Sunday, June 18, 2017

Commentary: POSTSCRIPT: Addressing challenges posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group: Violent extremism enters a new phase (1)

Commentary posted to MindaNews (Jun 18): POSTSCRIPT:  Addressing challenges posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group: Violent extremism enters a new phase (1)

1st of three parts

As the ten-part series on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was being published in MindaNews (May 20 – 29 2017), the news broke out about the fighting that started on May 23 in the Islamic City of Marawi.  As reported, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)  had received intelligence reports that Isnilon Hapilon, chieftain of the ASG forces in Basilan and the designated Amir of Islamic State-affiliated groups in the Philippines, was hiding out in Marawi City, and an operation was launched to arrest him.  Unfortunately, in the process, the forces protecting Hapilon, which consisted principally of ASG and Maute Group fighters, fought back and the unfortunate occupation of parts of the city, now on its fourth week, began.

As everyone knows, this prompted the declaration of martial law throughout Mindanao by President Duterte, who at the time was on an Official Visit to Russia with officials of his Administration to include the top officials of the security sector.  The outbreak of fighting and the declaration of martial law led to President Duterte cutting short his visit in order to return to the Philippines and attend to the problem.

As of this writing (June 15), the fighting is on its 24th day.  Newspaper reports indicate that around 10% of the city is still under the control of the militants, 58 soldiers and policemen have died in the operations while around 297 have been wounded, it is estimated that 200 or so militants have been killed (difficult to make an exact body count here) and around 30 civilians have likewise been killed (again difficult to confirm, a higher count is likely).

Practically the entire population of the city, placed at over 200,000, have evacuated except for several hundred who are trapped in the areas still being contested by the government forces and the militants.  In fact one newspaper report (Inquirer, June 15) indicates that over 300,000 persons have evacuated if one includes residents of villages and towns adjacent to Marawi.

It is inevitable that the government forces will eventually be able to prevail, killing and/or driving away the militant fighters.  But that will not mean that victory will have been achieved.  Whatever the outcome, the militants will have made their point.  They have been able to demonstrate their ability to undertake an audacious plan as well as an ability to withstand for an extended period of time the onslaught of a superior military force.  Whether we like it or not, this incident will earn for them prestige in militant circles both within the country and abroad.  Certainly, this will not be the last that we will hear from them and others who share the same outlook or ideology.  We can expect that plans will be drawn up for other such unexpected incidents.

How did things reach this point?

Transformation of Islamic Militancy 

Although prominent attention has been given to the Maute Group (Daulatul Islamiyah or IS Ranao) with regard to the current Marawi crisis, it should be remembered that this situation started, as mentioned above, with the operations launched for the capture or killing of Isnilon Hapilon of the ASG and simultaneously Amir of the IS-affiliated groups in the Philippines.

These groups consist of the ASG (going by its formal name Al-Harakatul al-Islamiyah), the Maute Group (MG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), AKP (Ansarul Khilafa Philippines), and a host of other less known and smaller groups like the Ansar al-Shariah, the Marakah al-Ansar (supposedly from Sulu), Abu Dujana Battalion, Abu Khubaib Battalion, Jundallah Battalion and the Abu Sadr Battalion.  These various groups at one time or another all pledged allegiance and loyalty to the Islamic State and its self-proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Isnilon Hapilon has been designated by the IS as the overall leader of these groups.  But given the fact that the present battles are being carried out on the home grounds of the Maute Group and that the MG are likely providing the bulk of the fighters in these battles – although it has been reported that the BIFF and AKP are likewise involved – it is understandable that greater focus has been given to the MG.

It will be recalled that the ASG started out in the early 1990s as an intransigent, violent terrorist group, given to assassinations, indiscriminate bombings, extortion activities, a raid on a sizable town (Ipil, population around 45,000 in 1995) and its hallmark kidnapping for ransom.  Its declared objective was the establishment of an Islamic state to be governed under Shariah law.  While it had links with foreign organizations – funding from Al Qaeda in the early to mid-1990s, links with the Jemaah Islamiyah from Indonesia, translated into joint trainings and bombing operations – its sights were essentially inwardly focused, i.e., setting up an Islamic state in Mindanao.

But with the rise of the Islamic State (Dawlat al-Islamiyah) in the Middle East and the proclamation of the establishment of the Caliphate on June 29, 2014 with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the Caliph, all in fulfillment of the prophetic vision of the resurrection of the Caliphate, harking back to the time of the Prophet (PBUH), following the final battle to end all battles which was prophesied to take place in al-Sham or present-day Syria, things have changed radically.  The concept of the Caliphate seems to have captured the imagination of a segment of the global Muslim population, wishing to right what they view as the historical injustice and oppression that has been visited upon Islam and Muslims worldwide and wishing to regain the past glory of the Islamic world.  And while the concept of the Ummah, the Community of Believers regardless of nationality and territorial boundaries, has always been there, this willingness and even eagerness to wage Jihad fi-Sabilillah, Fighting and Dying in the Service or the Path of Allah, is a relatively new impetus pushing many adherents of the Islamic State worldwide.  Its modern-day roots can be traced to the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s.

For militant groups in the Philippines, their struggle is now seen within the context of this global Caliphate.  Moreover, given the exhortation of the IS, expressed in a video issued by the Al-Furat Media arm of the IS in June of 2016, that its adherents in the Southeast Asia region should go to fight in the Philippines rather than Iraq or Syria, Mindanao has acquired a new and prized position in the Islamic militant world.

Taking a broader view, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer described it very well recently when she compared the qualitative difference between these IS-inspired militants and the liberation movements of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF):

“If the older generation of rebels struggled for the right to self-determination and self-government of the Moro people, the new militant groups want an Islamic state that is part and parcel of a global caliphate.

“The former fought the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the recognition of Bangsamoro as an ethnopolitical identity; the latter is mounting a violent, intolerant, hegemonic religious jihad against nonbelievers.

“Unlike their elders, the 21st century Islamists have no patience for a long drawn-out guerrilla war. Rather, they want quick, explosive results achieved through indiscriminate acts of violence like bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. Unabashedly, they raise funds through criminal activities.

“Born in the age of information and communication technology, these militants are social media-
savvy. They are networked with global jihadist movements whose modus is to operate as a conglomerate of self-sustained, self-radicalized,  decentralized cells.”  (Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, “Losing the Peace?  Jihadists rise in Mindanao”,  Inquirer.Net, June 8, 2017.)

Clearly, the Republic is facing a new kind of enemy.

A Larger Plan Thwarted?

Information emerging from the battlefront in Marawi now seems to indicate that what at first was considered a failed attempt by the military to capture or kill Isnilon Hapilon in fact resulted in thwarting the militants’ intentions of launching a larger plan to take over all of Marawi and declare it as the base of the IS in this region.  A video showing Hapilon, the Maute brothers and others sitting around a table working out this plan was discovered in a cellphone which had been left behind in the house that was raided by the military on May 23.

Moreover, the intensity of the resistance of the militant forces and the discovery of caches of weapons and ammunition, food supplies and money as the military has taken over enemy positions has led the authorities to conclude that in fact this takeover had been planned for some time and that preparations had been well underway.

Furthermore, the discovery of non-Filipinos among the slain militants would seem to indicate that the call of the IS for fighters to come to the Philippines as part of the struggle to establish a global Caliphate is being heeded.  One report stated that the bodies of two Indonesians, two Malaysians, two Saudis, a Yemeni and a Chechen were discovered among those killed in the fighting.  Another intelligence report claimed that as many as forty foreigners are among the militants fighting in Marawi.

As this is being written, news reports are being aired in the media about the possible infiltration of suspected Maute Group members into Iligan City.  The reports indicate that these MG members blended in with the evacuees from Marawi by cutting their hair and shaving off their beards.  While so far no confirmation has been publicly aired, this is a very real possibility because Iligan would be a logical second front for the war, being practically next door to Marawi, and would serve to split Government forces, thus allowing those fighters still in Marawi to likewise escape.  There are also reports of about 300 gunmen massing in a town outside Marawi.

The resolution of the crisis, currently in Marawi but with the potential of spreading to other areas, should not be expected anytime soon.

What should be expected is that the President will need to ask for authority from Congress for the extension of Martial Law beyond the initial 60-day period provided under the Constitution, before this initial period lapses.

[Vic M. Taylor, originally from Cebu, has been involved in various peace and development activities in Mindanao, particularly in Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) in the different positions he has held in government and the private sector over the last 50 years.

He started as an instructor at the Notre Dame of Jolo College after his graduation from the Ateneo de Manila University in the late 1960s.  Subsequently, he oversaw the Rehabilitation and Development Program for Muslim Mindanao during the early years of martial law under the Office of the President.

Within the last 16 years and upon the request of the families of some kidnap victims, Mr. Taylor assisted these families to help secure the safe release of five victims from the ASG.

Recently, he has been working with a private group that is assisting a community of the Moro National Liberation Front in the Zamboanga peninsula in bringing development projects to their area]

ISIS threat in Southeast Asia raises alarm in Washington

From the Stars and Stripes (Jun 18): ISIS threat in Southeast Asia raises alarm in Washington

Debris and smoke rises after a Philippine Air Force fighter jets bombed suspected locations of Muslim militants, in Marawi city, southern Philippines, on June 9, 2017.

Southeast Asia's jihadis who fought by the hundreds for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria now have a different battle closer to home in the southern Philippines. It's a scenario raising significant alarm in Washington.

The recent assault by ISIS-aligned fighters on the Philippine city of Marawi has left more than 300 people dead, exposing the shortcomings of local security forces and the extremist group's spreading reach in a region where counterterrorism gains are coming undone.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress last week a long-running U.S. military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago. Small numbers of U.S. special forces remain in an "advise and assist" role, and the U.S. is providing aerial surveillance to help the Philippines retake Marawi, an inland city of more than 200,000 people.

But lawmakers, including from President Donald Trump's Republican Party, want a bigger U.S. role, short of boots on the ground. They fear the area is becoming a new hub for Islamist fighters from Southeast Asia and beyond.

"I don't know that ISIS are directing operations there but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region," said Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, using another acronym for the group. "We need to address the situation. It should not get out of control."

U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials note that IS has publicly accepted pledges from various groups in the Philippines. In a June 2016 video, it called on followers in Southeast Asia to go to the Philippines if they cannot reach Syria.

About 40 foreigners, mostly from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, have been among 500 involved in fighting in Marawi, the Philippine military says. Reports indicate at least one Saudi, a Chechen and a Yemeni killed. In all, more than 200 militants have died in the standoff, now in its fourth week.

Video obtained by The Associated Press from the Philippine military indicates an alliance of local Muslim fighters, aligned with ISIS, are coordinating complex attacks. They include the Islamic State's purported leader in Southeast Asia: Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists, with a $5 million bounty on his head.

U.S. officials are assessing whether any of the estimated 1,000 Southeast Asians who traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years are fighting in Catholic-majority Philippines. They fear ungoverned areas in the mostly Muslim region around Marawi could make the area a terror hub as in the 1990s.

Then, the Philippines was a base of operations for al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, who plotted in 1994-95 to blow up airliners over the Pacific. The plot was foiled. But the same men were instrumental in the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Other nations share the fear. Singapore recently warned of IS exerting a radicalizing influence "well beyond" what that of al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah ever mustered. Jemaah Islamiyah carried out major terror attacks around the region in the 2000s. IS already has been linked to attacks in Indonesia and Malaysia, and foiled plots in Singapore, this past year.

This month, Mattis told the region's defense chiefs that "together we must act now to prevent this threat from growing." In Congress this past week, he stressed intelligence sharing and nations like Singapore sharing the burden, rather than deploying U.S. troops.

More than 500 U.S. special forces were based in the Mindanao region from 2002 to 2014, advising and training Filipino forces against the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for bombings and kidnappings. When it ended, Philippine and U.S. officials voiced concern the U.S. withdrawal "could lead to a resurgence of a renewed terrorist threat," the RAND Corp. later reported. Months before the withdrawal, Abu Sayyaf pledged support to IS.

Supporting the Philippines isn't straightforward in Washington. President Rodrigo Duterte is accused of overlooking and even condoning indiscriminate killings by his forces in a war on drugs. Thousands have died. But that campaign has involved mainly police and anti-narcotic forces, not the military leading the anti-IS fight.

Still, the Philippine government is partly to blame for Marawi's violence, said Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asia expert at the National War College. He said the root cause was the government's failure to fulfill a 2014 peace agreement with the nation's largest Muslim insurgency, which fueled recruitment for IS-inspired groups.

Ernst, who chairs a Senate panel on emerging threats, wants the U.S. military to restart a higher-profile, "named operation" helping the Philippines counter IS. The Pentagon retains between 50 and 100 special forces in the region. At the request of the Philippine military, it has deployed a P3 Orion plane to surveil Marawi. It gave more than 600 assault firearms to Filipino counterterrorism forces last week.

Duterte has retreated from threats to expel U.S. forces from the Philippines as he seeks better ties with China. He said recently he hadn't sought more U.S. help, but was thankful for what he was getting.

"They're there to save lives," Duterte said.

MILF: Editorial -- Evacuees Are People In Dire Need

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 16): Editorial -- Evacuees Are People In Dire Need

Necessity needs no law. This is especially true to people who fled their homes leaving behind all what belong to them. The first law is how to survive and live. This is what is happening in Marawi City today.
Of course, when the evacuees fled they have succeeded to escape from direct harm’s way in the battle zone of Marawi City where bullets, bombs, and fire rule the day. However, they have not escaped from another harm’s way, this time from hunger, sickness, and shelter, which probably stays longer. This also subjects them to the rule of chance and the mercy of good-hearted fellow human beings and brothers in faith, because they have evacuated mostly in nearby Muslim towns and provinces.

In response to this, but in a very modest way and limited capacity, the MILF has mobilized its members and allied organizations to raise money and supplies especially basic necessities in order to help these evacuees from Marawi City. One cannot dispense with this responsibility.

As of this writing, we have collected a few millions of cash and worth of goods, which were shipped to Marawi City, Baloi, Lanao del Norte, and via the Malabang-Marawi City where sizeable number of evacuees are located. All these efforts are centralized by the MILF’s Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and are properly coordinated with government agencies that are tasked to undertake necessary relief supplies to the evacuees wherever they are located. They are also linked to the Peace Corridors created by the government and MILF after the meeting between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Chair Murad Ebrahim and other MILF senior leaders in Davao City on May 29.

We precisely understand the feeling and needs of these evacuees, because we were also once IDPs ourselves. This is especially true to senior MILF leaders and commanders. Most of them have not returned to their former dwellings since 1973 when the war erupted in Mindanao in February 1973 (in Sulu the war started in November 1972).

However, the evacuees from Marawi City feel more pangs, hardships and bitterness in their hearts, as compared to other Moro IDPs. Most of them have no experience being IDPs. For over 40 years since the war erupted in Mindanao, the people of this city remained virtually unaffected by the fighting, except briefly in October 1972. After that, there has never been no serious displacement, except in recent months where there was fighting between the same Maute group and the military in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Thus, this relative peace in Marawi City and in Lanao del Sur, in general, gave them the opportunity to progress in leaps and bounds in terms of wealth, education, and government employment, as compared to their Moro brothers and sisters in other provinces especially Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and South Cotabato. The Maranaos (people of the Lake) are virtually everywhere in this country, mostly as traders.

Consequently, there is so much accumulation of wealth by them. Moreover, good private homes, as well as beautiful mosques, abound in Marawi City. They are indeed part of the Moro people’s heritage that must be preserved.

As for the other wealth, especially cash and jewelleries, these are prized commodities that are magnets for those who want to grab them even in harm’s way. We hope the government has a way to secure these.

CPP/NPA-Panay: Pahayag Hinggil sa Matagumpay na Reyd ng NPA sa Maasin Police Station

NPA-Panay propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jun 18): Pahayag Hinggil sa Matagumpay na Reyd ng NPA sa Maasin Police Station

Ka Julio Montana, Spokesperson
NPA-Panay (Coronacion Chiva “Waling-Waling” Command)

18 June 2017

Pinupuri ng New People’s Army sa rehiyong Panay ang isang yunit ng NPA-Napoleon Tumagtang Command sa matagumpay nitong reyd sa istasyon ng pulis sa bayan ng Maasin, probinsya ng Iloilo, bandang 10:30 ng umaga ng Hunyo 18, 2017. Matapos ang 20-minuto na operasyong walang putok, nakumpiska ng NPA ang 11 na M16 Armalite rifle, 4 na pistola, mga bala at mga vhf radio. Maayos at ligtas na naka-withdraw ang mga Kasama pagkatapos.

Ang istasyon ng Maasin PNP ay dinis-armahan ng NPA dahil matagal nang nangingikil ang mga tauhan nito sa mga maliliit na vendors sa sentro ng bayan, samantalang nagpapabaya lamang sa paglaganap ng ilegal na droga at sugal. Ito ay sagot din ng NPA-Panay sa kontra-mamamayang Oplan Kapayapaan at kampanyang todo-gyera na pinapatupad ng AFP at PNP laban sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa buong bansa. Ang mabangis na kampanyang ito ay lalong nagpalubha sa mga paglabag ng AFP-PNP-paramilitar sa karapatang tao gaya ng pambobomba sa mga komunidad, sapilitang pagpapalikas, pagpatay at ilegal na pag-aresto sa mga pinaghihinalaang rebolusyonaryo, pananakot, sapilitang pag-ookupa ng kabahayan ng sibilyan at pampublikong gusali sa mga barangay, at iba pang pang-aabuso.

Labanan ang mapanlinlang na Oplan Kapayapaan at pasismo ng AFP-PNP!
Isulong ang makatarungang digmang bayan para kamtin ang tunay na kapayapaan at kaunlaran!

Lumad recruitment by NPA still has not stopped: army

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 18): Lumad recruitment by NPA still has not stopped: army

THE MILITARY accused the New People’s Army (NPA) of continuing to recruit Lumads and strengthen their forces to fight government forces in the hinterlands.

This was also confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte during a recent press briefing in Butuan City on Saturday when he said that 75% of the NPA fighters belong to the indigenous communities.

Three alleged members of NPA belonging to Manobo and B’laan tribe were killed in an encounter with Troops of 67th Infantry Battalion at Km. 35, Barangay Taytayan, Cateel, Davao Oriental on Saturday around 1:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, soldiers were able to recover five-high powered firearms and IEDs.

Capt. Andrew Linao, the civil-military operations officer (CMO) of 701st Infantry Brigade, told TIMES that troopers of the 67th Infantry Battalion encountered about 10 rebels at the said place, which lasted for 45 minutes.

Upon conducting clearing operation, they were able to recover one M14, one AK47, two M16 rifles and one M203. They were able also to recover two improvised explosive devices and personal belongings.

The three killed were identified only as alias MJ, 28, a Manobo and former member of Pulang Bagani Command 8 and a member of ABE squad of NPA; alias Brix, 21, Manobo; and Alias Dodong, 20, a B’laan.
Linao said Alias Brix and Dodong were new recruits of Guerilla Front 25 they joined the movement last April 16.

He said the bodies recovered only proved that the NPA exploitation of the Lumads still continues.

Duterte, meanwhile, said that those NPA members who surrender can be guaranteed a job like being integrated into the AFP, just like the former Moro National Liberation Front members before after signing the peace accord during the Ramos administration.

“If you are concerned that you won’t have jobs if you surrender, those NPA who are qualified, I will get you for the Armed Forces,” Duterte said last Saturday. “That is my deal for you. If your rank is corporal, your salary will still be corporal. You will be a part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.

Duterte to troops: “I love you all”

From MindaNews (Jun 18): Duterte to troops: “I love you all”

The Commander in Chief on Saturday reiterated an earlier vow to put a P50-billion trust fund for the education of children of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel, whether the soldiers are dead or alive.

“I am filled with nice feeling. I love you all. Mahal ko kayong lahat. Nasasaktan ako pag may nadisgrasya sa inyo” (I love all of you. I get hurt when you’re hurt), President Rodrigo Duterte, commader in chief of the AFP told troops of the 401st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division’s advance command post in Bancasi, Butuan City late Saturday afternoon.

Before going to Butuan, Duterte dropped by Cabdabaran City for the celebration of the 50th founding anniversary of Agusan del Norte. The celebration in Cabadbaran, hometown of Agusan del Norte Governor Angelica Rosedell Amante, was his first public appearance since evening of June 11.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte salutes newly-promoted Brigadier General Cristobal Zaragoza during the donning ceremony at the 4th Infantry Division Advance command Post in Butuan City on June 17, 2017. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

As in previous talks with troops, he promised they would have the best in terms of weapons and facilities, that henceforth there would be no more second hand air assets, guns must be war-grade and hospital facilities upgraded.

He also assured them he would support them all the way, including their families.

The President said the soldiers bear the brunt of fighting and “kasama ninyo ako sa lahat ng bagay” (I am with you all the way).

“Ewan ko kung maniwala kayo sa akin pero di ko kayo pababayaan” (I don’t know if you will believe me but I will never leave you behind),” he said, adding whether they live or die, their children’s schooling is assured.

He said he is targeting 20 billion pesos as trust fund for the soldiers’ children but hopes the amount would reach P50 billion when he steps down as President in 2022.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for a photo with officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the 4th Infantry Division during his visit at the 4th Infantry Division Advance command Post in Butuan City on June 17, 2017. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
“That will be enough to sustain the education of your children, whether you’re dead or you’re alive,” Duterte added. But he reminded them the children’s grades must meet the requirements.

He cited actuarial studies indicating that by the time the soldiers retire, their children are still in college.

Duterte explained the trust fund will take care of the educational needs of their children who need not wait for their father’s retirement or death benefits to be able to finish college.

He also said he wants soldiers’ wives to engage in small businesses whose start-up government, through the Department of Trade and Industry, will fund. But they will have to attend seminars and be trained on how to put the money to good use, he said.

Duterte: Maute Group’s firepower could match AFP’s

From MindaNews (Jun 18): Duterte: Maute Group’s firepower could match AFP’s

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said the Marawi Crisis was not a case of failure of intelligence but a case of connivance of politicians and warlords who allowed the Maute Group to stockpile firearms and ammunition in Marawi City that “could match even the firepower of the Armed Forces (of the Philippines).”

As the Marawi Crisis entered Day 26 on Saturday, Duterte told reporters in Butuan City, that the Maute Group does not seem to run out of bullets (“walang kaubus-ubusan ang bala”), conceding that the government’s only advantage is its air assets “pero on the ground, they (Maute Group) do not run out of bullets.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte salutes officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the 4th Infantry Division upon his arrival at the Division’x Advance command Post in Butuan City on June 17, 2017. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

He did not name the politicians or warlords. But two former mayors were among those named in Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s Arrest Orders No. 1 and 2, one of them, Fajad Umpar Salic, arrested at a checkpoint in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental at around 7:30 p.m. on June 7.

Addressing soldiers of the 401st Brigade under the 4th Infantry Divisions’ advance command post in Bancasi, Butuan City, Duterte acknowledged that government “adopted a very soft policy towards rebels” in view of the peace processes with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Some of those bearing arms, he said, would claim they were from the MILF or MNLF and the standing order to government security forces was to talk with them to avoid trouble.

“We took it (issue on firearms) for granted” because “we never knew at that time kung sino ba talaga ang kalaban. Yun bang mga politiko na nag-aaway. nagri-rido sila or itong mga private armies ng politicians” (who among them are fighting. Was it the politicians involved in rido or the private armies of these politicians?).

Duterte noted that the Maute Group took advantage of the situation by “bringing firearms surreptitiously” into Marawi City.

“All the while, itong Maute, with the connivance of the politicians there, ‘yung mga warlords, were stockpiling. Kaya ni hindi maubos ‘yung M-203 na bala at napakarami (That is why they don’t run out of M-203 grenade launchers. They have so many).

Government fires one, they will fire back five, Duterte said of the seemingly “endless supply when Maute rose to fight against government.”

He estimated the military build-up of the Maute Group in Marawi at around three years.

Later, Duterte told reporters that politicians provided the Maute Group money to buy these arms “but what fueled yung gyera talaga dito sa Marawi is the drug money of the Maute.”

Members of the Maute Group take control of various areas in Marawi City on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of CHICO DIMARO USMAN

MindaNews sources in Marawi said it is no secret that families store firearms in their houses and terrorists could easily add up to their firepower by using the firearms inside the houses and buildings inside the conflict zone.

Duterte told his troops that the Maute Group was merely waiting for a “bikil,” a reason for them to fire back and that reason was the service of the warrant of arrest against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon on May 23.

He refers to the foreign fighters in Marawi City as a “conglomeration of ISIS fighters from Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Arabs.”

Duterte announced the Marawi Crisis was “winding up but at the cost of so many soldiers also.”

ABS-CBN News Channel on Saturday reported the deployment of 400 Iloilo-based soldiers bound for Marawi.

At least 59 government forces and 300 others injured as of June 15, according to military spokespersons. At least 26 civilians were reported killed by the terrorists. The military claimed at least 225 terrorists have been killed and 208 of their firearms seized.

As of 6 p.m. June 15, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported a total of 332,582 person (68,109 families) displaced by armed conflict in Marawi, most of them from 95 of 96 barangays in Marawi.

The President and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines warned soldiers to watch out for these terrorists because “mahirap kalabanin yun taong gustong mamatay” (it’s difficult to fight somebody who wants to die).

Violent extremists, he said, have “so corrupted the name of God in the form of religion to kill mainly innocent persons and to destroy for nothing.”

He told reporters the Maute Group “was already infiltrated by the ISIS” and that they are in Marawi to “kill, kill, kill for no reason at all, to destroy, burn, pillage, rampage, for no reason at all.”

He said Marawi’s leaders knew there was already a military buildup on the pat of the Maute Group and should have reported it to authorities.

He said traditional political leaders and the moderates who do not want Marawi turned into a wasteland are desperate to end the crisis but “I am not apologizing for anything there because they brought the problem to themselves.”

Smoke envelopes a portion of downtown Marawi City after a military chopper dropped three 200-lb bombs at noon on Wednesday (14 June 2017). Government forces and members of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group have been fighting for control of the city since May 23. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

He asked why they did not report the military build up and the presence of foreigners to the police and the Armed Forces.

He said there is no need for traditional leaders to seek permission to negotiate with the Mautes to end the hostilities but he asked, “to talk about what? Surrender? O ano lang, areglo? Ganon na lang?” (To make arrangements? Just like that?)

“Paano yung patay ko? (How about my dead?) How about the murderous rampage …. ‘yung natamaan ng mga sniper nila? (those hit by their snipers?) They committed the crime of rebellion and there is the flag of ISIS. If that is not enough, what is it?” Duterte added.

Duterte declared martial law in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 citieis as of 10 p.m. on May 23, hours after the clashes started. At that time, three government forces had been killed — two soldiers and a police officer — and 12 others injured.

Asked by reporters in Butuan City if he would extend martial law beyond the 60-day period allowed by the 1987 Constitution, Duterte replied: “hindi matatapos yang martial law hanggang hindi matapos yang putukan” (martial law will not end if the firefight does not end.) Until I am satisfied or we are satisfied that not a single shot will be fired ever again” and their firearms crushed by a bulldozer.

He said if the Supreme Court rules that he had no factual basis to declare martial law, “then okay, I will withdraw” but if anything goes wrong and he declares martil law a second time around, “hindi na ako makinig maski kanino” (I won’t listen to anyone anymore).

“But if that rebellion burns Mindanao and the other parts of the Philippines, and I will be forced to declare martial law again, this time, I will do it on my own to preserve my nation. I will not consult anybody and there is no telling when it will end. Wala na. Basta… then it could be a copycat of Marcos,” Duterte said.

Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. was elected President in 1965 and was re-elected in 1969 for another four-year term that would end in 1973. He declared martial law in September 1972, did a “paper lifting” of martial law in early 1981 but continued to rule until he was ousted by People Power in February 1986.

GRP reciprocates NDF declaration re no offensive operations

From MindaNews (Jun 18): GRP reciprocates NDF declaration re no offensive operations

Government is reciprocating the National Democratic Front’s (NDF) declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable government forces to focus their attention on the war against terror groups by also declaring it will not mount offensive operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and other agreements.

In a statement published on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) on Sunday, GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said both parties’ declaration to abstain from engaging their respective forces would “pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace.”

Government peace panel chair SIlvestre Bello III (r) and NDF peace panel chair FIdel Agcaoili exchange copies of the Interim Joint Ceasefire Agreement signed on April 5, 2017 in The Netherlands. but will take effect only when the guidelines and ground rules are approved. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

He said the “voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF” of supporting the government against terrorist groups such as the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines, augur well for the continuation of the stalled 5th round of talks.

In a statement on June 16, 2017, NDF chair Fidel Agcaoili said he made the recommendation to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that communist forces halt offensives but maintain defensive operations against Maute, Abu Sayyaf, and Ansar Al Khilafah Philippines (AKP).

“For all forces to be able to concentrate against Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups, the NDFP has recommended to the CPP to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), provided that the GRP order the AFP and PNP likewise to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the NPA and people’s militia,” he said.

Bello said this mutual declaration provides for the needed enabling environment favorable to move the peace negotiations forward.

He assured that government will continue to adhere to mutually acceptable principles enunciated in The Hague Joint Declaration and maintained the GRP recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“Furthermore, the Philippine government commits to continue to maintain this needed enabling environment in step with the NDF’s own commitment to do the same,” he said.

Both parties were supposed to take up the ceasefire and Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) in the fifth round scheduled on May 27 to June 2 in The Netherlands, but GRP did not participate “for lack of compelling reason,” following the NDFP’s instruction to NPA units to intensify offensives across the country following President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23.

The GRP and NDF peace panels signed on April 5 an interim joint ceasefire agreement which will take effect only upon the approval and signing of guidelines and ground rules. The panels were set to discuss the guidelines and ground rules during the fifth round of formal talks.

Military seizes Sayyaf camp in Basilan

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 18): Military seizes Sayyaf camp in Basilan

Government forces captured an Abu Sayyaf encampment following a barrage of artillery fire Sunday on a hinterland village in the restive province of Basilan in southern Philippines.

Troops also recovered four automatic weapons left behind by militants in the town of Ungkaya Pukan. The encampment was believed under mid-level commander Puruji Indama. Military operations were continuing in the province, just 30 minutes by boat from the port city of Zamboanga.

The military insisted it killed an undetermined number of militants before taking their camp, but troops had not recovered a single body of slain Abu Sayyaf fighter.

On Friday, militants freed one of their 6 Vietnamese hostages, Hoang Vo, 28, who was recovered by soldiers near Sumisip town.

Vo, a native of Nghệ An province, had a wound on his back and was immediately taken to hospital, according to the military. Militants hijacked the Vietnamese cargo ship in November last year and seized 6 crewmen, including its captain. The Abu Sayyaf is also holding over a dozen hostages in the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

Troops clash with NPA rebels in Davao Oriental

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 18): Troops clash with NPA rebels in Davao Oriental

Military photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show the bodies of slain rebels and weapons recovered by troops in Mati City in southern Philippines.

Troops clashed with communist insurgents on Sunday and killed a still undetermined number of gunmen in Mati City in the southern Filipino province of Davao Oriental, a military spokesman said.

Army Captain Andrew Linao said no casualties were reported on the military side following a 45-minute gunfight in the village called Kauswagan. Soldiers from the 28th Infantry Battalion recovered two automatic rifles, munitions and a rifle grenade, including radio communication sets and backpacks, according to Linao.

“There were no casualties from the government side will a still undetermined numbers of rebels were killed in the fighting,” he said, adding, troops were sent to the area after villagers tipped off the military on the presence of New People’s Army rebels there.

Just on Saturday, three rebels were also killed in fighting in Taytayan village in Davao Oriental’s Cateel town and soldiers recovered 5 automatic rifles in the area. The fighting occurred the same day that the military clashed with another group of NPA fighters in Araibo village in Pantukan town in Compostela Valley that also left one rebel leader dead.

Colonel Reuben Basiao, commander of the 701st Infantry Brigade, confirmed the series of clashes with rebel forces and said the operation will continue against the NPA. “Troops are there in the area to secure the people as part of our effort in conducting community support program and deliver basic services to the people together with other government agencies. Your Army here in Davao Oriental will always secure your safety as part of our mandate of protecting the people and securing the land,” he said.

The NPA has been waging a secessionist war for many decades now and despite the ongoing peace talks, fighting also continues in many areas in the southern Philippines.

Three civilians retrieved thru Peace Corridor, total of 240 since June 4

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 18): Three civilians retrieved thru Peace Corridor, total of 240 since June 4

Peace Corridor volunteers from both the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) facilitated on Friday, June 16, the retrieval of the three civilians trapped in the conflict area here in the city, making the total of retrieved civilians to 240 since June 4.

The Joint Coordination, Monitoring, and Assistance Centers (JCMAC) in Marawi received a call from an emissary early this morning on the location of the three civilians.

JCMAC, which manning the Peace Corridors, reported that the retrieved Marawi residents were consolidated at Masjid Bato, a mosque within the city proper.

The retrieved civilians are currently undergoing processing from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for their identities and medical check-up from the Lanao del Sur Provincial Health Office. (OPAPP)

GRP statement on NDF reaffirmation of its support to the PH govt's fight against local terrorist groups

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 18): GRP statement on NDF reaffirmation of its support to the PH govt's fight against local terrorist groups

We welcome the recent statement of the National Democratic Front (NDF) reaffirming its support to the Philippine government’s fight against Maute, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines (AKP) groups and other terrorist organizations wreaking havoc in Marawi City and other parts of the country.

We also appreciate the NDF’s commitment in their declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to focus their attention on the war against terror groups. These voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled 5th round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward.

The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace.

The GRP continues to adhere to mutually acceptable principles enunciated in The Hague Joint Declaration , which was reaffirmed by both parties.

Likewise, the Philippine government hereby unequivocally recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Furthermore, the Philippine government commits to continue to maintain this needed enabling environment in step with the NDF’s own commitment to do the same.

Finally, we express our appreciation to the Royal Norwegian Government’s steadfast and indefatigable support and assistance to the entire process and for trusting that efforts are being exerted towards a final peace agreement.

Army, police vow to save abducted town police officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Army, police vow to save abducted town police officer

Government troops and police vow to save the police officer abducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) last week.

Police Regional Office (PRO) XI spokesperson Sr. Inspector Catherine dela Rey said the Lupon Municipal Police Station is now coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to locate and eventually rescue SPO2 George Rupinta, the Municipal Executive Senior Police Officer of Lupon Municipal Police Station.

Rupinta was taken by the 6th Pulang Bagani Company and the Guerilla Front 18 of the NPA’s Subregional Operations Command on June 10.

Dela Rey condemned the abduction of Rupinta.

NPA-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said Rupinta will face trial reportedly for his “anti-people activities.”

“The statement of our Regional Director is SPO2 Rupinta was abducted by lawless elements who claimed to be NPA on trumped-up accusations. He is not a prisoner-of-war but a victim of kidnapping,” dela Rey said.

Dela Rey said Rupinta has no record of abuses to the community which was also vouched by station commander Chief. Insp. Miguelito Cabahug.

“Siguro, na-tripan lang pud ni nila si SPO 2 Rupinta (Maybe, the NPA just abducted SPO2 Rupinta without any reason),” she said.

Based on police report, Rupinta was last seen driving his motorcycle on June 9.

In the morning of June 10, an abandoned motorcycle in Purok Rosas, Barangay Langka, Lupon was reported to the station.

Upon verification, it was confirmed that the motorcycle belonged to the victim.

Eastmincom continues proactive ops to secure AOR

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Eastmincom continues proactive ops to secure AOR

The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) continues to be proactive and aggressive in the conduct of security operations in its area of responsibility (AOR) that include Regions 11, 13 and parts of Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

Eastmincom Deputy Commander and Martial Law spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, said a total of 9,480 checkpoint operations and some 106 security operations to secure vital installations and critical infrastructures were conducted as of June 14.

They also established 3,628 Informant Networks to strengthen monitoring against terrorism.

Gapay said in the course of securing sea lanes, the Joint Task Force “Haribon” also conducts profiling and registration of bancas sailing along Davao Gulf, while the Bantay Dagat is being strengthened to secure sea lanes from terrorism and monitor the entrance of evacuees.

Gapay said apprehensions will be carried out to illegal and unregistered bancas along the Davao Gulf and other areas.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office-11 (PRO-11) has reiterated its call to the public not to post in social media any unconfirmed information of threats.

PRO-11 acting public information officer Sr. Insp. Catherine dela Rey said posting unconfirmed threat information could create panic and chaos to the public.

"It could be better if they noticed any suspicious looking people to immediately call the nearest police station and they could also text it to our hotline 0917-707-8547. Text immediately your information so that we can immediately verify it," dela Rey said.

Dela Rey recalled an incident two weeks ago when a banca with many people in it docked in Island Garden City of Samal (IGACoS) which was posted on Facebook by a netizen asking if those were terrorists arriving. It caused panic, Dela Rey said.

"Daghan kaayo ang nabalaka ato kay unsa na ba daw to, basin terrorista na nga niabot (Many were worried and scared because they thought that terrorists already arrived)," she said.

However, after verification by the IGACoS Police Station, it was confirmed that the banca was used by a family who visited IGACoS.

"Mapasalamaton kita nga vigilant na ang mga tao pero dili pud dayon ta mag-panic. I-inform dayon ang atong kapulisan para ma-validate namo, ma-verify og matagaan dayon namo og aksyon (We are thankful that people now are already vigilant but we should not panic. Inform immediately our police so that the information will be verified and validated for us to give appropriate action)," she said.

Iloilo City on 'full red alert' amid rebel attack in Maasin town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Iloilo City on 'full red alert' amid rebel attack in Maasin town

Due to the attack of alleged more or less 50 members of the New People's Army this morning in Maasin,Iloilo, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog here placed the entire city of Iloilo under "full red alert" status.

In his official facebook account, Mabilog directed all barangay captains and barangay officials together with their barangay tanods to strictly monitor their respective barangays and report any suspicious movement that may compromise the peace and order situation of the city.

"The barangays are instructed to collaborate with their respective district police stations in the maintenance of peace and order within the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Iloilo. The public is likewise advised to remain calm and vigilant with their surroundings," his statement added.

While there is no reported threat in the city, Mabilog clarified that precautionary measures are needed to ensure that no one will be put in harm.

Roughly 50 alleged rebels at around 11 a.m Sunday attacked the police station of Maasin town in Iloilo province and took the firearms of the policemen on duty.

The alleged rebels specifically took eight M16 armalite rifles, four glock 9mm pistol, five handheld radio, one base radio, PHP25,000 cash, two laptop, jewelries and one hilux patrol car.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 here condemned the criminal acts of robbery and carnapping perpetrated by the alleged rebels.

President Duterte denies intel failure in Marawi crisis

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): President Duterte denies intel failure in Marawi crisis

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday denied that the crisis in Marawi City was a result of the failure of intelligence, as clashes between government forces and the Maute terror group reach its fourth week.

In his visit to the 401st Infantry Brigade in Butuan City, Duterte underscored that the crisis in Marawi City was “not a question of failure” on the part of the government.

"It was not a failure of intelligence. Kasi kung makita pa silang may armas, tapos sabihin nila, MI, MN, ang standing order naman is… baka sakali mapakiusapan pa natin ang mga kapatid natin. Walang gulo,” President Duterte added.

However, the President explained that the government had a “very soft policy towards rebels” as the officials did not realize that the militants were already collecting firearms and ammunition in Marawi.

“All the while, itong Maute, with the connivance of the politicians there, ‘yung mga warlords, were stockpiling. Kaya ni hindi maubos ‘yung M-203 na bala at napakarami,” he said.

On the other hand, Duterte reassured the soldiers that the government would pour in the things they need such as putting up cooperatives for the troops' spouses and an educational program for their children.

“Hindi ko kayo pababayaan. Sabi ko nga noon sa inyo, I will try to see that mga anak ninyo… there will be money to support all your children to school,” he said.

The Commander-in-Chief also reiterated his commitment to buy brand new air assets and "war-grade" weapons for the military to ensure that government forces would not be at a disadvantage against the terrorists, apparently backed by foreign fighters.

"Just be a clever soldier. Gamitin mo na lahat ng instincts mo to survive so that you will have a time to see maybe your grandchildren," he said.

The President also called on the military to resume the use of air assets, saying foreign terrorists are fighting alongside the Maute Group.

“We are up against fighters. Mga galing ‘yan diyan sa Middle East and they have learned the art of brutal killing,” Duterte warned.

The President also mentioned that he is planning to absorb qualified Lumads into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as long as they stop fighting.

"For as long as they talk and shoot, talk and shoot, they will remain neglected. Who is gonna go to the mountains to take care of the New People's Army composing of the Lumads? And 75 percent of the rebels now, Lumads. Sila ang pinupusta ng NPA. Hindi 'yung mga Bisaya, hindi 'yung mga Ilonggo, hindi 'yung mga Ilocano. Sila ang ginagawang sundalo," President Duterte pointed out.

"Now I'm offering you. Neglected o bigyan ko kayo ng trabaho, sundalo. I will take them in," the Chief Executive added.

Meanwhile, the President said that there is no need to worry about his health, as he assured the public that he is in good condition.

"My state of health is what you see is what you get," he said.

“I am good while I am alive but do not worry about a one day, two days absence,” he added.

3rd ID deploys battalion in ongoing Marawi conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): 3rd ID deploys battalion in ongoing Marawi conflict

As government forces move in to neutralize the remaining Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City, the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division has deployed its 82nd Infantry Battalion on Saturday to help in the mopping-up operation.

Fighting in Marawi City broke out when government forces tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, a key ally of the terrorists, last May 23.

The unit was given the ceremonial send-off at the Iloilo International Airport, Cabatuan, Iloilo, unit public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Arnel Cabugon said in a statement.

He added the 82nd Infantry (Battalion) was deployed to Mindanao as follow-on-forces to augment Western Mindanao Command units engaged in the Marawi City conflict.

3rd Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jon Aying told officers and personnel of the unit to focus, build teamwork and trust, and exhibit the desired military discipline at all times so that they could effectively work and fight as a team, squad, platoon, company and battalion as well.

“We are doing this for God, our country and our people,” he added.

The 82nd Infantry Battalion is commanded by Lt. Col. Vener Morga.

The unit's development support efforts in its former area of operations will be assumed by the 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company led by 1st Lt. Joseph Labrador.

PAF looking for P2.8M worth of S-211 jet spares

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): PAF looking for P2.8M worth of S-211 jet spares

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated PHP2,880,000 to acquire spare parts for four of its SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers.

This was announded by PAF Bids and Awards Committee chair Brig. Gen. Nicolas Parilla in a bid bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for June 22, 11 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City. While submission and opening of bids is on July 7, 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The spares are intended for S-211 jet aircraft with tail numbers 008, 021, 801 and 802.

The S-211 is one of the PAF's two jet-powered aircraft after the Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle".

It is primarily used for air-to-ground and surveillance missions with the PAF known to be operating between three to five units.

US technical aid to PH troops in Marawi legal — Aguirre

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): US technical aid to PH troops in Marawi legal — Aguirre

The Department of Justice on Sunday said the gesture of US troops providing technical assistance to Philippine soldiers in the ongoing clashes in Marawi City is allowed under the law.
"What is prohibited under the Constitution is the joining of US troops in actual combat. But sharing of intelligence and equipment is allowed under the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement)," Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said.

Article 18, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution provides: "After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State."

"This assistance is what the US provided also during the Oplan Exodus in Mamasapano operation," he recalled.

The DOJ Chief cited as precedent the assistance given by the US troops during the Mamasapano clash on Jan.25, 2015 where 44 elite police commados sent to capture or kill wanted Malaysian terrorist and bomb-maker Zulkilfo Abdhir were killed by Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamis Freedom Fighters.

Earlier, US embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina confirmed that American forces are providing technical assistance – not boots on the ground – to Filipino soldiers fighting Maute terrorists in Marawi City.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also admitted getting technical support from the US.

As of this posting, government forces killed in the four weeks of fighting is now at 58 with 206 Maute Group neutralized and 26 civilians executed since the conflict started last May 23.

AFP chief lauds valor of Filipino troops on Father’s Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): AFP chief lauds valor of Filipino troops on Father’s Day

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday recognized the bravery of Filipino soldiers in line with the celebration of Father’s Day.

In a text message to the PNA, AFP Chief Gen. Eduardo Año lauded the sacrifices and heroism of government troops who put their lives on the line in order to preserve peace and order in the country.

“Soldiers do secure the lands so that all the other fathers in the country may be able to celebrate Father’s day with their families peacefully,” Año stressed.

He said the children of soldiers are the ones who are thankful for this occasion the most, noting that the fact that their fathers remain alive each day is already a blessing.

“Military has the deadliest jobs for fathers. Perhaps nobody can appreciate Father’s day better than the children of soldiers who understand that everyday that their fathers stay alive is a blessing,” Año said.

“To a gallant soldier as you are, Happy Father’s day to everyone and God bless you,” he added.