon with Foreign Media

(IN PHOTO) -MILF 1st Vice Chairman and Concurrent Chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission(BTC) Ghazali Jaafar is being interviewed by a foreign journalist in his satellite Office in Sultan, Kudarat, Maguindanao

“There’s no presence of an ISIS terrorists group here in Mindanao”. This was disclosed by Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chair and 1st Vice Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Central Committee (MILF-CC) Ghadzali Jaafar during a Press Conference with Foreign Media on Mindanao Peace Process (Saturday) held at Sultan, Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 22, 2017.
He further clarified that what has transpired here is that, “The existence of the BIFF and the Maute group who are fighting against the government forces in Maguindanao and Marawi City was the result of big frustration. They highly expected the commitment of the previous administration to implement the signed negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro issue in Mindanao.”

“Actually the BIFF and the Maute group were former members of the MILF but they separated due to their frustrations and dissatisfaction to the uncertainty of the ongoing peace process. Probably, the government and the MILF peace process is the longest in the history of the peace process in the world. That’s the reasons why they separated and continued in fighting against the government”, Jaafar told the foreign journalists.

The BIFF and the Maute group were never been a bandits or terrorists in the Bangsamoro Homeland. They remained in fighting for a cause and principle to establish a self-rule government. The reported displaying of ISIS flag is may be a part of their propaganda to get public attention and begging for support from the ISIS founder. But definitely, We are not amenable to their principles in fighting without adherence to the rules of engagement as provided for under the Geneva Convention, Jaafar further said.

Question asked by the Media: In what alternative solution of the MILF-CC to neutralize the continued existence of the BIFF and Maute and other armed groups in Mindanao?

There’s no other way or alternative solution to neutralize the BIFF and the Maute group, except, to sign a strong BBL that could address the Bangsamoro Issue in Mindanao, Jaafar replied.

Precisely the Bangsamoro Government would be established: What assurance in your part as the BTC Chair that the BIFF and Maute would sympathize in the Bangsamoro Government?

Jaafar replied and said: I had mentioned earlier, the BIFF and Maute groups were former members of the MILF. Though they have separated from the MILF, we have one common objective which is to establish a Bangsamoro Government for Self-determination. Therefore, once they saw and observed the strong BBL passed by the 17th Congress, there’s no reason for them not to join in the Bangsamoro Government.

With the concerted efforts of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in facilitating the Press Conference by at least 14 Foreign Media Correspondents, said conference successfully ended.

Jaafar expressed his thanks and gratitude to the organizers and to the following media entities: Nash Maulana, PPI and Manila Standard Correspondent; Arlene Burgos, ABC-CBN News; Steven Chang, CNN; Liz Dan, East West Center; Siba Al, Newsday ; Shackir R, Kuwait Times; Liza R, East West Center; Jane Namon, ABS-CBN News; Usman Kansung, Media Indonesia, Jakarta; Shoeb Khan, Tunes of India; Municken Oyewode, Daily Trust Newspaper; Joseph Neff, The News Observer, USA; Arlel Sebenido, PPI, Executive Director; and Brian Sayawam, Star Media Malaysia.

Chairman Jaafar had explained briefly during the Presscon the basic information with relevant issues on Mindanao Peace Process. Such as; the historical relevance of the Bangsamoro Struggle as an independent Sultanate State before the coming of the Spaniards in March 1521. The historical background of the Bangsamoro Struggle, the hardships and sacrifices of the Bangsamoro in the hands of the foreign invaders; the Spaniards and the United States of America, for barely 500 years as of now, including the Philippine Colonial government,

Pardon me for telling this, “The Bangsamoro people was never been conquered by the Spaniards, and even the Americans. The Philippine government who initiated a peace talks with the MILF and invited the MILF to have a peace talks, we accepted it. Because the late Amerul Mujahideen and founding Chairman of the MILF, Sheik Salamat Hashim (Allaho Yarhamo) firmly believed and emphasized, “The best alternative solution to attain a dignified and lasting peace in Mindanao is through a democratic process.” That’s why we are exerting all our efforts to resolve the Bangsamoro Issue through a peace process.

Jaafar reiterated the main objectives of the peace process in Mindanao as well as the salient points of the BBL wherein the Bangsamoro people are expecting the full support of President Rodrigo Duterte and the 17th Congress to pass the BBL into law. He reiterated further that the ongoing peace process under the Duterte administration may pave way for a just, dignified and lasting peace in Mindanao.