Friday, July 7, 2017

Why Another Philippines Terrorist Attack Is Coming

From The Diplomat (Jul 6): Why Another Philippines Terrorist Attack Is Coming (By Zachary Abuza)

Another Marawi-like siege is likely to occur.

As fighting in the southern Philippine City of Marawi recedes, there is much to take stock of. The six week siege of the city by the Islamic State pledged Maute Group and a faction of the Abu Sayyaf tested the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and it has led to a regional concern that Mindanao is, once again, a black hole in regional security. The toll was high: 70 members of the military and police, 27 civilians, and 290 militants were killed according to recent estimates, and more bodies are being recovered as security forces comb through the rubble. Over 246,000 civilians were displaced. The city is in ruins.

There is much to write about Marawi: the intelligence failure; the fact that the Maute Group had conducted a similar siege in Butig in November 2016; President Rodrigo Duterte’s single-minded attention on the war on drugs rather than the growing threat by terrorist groups. We can question Duterte’s decision and justification for declaring martial law. We can debate whether the decision to drawdown the U.S. Special Forces contingent in 2014 was the right one, or whether, if they had stayed, the AFP would have conducted itself better or more professionally. And we can analyze the rift between the AFP and Duterte over U.S. assistance and provision of intelligence.

But here I want to ask just one question: is another Marawi-style siege likely? And, relatedly, what this mean for the United States?

The answer to the first question is a definitive yes, and for five interrelated reasons:

1. The Militant Leadership is Largely in Tact
On June 22 the AFP acknowledged that the Isnilon Hapilon, the Maute brothers, and Mahmud Ahmad, the leading Malaysian militant had all fled the city. This is despite the fact that there are only three roads in and out of Marawi. So while the AFP claims that the militants suffered nearly 300 casualties, the charismatic leadership is able to regroup and plot anew. Leadership matters. Their success, in tying down the AFP for some six weeks, will attract followers and new recruits. They have every reason to be confident. They sieged cities on two occasions. They have proven themselves as committed jihadists, willing to take the fight to the Philippine government. And as will be discussed below, the pool of recruits is large and growing.

2. The Draw for Foreign Militants

While there is still a debate over the number of foreign militants who were involved in the fighting, there is no doubt they were there. The Philippine military claims that two Malaysians, two Indonesians, two Saudis, and a Yemeni and Chechen have been confirmed killed. The pipeline for militants is there. The Philippine military, without offering evidence, has suggested that as many as 89 combatants were foreign fighters. Indonesia estimates some 40 pro-Islamic State militants are currently engaged in fighting in the southern Philippines. Malaysia has estimated the number of its nationals in the 20s.

As the fortunes and territory of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) dwindle, more militants from Southeast Asia and Bangladesh will make their way to Mindanao. In a 2015 video, Southeast Asian militants based in Syria, implored their brethren to do just that, if they were unable to get to Iraq or Syria. And I think that it is very clear that the jihadist pendulum between focusing on the near and far enemy, is clearly swinging back to the former. I anticipate that militants across Southeast Asia will renew their focus on issues close to home, such as Mindanao and the plight of the Rohingya.

Moreover, Mindanao will continue to attract foreign fighters for one other critical reason: they control territory. Since the demise of the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur (MIT) in Mindanao, not a single al-Qaeda or ISIS-affiliated group in Southeast Asia outside of the southern Philippines controls physical space. At an operational level, a secure space is essential, to regroup, train, and plan attacks. Ungoverned space is key for the growth of militant groups. But it is more important at the strategic level: these groups aspire to be recognized as a province of the caliphate; and one cannot achieve that without physically controlling space. Only in the Philippines is this seemingly achievable in the near term.

Though trilateral maritime patrols have commenced in the Sulu Sea, the capabilities and resources of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines remain weak, and the borders remain very porous. It is a good start, but no panacea.

3. The MILF Peace Process

The leaders likely got away across Lake Lanao. And what lies there? The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 102nd Base Command, led by Abdullah Macapagar, aka Commander Bravo.

Bravo is bellweather figure, whose comments and actions are worth studying. In 2007 and 2008, when the cabinet of President Arroyo rejected the draft peace agreement (MOA-AD) and the Supreme Court found it to be unconstitutional, a number of MILF base commanders began attacking Christian communities. Macapagar was one of them. Several others broke from the MILF leadership, and established the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which continues to fight the government to this day. Macapagar is the most influential of the Maranao constituents, and his base command is one of the most secure. He was critical of the peace process, but still supported the MILF’s 2014 peace accord. There were no signs that he was planning to defect or join forces with the BIFF.

In January 2015, the Philippine police conducted a botched counter-terrorism operation, that led to the death of 44 of their men. The backlash from that put the entire peace process on hold, at a time when the Philippine Congress was deliberating the implementing legislation, the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Since then, the peace process has been on hold.

In February 2016, Macapagar gave an unprecedented interview to a French TV crew. The imagery was very important. He was filmed in front of an MILF flag, with MILF insignia on his uniform. He acknowledged the spread of IS militants throughout his base command, and yet called them “brothers.” He was making it very clear the problem was bad, was going to get worse, and that he could police his territory were he to have sufficient reason to do so. The Maute’s November 2016 siege of Butig town and their filmed ISIS-style execution of two Christian “spies” were all done in the MILF’s heartland.

Whether the MILF’s provision of sanctuary to the Maute group is active or passive, remains up to dispute. The AFP, acknowledged during the Butig crisis, that the Maute group, at the very least was “taking advantage of the peace process,” aware that the government would not enter MILF territory. Duterte at the time, saw a complicit relationship and demanded that Macapagar be eliminated.

In the midst of the Marawi siege, Macapagar released a pre-recorded 17 minute video statement, calling the Maute group “misguided” — but not wrong — for engaging in jihad (legitimate) but endangering civilians (not legitimate). In it he called the Maute and Abu Sayyaf, “our younger brethren” and asked them to leave the city. His communications, somewhat full of bluster, somewhat garbled, are nonetheless very deliberate.

The MILF remains key to any solution. It was Macapagar’s men who opened up the relief corridor into the city, to help trapped civilians flee. But the MILF made clear they don’t want to be in position of “negotiating” with the Maute and Abu Sayyaf on behalf of the government, for it could reopen an avenue of attack that they have sway over or coddle terrorists. The MILF is in an untenable position.

Without a peace process, the MILF have no reasonable or logical incentive to act as a responsible stakeholder and police their territory. The MILF leadership has publicly stated their commitment to the peace process, and even decommissioned heavier crew-serviced weaponry. But it is very clear that they have been able to recruit from the ranks of the MILF, who have grown disenchanted with the stalled peace process, and who have seen no peace dividend. There is a direct correlation between the spread of pro-IS groups and cells in the Philippines with the collapse of the MILF peace process, following the Mamasapano incident in January 2015. How much longer can the MILF leadership maintain effective command and control?

A draft Bangsamoro Basic Law has been renegotiated by an enlarged Bangsamoro Transition Commission. It will soon be submitted to Duterte’s office. It’s transmission to Malacanang was immediately delayed. Even if you assume that Malacanang isn’t going to water it down, there is no guarantee that Duterte will make it a legislative priority, will spend the political capital to get the bill passed in Congress. Even if Duterte has promised a Bangsamoro homeland in three years, why should we expect Congress, in the aftermath of Marawi, to be willing to pass the law, when it wouldn’t pass it in 2015?

And then we need to consider the fact that Duterte is pursuing a separate agreement with the former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, as well as trying to push through his signature campaign issue, amending the constitution to turn the Philippines into a federal system, with significant political and economic autonomy. These three goals are contradictory. You cannot have all three. And the MILF is very ambivalent towards federalism.

Militancy is about exclusion and until Moro youth feel that they have a reason to stop fighting, they will take up arms. If you were a Moro youth, and you saw the patent Islamaphobia in the congressional investigations over the Mamasapano clash in 2015, or viewed the government’s unwillingness to make the stalled peace talks a priority, or saw the AFP use artillery and gravity bombs on a civilian population, or hear President Duterte “joke” that it was alright for his soldiers rape women in Marawi or to engage in combat even if there were civilians, you might not feel that there was much space for you in the Philippine nation.

4. Duterte Himself

The next reason that Marawi is likely to happen again lies with Duterte himself. In trademark bluster, he recently warned: “The objective of ISIS is to kill and destroy. I will also kill and destroy!” But this was not the enemy he wanted or was ready for.

Let us be clear, Duterte is not going to defeat the militants through force, but that is exactly what he is opting for. His campaign of 8,000 extrajudicial killings did not end the sale of drugs on the streets, but he shows no sign of reversing course. Indeed, one of his cabinet officials dismissed the Maute’s ideological goals, and linked the siege to the desire to control the drug trade. His campaign against the Abu Sayyaf have not ended the group’s spate of kidnappings.

This is just his temperament.

Insurgencies flourish because of weak governance. Duterte’s contempt for the rule of law and democratic norms, his authoritarian tendencies, his campaign of extrajudicial killings, jailing of political opponents, routine threats to extend martial law beyond Mindanao, will collectively weaken the hardwood rule of law, governance and system of checks and balances that the Philippines has achieved in the past 30 years.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf Group militants are likely to retreat and regroup to the mountainous hinterland that straddles Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces, long the MILF heartland. If the AFP is tasked with going in hot pursuit of the militants, they almost definitely encounter MILF forces. And there is every reason to fear another Mamasapano-style “tragic encounter” that caused the peace process to collapse in 2015.

5. The Philippine Military’s Limited Capabilities

Even if Duterte thinks he can shoot his way out of this, the AFP is all too aware that it has neither the manpower nor resources to cope with the host of threats that it faces. The AFP was sorely tested and resources and manpower were stretched very thin in Marawi. Yes, urban combat is very hard and it is new for them.

In the midst of the Marawi siege, the BIFF staged a siege of a school in neighboring Maguindanao province. Were other fronts to open, the BIFF, the Ansuar al-Khalifa Philippines (AKP), a spate of ASG kidnappings, or should talks with the NPA break down, the AFP would be overwhelmed. There is too much space, and the AFP has such limited capabilities that similar attacks are inevitable.

Implications for U.S. Policy

There is no military solution to this conflict. It requires a holistic strategy. Sadly, there is none evidenced from Duterte. The next siege or spectacular attack is not a matter of if, but when. And that has grave implications, not just for Philippine, but regional security.

Some have argued that the Marawi conflict is drawing the United States and the Philippines back together, after Duterte’s lurch to China, and public distancing of ties to it treaty ally.

The United States provided significant amount of weapons during the siege, not to mention intelligence, including the deployment of P3s and drones. Could the United States continue to supply more weaponry? Perhaps. Duterte’s war on drugs have already led to one Senator putting a hold on the export of small arms to the Philippines. At what point does the deflation of martial law invoke Leahy Amendment sanctions?

The United States could offer training and assistance, but it should do so only with some very open eyes. After 14 years of a relatively successful mission, the security situation is worse than it ever was. And isn’t that the yardstick we need to measure such assistance by? Moreover, it’s very clear that Duterte himself does not welcome such assistance and training, preferring Chinese assistance, even though it pales in comparison with US aid.

And there are many reforms that the AFP is in dire need of, that, no matter how much U.S. assistance Washington provides, will need to be addressed: the nine to ten month tenure in armed forces chiefs, endemic corruption, and chronic under-investment in their military.

Until Duterte comes up with a holistic strategy, the United States should hold back on assistance. Washington is really good at “mowing the lawn” when it comes to jihadist groups around the world. But 16 years into the Global War on Terror, the field is growing, and mowing has proved to be an insufficient strategy, for both the United States and the Philippines.

Maute finance officers arrested

From Malaya Business Insight (Jul 6): Maute finance officers arrested

TWO female members of the Maute Group were arrested yesterday by government forces during a raid on their safehouse in Cagayan de Oro City, where the group is supposedly assembling bombs to be used in bombing the city.

Monaliza Solaiman Romato and Tahera Romato Taher, who the military said were involved in the finance and logistics operations of the group, were arrested at a house in Barangay Macasandig at around 4:30 a.m.

The house is being rented by one Irene Romato Idris and was raided by virtue of a search warrant issued by Cagayan de Oro City judge Dennis Alcantar, said AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

Recovered from the house were various explosives, components and items including four M203 grenades, a C4 explosive, detonating cords, incandescent bulbs, a jungle knife, ammonium nitrate.

The suspects are now in the custody of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Northern Mindanao.

Padilla said Romato alias Monay is a niece of Farhana Romato Maute, the mother of Maute Group leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute who led the siege on Marawi City on May 23.

Farhana was arrested by government forces in June 9 in Lanao del Sur, along with 15 other Maute members. Her husband, Cayamora, was arrested with four companions in Davao City on June 6.

Padilla said Romato took over as logistics officer after Farhana’s arrest.

“The arrest of these two people affected the financing and logistics network (of the group) because alias Monay replaced her auntie in facilitating the financial support coming from supporters,” said Padilla.

Padilla said Taher is also helping in facilitating the logistics of the Maute Group.
Padilla also disclosed that Romato also has a daughter, identified as one Kulingling who he said is “serving as the liaison of the Maute Group cell in Cagayan de Oro City.

Padilla said it was in the raided house the Maute are assembling bombs. He said the plot was known before the arrest on June 15 arrest of Maute bomber Mohammad Noaim Maute, alias Abu Jadid, in Cagayan de Oro City.

Padilla said the arrested bomber did not yield any bomb or components when arrested. Investigations later established that the group had been using another safehouse to store and assemble bombs.

“This is where they are storing their equipment and components in the assembly of IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Padilla said of the raided house.

He said female members are staying at the safe house as not to invite suspicion from authorities. However, male Maute members have frequenting the place.

“This accomplishment is very important, especially to the city of Cagayan de Oro, because we found the bomb components which may be used in bombing Cagayan de Oro and nearby areas,” said Padilla.

“So we effectively foiled any plan that this group may have in order to create trouble or havoc by bombing certain areas with the discovery of the (explosives and bomb components) at the house,” said Padilla.

Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, martial law spokesman in Eastern Mindanao,  said the arrest prevented the Maute from staging diversionary attacks in northern Mindanao and adversely affected the logistics support network of the group.

President Duterte, during a visit to the 1002nd Infantry Brigade in Sarangani province yesterday, told soldiers in jest he would have another problem when the Marawi conflict is over, and that is where to detain the Maute members and others connected to the siege.

To avoid the problem, he said, soldiers should kill the enemies instead of taking prisoners.

Duterte also said that once the military leaves Marawi, there would not be enough policemen to guard the jailed Maute men and there could be attempts for a prison breakout.

The conflict has left 39 civilians, 85 government troops, and 343 Maute men dead as of July 4.

Recruits paid P100K each to reinforce Maute group

From The Standard (Jul 7): Recruits paid P100K each to reinforce Maute group

DATU PAGLAS, Maguindanao—Government forces stopped a group of gunmen that were offered P100,000 a head from going to Marawi City to reinforce Maute group terrorists holed up there.

Col. Bismarck Soliba, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said government security forces acted on information from some locals that armed men were set to reinforce the Maute group in Lanao.

On Wednesday, Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, led the troopers in an early morning firefight against members of the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters, who reportedly signed up to rescue Maute terrorists on fat offers of P 100,000 for each recruit.

After an hour, government security forces captured four armed men and seized from them six high-powered firearms, consisting of two cal. 50 Barrette sniper rifles, an M60 machine gun, one RPG, an M14 rifle and an M16 rifle.

1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade Commander Colonel Bismarck Soliba

Many of the fatalities in Marawi bore head wounds from long-range sniper shots.

Cabunoc presented the captured BIFF men and the seized high-powered firearms, saying the combined troopers of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion and of the 4th Special Action Battalion of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force chanced upon the BIFF fighters Wednesday morning.

Cabunoc said the four men, whose identities were withheld pending filing of charges, would be turned over immediately to the local police for proper processing.

On Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte denied negotiating with members of the Islamic State-linked Maute group.

“No, I did not. He is a pretender,” the President said, referring to an intermediary, Agakhan Sharief also known as “Bin Laden,” who claimed he was approached by a senior Duterte aid to use his connections with the Maute group to start backchannel talks. “I will never talk to criminals and to terrorists.”

He said, however, that it is possible that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the Moro National Liberation Front could have initiated talks with the Maute group.

“But if it’s from me, that’s impossible. So many soldiers and policemen have been killed, so they better not make up these stories,” he added in Filipino.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, said it was the Maute matriarch who called for backchannel talks with Duterte.

In a chance interview, Abella said there was an attempt by Ominta Romato “Farhana” Maute, mother of Maute group leaders Omarkhayam and Abdullah, to hold talks with Duterte, but the President rejected this.

“They offered backchannel talks, not the President, who turned the offer down,” Abella said.

In a Reuters report, an intermediary, Agakhan Sharief, also known as “Bin Laden” claimed that he was approached by a senior Duterte aide to use his connections with the Maute militant group’s leaders to start backchannel talks.

Also on Thursday, the city council of Taguig passed a resolution approving the release of P1.5 million for calamity assistance for Marawi City.

The resolution said the local council of Marawi declared the city under a state of calamity through Resolution No. 60, after Maute group terrorists overran the city on May 23 and the military moved in to oust them.

The city council added that over 30,000 families or 140,000 individuals were displaced as a result, while properties were “severely damaged.”

“We are very eager in helping our brothers and sisters. We want them to feel that they are not alone in this battle. We want this simple act to give them hope in their hearts,” Mayor Lani Cayetano, who urged the council to provide the needed assistance to Marawi, said.

‘Mautes tried talk with Duterte’

From Malaya (Jul 7): ‘Mautes tried talk with Duterte’

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said Farhana Maute, mother of Maute leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute, tried to reach out to President Duterte in connection with the armed conflict in Marawi City.

In a press conference in Marawi City, Lorenzana said Duterte initially thought of talking with Farhana but the President later changed his mind because many soldiers and policemen had already died in the clashes between government forces and the Maute Group, which started on May 23.

“It’s a mother trying to talk to the President. Medyo nabagabag yung kalooban niya, kaya gusto niyang pagbigyan sana. (Duterte got a little troubled, that’s why he thought of talking to her). But the problem (in Marawi) is already deep, we already incurred a lot of casualties. So he said no more talks because I have lost so many soldiers and policemen,” said Lorenzana.

Lorenzana could not immediately say exactly when the feelers were relayed to the President. “I don’t know when and who was the emissary.”

Duterte said he does not negotiate with either criminals or terrorists like the Maute.
In a chance interview after his visit to Camp Bahian in Bukidnon, Duterte said he never initiated any talk with the Maute but said there might be some efforts started through the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

A Reuters reports on Wednesday said the President was preparing to make a deal with the Maute days after the start of the conflict but aborted the plan without explanation. It quoted Agakhan Sharief, a prominent Muslim leader, as saying he was approached by a senior Duterte aide to use his connections with the Maute leaders to start back-channel talks.

Lorenzana, asked what the President and Farhana were supposed to discuss, said: “I don’t know because it did not push through.”

“The President received feelers from the mother of the Mautes, Farhana. But many soldiers already died at that time. The President said he is not talking with her because many soldiers and policemen already died,” he said.

Farhana was arrested by government forces, along with 15 members of the Maute Group, in Cagayan de Oro City on June 9 in in Lanao del Sur. She is detained at a detention facility in Taguig City.

Lorenzana said talking to Farhana “does not mean negotiating” with the terrorists.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte rejected feelers for talks said there is no information about a supposed attempt to hold backchannel talks with the Maute group.

“We’d like to address the claims of Agakhan Sharief. Up to this point, we have no verified reports that there were efforts to initiate such actions as Agakhan Sharief claims. Let me be clear that the position of the Palace and the President is not to negotiate with terrorists, including these local terrorist groups,” he said.

When hope fights back amid conflict in Marawi

From the Thought Leaders section of Rappler (Jul 7): When hope fights back amid conflict in Marawi (By Jayeel Serrano Cornelio)

Violence may have become the new normal but people are not letting it get in the way of their lives

Fear is terrorism's greatest asset. Its workmanship is the disruption of everyday life. Only through disruption can terrorism achieve its ultimate end, whether religious, political, or economic.

Not everyone can of course take up arms to fight back. And so there are those for whom fighting back takes on a different form.

Consider the Young Moro Professionals Network. Its members have released a public statement that not only denounces atrocities carried out in the name of Islam. They are convinced that the values of Islam are "justice, care for humanity, mercy and compassion, and religious tolerance."

To them these virtues run counter to the acts of violence against the people of Marawi. They are thus inspired by how "Muslims and non-Muslims [are] protecting and helping each other during this crisis."

Along similar lines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has fully supported the fatwa of mufti Sheik Abehuraira Abdulrahman Udasan "against the entry and spread of violent radicalism or extremism." MILF, the government's partner in the Bangsamoro peace process, believes that religious violence "has no basis in any of the teachings of Islam."

Countering radicalization

The statements above matter if only to correct the radicalization that affects even many young people in Mindanao. Radicalization is the process in which violence against other people becomes a religiously justified act. There are many pathways to radicalization but religious ideas are quite powerful in shaping a person's cognitive and emotional commitment to violence. Training them for battle and socializing them into a violent worldview explains why the Maute Group has deliberately recruited children to become their soldiers.

These statements are, at the same time, important for everybody else. Public perception of Islam is divided as to whether it is responsible for the spread of religious violence. In fact, I have met a few otherwise nice people who harbor ill-informed views about Islam and its followers. To them all Muslims have the propensity to be violent because violence is inherent to Islam. They do not realize that Islam, which means submission, and salam, which means peace, are linguistically related to each other.

In a sense then, surrendering to the will of God brings about peace. This is why the violence many of us associate with Islam is in fact anomalous theologically and empirically.

Redemptive hope

Alongside these powerful statements are inspiring moments that render undeniable hope in the midst of crisis.

When I arrived at MSU-IIT last month, the first ones I met were sociology students from the Marawi campus of Mindanao State University. Many of the students in Marawi are Muslim. The ones I met were in the college dean's office to defend their undergraduate theses. This was, to them, their own way of fighting back and their professors, some of whom are my friends, were not going to let them down. They were all in Iligan to see them through it all.

Let me tell too the story of a DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] coordinator in one of the evacuation centers in Iligan. A Maranao, she oversees its daily operations. She has admitted to me that she, herself, is among the internally displaced. Some relatives have taken her and two of her children in. But two others have been separated from her because there is simply not enough space. She is no longer sure about the condition of her house in Marawi. In spite of all these uncertainties, she has chosen to devote her time to help other evacuees. And she remains upbeat about the future.

Finally, we have Mubarak Macabanding Paingco. He is the first Muslim to graduate summa cum laude – and the only one at MSU-IIT. He is this year's valedictorian. During his valedictory address, he recounted his moving story about losing his mother at an early age. That he was holding back his tears made it difficult for him to finish his speech. He dedicated it to her and those who have been affected by the conflict in Marawi. Many of IIT's students and staff are Maranao.

There are certainly many other hopeful stories. But the parallelism is striking. Violence may have become the new normal but people are not letting it get in the way of their lives.

Fighting back

In the hostel where I am staying for the duration of my visiting professorship at MSU-IIT, I interacted with a young Maranao couple who evacuated from Marawi. They say in the strongest terms possible what I have also heard from other Maranao friends: Ipinahihiya ng Maute ang dangal naming lahat. (The Mautes are a disgrace to our dignity.)

But they are still full of hope about the future of their young family. This again shows how people are fighting back.

Hope in this light redeems not just the future but the present too.

In other words, foresight grounded in present reality can be empowering. It believes that people can fight back. The sociologist Les Back describes it in this manner: "Hope is not a destination; it is perhaps an improvisation with a future not yet realized."

Hope therefore is not just a fantasy. But it does not on its own spring eternal. To hope is a conscious effort among people of goodwill.

And because some people have already chosen goodwill, hope, we shall see, will stand the test of time.

The least that the rest of us could offer them, apart from our donations, is to believe in them.

Female rebel, firearms apprehended in Abra firefight

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jul 7): Female rebel, firearms apprehended in Abra firefight

A FEMALE rebel and several high caliber firearms were seized by authorities following an almost one hour firefight between troops and members of communist guerillas at Sitio Tinalban, Kilong-olao village, Boliney, Abra.

The rebel was identified as Alyas Joana, who is member of New People’s Army’s (NPA’s) Kilusang Larangang Guerilla North led by Alyas Payas.

She sustained multiple gunshot wounds and is now confined at the Abra Provincial Hospital.

Also retrieved after the firefight were three M16 rifles, two M14 rifles, one M203 grenade launcher, fifteen backpacks with subversive documents, two hand held radios, eight cellphones, one pocket Wi-Fi, medical paraphernalia and other personal belongings.

 According to reports, no troopers were injured during the firefight while undetermined number of injured in the enemy side are being confirmed as of Thursday.

A joint pursuit operation is being conducted by the police and Philippine Army along the vicinity of Boliney, Abra while checkpoint operations are established in all municipalities and nearby villages and provinces to block all possible exit routes of the suspects.

In an initial investigation, Alias Joana, was among the NPA members who raided the Malibcong Police Station on March 12 and carted away assorted firearms.

Other firearms recovered from the encounter site were three cal.5.56 MM riffles which matched the serial numbers of firearms forcibly taken from Malibcong police personnel.

Authorities said continuous investigation and intensified information gathering is on-going to determine the identities of the other members of the NPA for their possible arrest and neutralization.

“Our security forces are well aware of the emerging threat and have been conducting operations to prevent terror acts anywhere in the country by members of the NPAs. Thus, the police force and members of the Philippine Army are ready to defend their areas of responsibility against all odds and to provide security and safety to the public against criminal acts,” Police Regional Office–Cordillera Director Francis Elmo Sarona said.

Sarona also urged the public to remain calm and refrain from posting in social media any information that would tend to exacerbate the situation especially photos and videos on the movements of the government troops.

The region’s top cop also appealed to the public to be extra vigilant and responsive by providing information on enemy location and their movements so that government forces can swiftly act on the threat.

 “With our collective efforts, we can make a difference in securing our people from any terror acts. That is the Filipino spirit of bayanihan. The PNP is one with the Filipino community continuous praying for the end of terror attacks and crimes against humanity,” Sarona added.

Soldier killed, 13 wounded in Monkayo clash

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 6): Soldier killed, 13 wounded in Monkayo clash
A SOLDIER was killed while 13 others were wounded in a firefight against suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) last July 1, in Barangay Mount Diwata, Monkayo in Compostela Valley province.

Lieutenant Alexandre Caballes, acting spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, identified the fatality as Corporal Luvimen Tacuyan, who was killed when an improvised explosive device (IED), allegedly planted by the communist group, exploded.

Caballes said only six of the wounded soldiers were brought to the hospital as the rest only sustained minor injuries.

Caballes said the troops went to Sitio Calaberahan in Mount Diwata village after they received reports that armed men were gathering in the area.

“Based on reports from civilians and local officials, the NPAs consolidated in the area in preparation for an attack against civilian communities,” Caballes said.

A firefight ensued between the soldiers and some 80 NPA members around 1 p.m. Authorities are still validating how many NPA rebels were killed in the clash.

Reds tell Lorenzana: Reforms are heart of talks

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jul 6): Reds tell Lorenzana: Reforms are heart of talks

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a press conference in Malacañan on January 29, 2017. (Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo)
The Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP RWC-SER) castigated Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana Jr. for his previous statement that the government should consider ending the peace process if communist guerrillas continue their offensives against the government.

“I, for one, have already been talking with the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) panel if it’s possible to stop talking for a while with the CPP as long as they can’t control the NPAs who conduct extortion activities, burning of private properties, and kidnappings,” Lorenzana said Monday.
In a statement on Wednesday, July 5, Alan Jazmines, vice chairperson of the NDFP RWC-SER said Lorenzana’s statement shows he is “a cold-blooded warmonger who has no interest at all in advancing the interests of the Filipino people.”

“His continuous harping that there should be a bilateral ceasefire before any peace talks can resume is putting the cart before the horse,” Jazmines said.

Jazmines said Lorenzana shows that “he has no grasp at all of the roots of the armed conflinct.”
“He rejects the fact that socio-economic reforms lie at the heart of the peace talks. He does not seem to care that any substantial gain that can be reached by the NDFP and the GRP would benefit the greater majority of the Filipino people,” he added.

Both Parties of the government and communists believe significant milestones have been achieved since the talks resumed under President Rodrigo Duterte. In barely a year, the Parties have done four rounds of formal talks.

However, the fifth round of talks was cancelled on May 28 after the GRP refused to participate citing the lack of enabling environment for the talks to proceed.

In a reply to the GRP’s non participation to the formal talks, the NDFP said: “The GRP’s persistent demand for the immediate signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement as precondition to the continuation of the formal talks is an outright violation of the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration.”

“The NDFP stands by its position, priorly acknowledged and concurred with by the GRP, that the implementation of CARHRIHL and the forging of the CASER should take precedence over the crafting of a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” it said in a statement dated May 27.

The fifth round of talks is supposed to tackle the social and economic reforms, particularly on agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and the next two important sections of the CASER draft — national industrialization and economic development (NIED) and environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation.

The NDFP believes Lorenzana is “proving himself to be a major obstacle to peace.”


Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte also called on the NDFP to “stop waging war” against the government.

“I have to talk to the communists, but this time I hope you do it in a modality that is sincere,” the President said during his visit to the 64th founding anniversary of Hagonoy in Davao del Sur on Wednesday.

Duterte lamented that the communists had “vacillating” statement.

“First you said that during the martial law proclamation, suko… I ordered your troops, the NPAs to engage us government forces actively, when you changed your mind and said you are going to cooperate, but at the same time I cannot understand you guys kay parang kayong electric fan, right to left, left to right. Unsa ba gyud? Gusto mo makig istorya? [inaudible] nato ning pagkalma sa Marawi, mag-istorya ta o magsige ta’g away?,” Duterte said.

(First you said that during the martial law proclamation, you got angry because I ordered your troops, the NPAs to engage us government forces actively, when you changed your mind and said you are going to cooperate, but at the same time I cannot understand you guys because you’re like an electric fan, right to left, left to right. What do you really want? Do you want to talk? [inaudible] let the crisis in Marawi cool down and we’ll talk or we’ll continue to fight?)

However, the CPP said the NDFP’s earlier declaration to order the NPA to refrain from carrying out offensives in Mindanao rests on the critical precondition that “the AFP will likewise refrain as well from attacking the NPA and the people in the revolutionary base areas in Mindanao.”

“Presently, such conditions do not exist concretely,” it said in a statement on June 25.

Talks to resume

GRP peace panel Silvestre Bello III announced on Tuesday that the fifth round of the formal talks between the government and the NDFP is scheduled in August. He said prior to the formal talks, the peace panels will hold informal meetings this month somewhere in Asia to talk about social and economic reforms and unilateral interim ceasefire. This he said, will be submitted for approval of both panels once the formal talks resume next month.

Bello added that so long as the government’s peace panel engage the communists in the peace negotiations, it means the military still believes that it is right to talk to the NDFP.

Bello said they regularly consult the intelligence community of the AFP and the National Security Adviser, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon whenever there is a scheduled talks with the NDFP.

“The mere fact that we go to the venue of the talks is an indication that their assessment is that they are still the right person to talk to. Otherwise, kapag sinabi ninyo sa amin na, “Huwag ninyo ng kausapin iyong mga iyan, hindi naman nila kontrolado ang puwersa nila.” We will not go there anymore,” Bello said.

Bello also told reporters that the statement of Lorenzana was probably taken “out of context.”

He also said the NPAs “are not into extortion” but are collecting revolutionary tax.

Reds all set for back-channel talks; Joma’s not bullish

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 7): Reds all set for back-channel talks; Joma’s not bullish
Communist rebels are all set to hold back-channel talks for the resumption of negotiations with the government even though their exiled founder, Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison, isn’t optimistic about the prospects of peace.

Sison confirmed on Thursday that Fidel Agcaoili, negotiating panel chair of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), would arrange back-channel talks with his counterpart, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

The goal, he said, was to hold the back-channel talks this month to prepare for the fifth round of negotiations in August.

Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NDFP political consultant, however, said the resumption of talks would depend on the nature of the demands that each panel would put on the table.

“[The government] and NDFP can advance on the peace negotiations only if they make just and reasonable demands to each other and be ready to make agreements beneficial to the Filipino people,” Sison said in a statement to the Inquirer.

Bello said on Tuesday both panels had agreed to hold informal talks later this month to iron out issues, such as the need for a ceasefire agreement, and resume the fifth round of formal peace negotiations next month.

Agcaoili said government peace panel member Hernani Braganza proposed the inclusion of a discussion on ceasefire in the back-channel talks.

The fifth round of peace talks was suspended on May 27 after the government panel withdrew in protest of the CPP order to its armed wing, the New People’s Army, to step up attacks against government troops.

Sison, however, believed that the government has lost its interest in “substantive peace negotiations.”

He said the peace negotiations “are already on the way to being scuttled completely by the government.” The government panel did not respond to this.

Sison cited government actions that could lead to the collapse of the negotiations.

These are the government’s failure to fulfil President Duterte’s campaign promise to release all political prisoners; the government’s precondition that the NDFP must surrender before any agreement on reforms can be signed; the government’s all-out war policy against the CPP-NPA; and possible expansion of martial law coverage.

Malaysian IS fighter confirmed killed in southern Philippines conflict

From Today Online (Jul 6): Malaysian IS fighter confirmed killed in southern Philippines conflict

The official tally of Malaysians left fighting alongside the Islamic State (IS) group in southern Philippines has been further reduced with the confirmed death of a seasoned fighter from Sabah.

Jeknal Adil’s death was only confirmed recently, although it is understood that the 33-year-old was reportedly killed during a battle with Philippine military in Basilan last year. Jeknal assumed the nom de guerre Abu Shabah Al Muhajir when he joined the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), now an affiliate of the IS, and was the first of two Malaysians to head to the terror group’s stronghold in Basilan.

He and another wanted Malaysian from Sabah, Amin Baco, who has since gone off the radar, left the country to join ASG in 2010.

Jeknal and Amin formed part of the Khatiba Muhajrin group, which comprises fighters from Indonesia led by a former lecturer at Universiti Malaya, Mahmud Ahmad.

Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said intelligence indicated that Jeknal was killed during an ambush by Philippine armed forces last July.

Jeknal, who became involved in militancy at the age of 18, received military training at an Abu Sayyaf camp on Jolo island between September 2005 and March 2006.

“He was arrested on March 16, 2006, with another Indonesian militant, and was held under the now-defunct Internal Security Act at a detention centre. He completed his restriction order on May 10, 2010, and made his way to southern Philippines about six months later,” Mr Ayob said.

The New Straits Times was told that Jeknal escaped the police dragnet when he returned to Sabah to facilitate the relocation of Amin’s wife and children to Mindanao.

Sources said Jeknal chose to leave his life in Sabah as he failed to obtain a Malaysian identity card.

“Technically, although he is regarded as a Malaysian, he does not have citizenship. He was born in Sabah, but his father is a Filipino and his parents did not register his birth. Without an identity card, it will be difficult for him to get a job or get married, so he decided to leave.”

It was understood that Jeknal was part of an insurgent group that took part in several clashes with the Philippine military in Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao in periods preceding his death. His death was narrated in detail by last month’s issue of the IS propaganda magazine Rumiyah.

Referring him as “Abu Shabah”, the report said that he was preparing breakfast for members of his camp when he heard the sound of heavy artillery headed their way. He was killed during the artillery strike.

The fate of Mahmud, who is believed to be part of the IS-linked Maute group battling the Philippine military in Marawi, is still unknown. While some reports said he was killed in the earlier days of the siege, which began on May 23, the Malaysian authorities believe he is alive.

Mahmud’s right-hand man, Malaysian bomb expert Mohd Najib Husen died in 2015 during a shoot-out with the military.

Suspected ‘high-ranking’ rebel captured in Surigao City

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jul 7): Suspected ‘high-ranking’ rebel captured in Surigao City

A SUSPECTED high-ranking officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) was arrested in a government checkpoint in Surigao City, Wednesday afternoon, July 5, said an army official.

“We have arrested an alleged high ranking leader of the NPA Guerilla Front 16 (GF16),” said 2nd Lieutenant Jonel Castillo, Civil Military Operation Officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Surigao del Norte.

The army identified Arpel Rabago, also known as Ka Yoyo, vice commander of an NPA platoon under GF16, which is operating in Surigao del Norte.

“His arrest was under the virtue of an arrest warrant issued by Surigao City Judicial Branch Court for cases of multiple attempted murder and frustrated murder,” Castillo said.

A report by the PNP said the alleged ranking rebel was arrested at the Armed Forces of the Philippines/PNP checkpoint along Km. 14, Trinidad village, in the said city, around 5 p.m.

The rebel is wanted by authorities for frustrated murder, multiple attempted murder, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention.

“Ka Yoyo is responsible for the series of harassment and extortion in certain parts of the province. He led numerous attacks against government troops who are conducting peace and development activities in the towns of Malimono, San Francisco and Surigao City during the previous years,” Castillo said.

But a rebel from the NPA’s GF16 dismissed the claims of the 30IB, pointing out that Rabao left the revolutionary movement years ago.

“Ka Yoyo, left the NPA back in October of 2014 for various personal reasons. The person was not even a ranking official as what the army has claimed. He is not a so called vice commander, but he was just a squad leader within the GF16-B. After Rabago left the NPA, we heard that he went to Manila and then when he returned to his home in Sitio Upper Sangay in Barangay Anomar, he had several issues in the community related to his drinking habits,” said Ka Oto, spokesperson of the NPA’s GF16.

Ka Oto added the military may have fabricated the rank of Rabago to insinuate a "bigger price on his (Rabago) the head".

"I don’t even know if the said arrest or capture is really true or we are made to believe that he was captured. Rabago has been living with the people in his community for several months and people are complaining on his drinking habit. He might have struck a deal with the authorities, so it is really hard to just take in these claims,” the rebel leader said.

Cebu bishop is new prelate for military, police forces

From the Cebu Daily News (Jul 6): Cebu bishop is new prelate for military, police forces

POPE Francis appointed Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio as the concurrent apostolic administrator of the Military Ordinariate.

“The appointment is concurrent, so he will both serve as military administrator and at the same time continue to function as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said Fr. Zenon Guanzon, the private secretary of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

Florencio, a 51-year-old native of Capoocan town in Leyte, will serve as administrator of the Military Ordinariate while waiting for the Holy Father to appoint a permanent military bishop. He temporarily replaces Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, who died last June 17 after battling pancreatic cancer.

The Military Ordinariate is a personal diocese for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard.

It has jurisdiction over all military, police and coast guard personnel, their dependents, and the civilian employees of all branches of the Armed Forces. Florencio was ordained priest on April 3, 1990.

He completed his studies in philosophy at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, and theology at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.

‘THREAT NEVER STOPS’ | AFP monitoring 300 terror-linked websites, urges Pinoys to be more security-conscious

From InterAksyon (Jul 7): ‘THREAT NEVER STOPS’ | AFP monitoring 300 terror-linked websites, urges Pinoys to be more security-conscious

A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

Amid terrorist threats worldwide, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) urged Filipinos to be more observant of their surroundings and preempt any possible attempts by lawless groups to create havoc in their communities.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla on Thursday said that while authorities had not monitored any threats against any major city in the country so far, “the threat never stops.”

“There will always be threat coming from anywhere, any time of the day, any time of the week, and hence, the issue here is readiness,” he said.

“More than anything else, whether there is a crisis or not, we need to be vigilant. We need to be alert. We need to be very observant of our surroundings,” added Padilla.

Padilla said every member of the community must be watchful because it is not only the Philippines and the AFP who are facing threats from terrorism but the whole world as well.

“This concept of shared responsibility and security is a relevant item that we need to reiterate because every citizen must realize that our country has a limited number of soldiers. It has a limited number of police and other security personnel,” he said.

The AFP has been monitoring about 300 websites that are possibly being used by terrorists as propaganda tools, according to Padilla.

He said the AFP had already coordinated with the Philippine National Police’s Cybercrime Group for the closure of 64 of these websites, which are mostly hosted in the Philippines.

Relief Web: Philippines: IDP protection assessment report - Armed Confrontations and Displacement in Marawi (AFP vs Maute) - Issue No. 01

Posted to the Relief Web (Jun 30): Philippines: IDP protection assessment report - Armed Confrontations and Displacement in Marawi (AFP vs Maute) - Issue No. 01
Published on 30 Jun 2017 View Original
Incident Date: 23 May 2017


Firefights broke out in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur on the afternoon of 23 May 2017 when members of the Maute Group (MG) ambushed a military vehicle that was reportedly on a mission to serve a warrant of arrest upon Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was believed to be hiding in the area.

The Maute group is a local armed group that has engaged in armed clashes with government troops since early 2016, and has reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

By the same evening, the firefight escalated to other barangays in the city as the MG began increasing its forces. The Maute members reportedly occupied civilian structures, including school buildings, churches, the Philippine National Police Outpost, and a hospital. Killings and hostage-taking of civilians were also reported. In less than 24 hours, the Maute were able to control strategic locations in the center of the city, including government facilities. The situation prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the whole island of Mindanao under Martial Law for 60 days.

Massive civilian displacement occurred as a result of the growing tension, starting in the early morning of 24 May. More military troops were deployed, and clashes continued over the next several weeks. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched a combination of mortar shelling and air strikes against the MG.


Six weeks into the conflict, the number of displaced persons continues to increase. Most have taken refuge in Iligan City and other nearby towns within Region X. An estimated 98 percent of the total population of Marawi City (201, 785 individuals in 96 barangays, based on the 2015 census) have sought shelter in different evacuation centers or with their relatives. The crisis has also affected economic and commercial activities in the rest of Lanao del Sur province, triggering further displacement.

As of this report, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has reached a total of 72,897 families (349,989 individuals) according to government estimates. Of this number, 3,437 families (16,070 individuals) are in 77 evacuation centers and 69,460 families (333,919 individuals) are with host families.

The displaced population, particularly those who are in host communities (95 percent), continue to be faced with mounting protection concerns such as the unrecognition of informal settlements, congestion in the evacuation centers, reported cases of acute diarrhea among children, lack of identification, lack of prioritization of persons with specific needs in the relief assistance, and the lack of information dissemination strategy for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), among others.

Amidst operational constraints, UNHCR and other members of the protection cluster advocated with stakeholders and duty bearers for: (1) support to local capacities and resiliency by supporting the home-based IDPs and its host communities, by which assistance should not be limited to IDPs in the evacuation centers but also to those who are home-based. This is in line with UNHCR’s community-based protection approach; and (2) strengthen Family Tracing and Reunification. While the Philippine Red Cross has already established family tracing and reunification system in some evacuation centers, it was noted that there is a need to expand to reach to IDPs in other areas.

The Philippine government established the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC), which serves as the central coordination hub for government and humanitarian responders, and the different clusters have been activated at sub- national level. The government has already identified areas for possible relocation of IDPs and reconstruction plans have been discussed by government officials. Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Emil Sadain stated that a “tent” city would be established in Marawi City as soon as fighting stops. An oversight committee to focus on a reconstruction program for Marawi was formed by the Office of the President. A multi-agency task force will soon be convened to assess the situation.

Military monitoring online terrorist propaganda

From the Philippine Star (Jul 7): Military monitoring online terrorist propaganda

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla announces that government forces have already taken control of Marawi City during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacañang on May 29. Presidential Photo

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is currently monitoring about 300 social media accounts spreading online propaganda in support of the Maute local terror group.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the AFP, said that the military has asked for the help of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group to counter social media accounts helping the rebellion.

"In the process of monitoring and taking down of social media accounts that are proven to be supportive of terroristic activities, we need to work with the social media companies," Padilla said in a televised press conference at Malacañang.

Padilla added that the military is working with social media companies as they have direct contact with their regional offices.

"They have been very helpful, in fact, once a site has been proven or an account has been proven to be facilitating and supportive of terroristic activities, it is taken down immediately," Padilla said.

The military has taken down about 64 sites and is currently monitoring about 300 accounts.

 Padilla noted that some of the sites could be based in the Philippines.

"We can’t be sure yet because some of the sites may be out of the country... And that is the effort they’re currently working on to locate," he said.

Military may submit recommendation on martial law next week

From ABS-CBN (Jul 7): Military may submit recommendation on martial law next week

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said it may submit as early as next week its recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte on whether or not martial law in Mindanao should be extended beyond 60 days.

AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said the military was still assessing the situation on the ground, where state offensives against Islamic State-linked terrorists continue.

Duterte's martial law proclamation, laid down on May 23 when clashes erupted in Marawi City, will expire on July 22, based on the 60-day constitutional limit. But the President may seek an extension from Congress if he deems this necessary.

The President has said he would rely on the advice of his military commanders whether or not to extend the declaration.

“Kinakailangan may batayan ito bago isulong 'yung rekomendasyon na iyon sa ating Commander-in-Chief. At ‘yung pag-assess na ito at pag-aaral na ito ay kasalukuyan pa lang ginagawa,” Padilla told reporters in a chance interview in Malacañang.

“So maaring ibigay ito sa susunod na linggo o bago matapos ‘yung takdang panahon ng 60 days," he said.

Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law after Islamic State-linked militants led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups laid siege on Marawi City in a bid to establish an Islamic State province in Mindanao.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed the president’s proclamation, junking several petitions that questioned his basis for declaring martial rule over all of Mindanao.

Eleven justices voted to uphold Duterte's declaration, three voted to limit martial rule to certain parts of Mindanao, and one magistrate said the proclamation had no basis.

Even as he acknowledged his administration's court victory, Duterte said he wants the martial law imposition to end “as soon as possible,” but said this may only happen once the entire region is safe from extremists.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said that while government troops can carry out the same level of anti-terror operations even without a martial law declaration, he believes its imposition carries greater “impact”.


As the end of the 60-day limit on martial law imposition looms, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the President may issue another martial law proclamation if Congress fails to extend his May 23 declaration.

“There would be a need for [another] proclamation if he feels [it is necessary] and upon recommendation of the Armed Forces that there is a need for prolonged martial law,” Panelo told reporters on Thursday.

“But, of course, if the presidents wants to extend it, he will have to ask Congress," he said.

Panelo argued that Duterte may issue another martial law proclamation since the Constitution is not explicit that the President may only do so once.

“Otherwise, we will be tying the President’s hands in quelling the rebellion,” he said.

Panelo added that the 60-day constitutional limit on martial law enforcement may no longer apply if Congress, dominated by Duterte’s allies, decides to extend the May 23 martial law declaration.

Both the police and military chiefs have said they were "inclined" to endorse an extension of the martial law declaration in Mindanao to give way to rehabilitation efforts.


Clashes in Marawi is now on its 7th week, and the terrorists have shown no signs of giving up despite relentless bombings and ground assaults of state troops.

From the original number of forces of about 500, Padilla said terrorists still holed up in the besieged city are now down to about 80. These include leaders of the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon.

“Their stockpile of weapons could still be there and they still may have enough. So these are the areas that we are focusing on and addressing,” Padilla said.

The military has been having a hard time retaking parts of Marawi still controlled by the terrorists, as snipers from the enemy side still lurk around the conflict zone. Government forces are also careful in advancing towards the enemy position due to the presence of booby traps.

Padilla said about 300 civilians, including the terrorists’ hostages, remain trapped in the battle zone, preventing state forces from going all-out against the enemies.

At least 479 people- 353 suspected terrorists, 39 civilians, and 87 government troops- have died since battle began.

While the government has put the civilian death toll at 39, the military believes this could “increase significantly” as troops have yet to reach other parts of the city where some trapped civilians were feared to have been executed.

About 400,000 civilians from Marawi and outlying areas have also been displaced as a result of the fighting.

As the government expects a prolonged battle with the terrorists, a tent city will soon be set up to accommodate the displaced residents.

The emergence of groups pledging allegiance to Islamic State has been considered the biggest security problem to face the year-old Duterte administration.

The rise of pro-ISIS groups in the country has also raised alarm in Washington and the Philippines’ neighbors in the region, which fear that the notorious terror group was seeking to establish a new front in Asia amid its successive losses in Iraq and Syria.

How Clan Feuds and Ethnic Tensions Breed Terrorism in the Philippines

From The Diplomat (Jul 6): How Clan Feuds and Ethnic Tensions Breed Terrorism in the Philippines (By Chester Cabalza, Ph.D)

Existing patterns of violence and narratives of marginalization provide fertile soil for terrorism.

Seven weeks of war with Islamic State-inspired local terrorists, the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, has been a blow to the popular administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. The catastrophic, painstaking, and destructive campaign to end terrorism in Marawi City has not yet achieved its end, despite tactical operational support from the United States and the donation of defense materiel from China.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines remains hopeful about the manhunt for Isnilon Hapilon, dubbed as Southeast Asia’s “emir” who has eluded capture even as the world witnessed the fall of Marawi, Mindanao’s favorite “Summer Capital of the South” and a recreation destination for many Filipino Muslims who enjoy the cooler climate and the small city’s educational amenities.

Duterte himself blamed his fellow ethnic group, the Maranaos, for allowing the “corrupt ideology” of Islamic State to penetrate Marawi. His statement calls to mind an important question: how do clan feuds and ethnic tensions intersect with the sprouting pockets of jihadi terrorism in the southern Philippines?

The Philippines is no stranger to family feuds or clan feuds. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), ethnic Maranaos and Maguindanaons refer to such feuds as rido while the Tausugs call it pagbanta. Regardless of nomenclature, these three major ethnic groups in the country’s second largest island all recognize the customary practice of the clan feud, a state of recurring hostilities between families and kinship groups characterized by a series of retaliatory acts of violence carried out to avenge a perceived affront or injustice.

“One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” is a commonly heard phrase when it comes to using violence to achieve political goals. In Mindanao, where violence in the form of rido has become customary, the situation is even more complex. Rido involves a vendetta killing provoked by an affront or disgrace to the honor of a family or its members. This phenomenon is deeply rooted in the local culture of the dominant ethnic groups in Mindanao.

Clan feuds oblige even the youth and future generations to participate in defending their kin network against a rival clan. It can be deadly when unresolved violence lasts through years, decades, or even generations taking thousands of lives, destroying property, and displacing affected families.

Rido is a reality that may permeate to the growth of local terrorism in the southern Philippines; however, it can be mitigated through attempts to effectively resolve the conflict. Military tactic are a short-term solution to the vicious cycle of violence, while medium- and long-term solutions would require addressing the socioeconomic conditions in Mindanao. The effects of jihadi terror in Marawi cannot be countered by force of arms alone. Guns and bullets merely destroy the body but not the corrupt ideology that propels the struggle.

In addition to clan feuds, ethnic factors in southern Philippines create a tapestry of secessionism and extremism. The Tausugs head the Moro National Liberation Front while the Maguindanaons reign supreme in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Most members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups are ethnically Maranaos.

The disunity and mistrust between and among various separatists and terrorists in Mindanao can either become a boon or bane for Muslim Filipinos. Differentiated interests blur the collective interest in achieving peace, the ultimate hope of all people in the southern Philippines whether Christians, indigenous peoples, or Muslims. Ethnic identities are socially constructed but can be deconstructed through political affiliations and philosophical beliefs. The real enemy of the Philippines, then, comes from a crooked dogma that offers false hopes of a united caliphate in the region.

This angle of conflict between the state and tribalism revives the issue of ethnonationalism versus Filipinism. Patterns of displacement and narratives of marginalization are reflected throughout all the provinces of Mindanao that became targets of past resettlements. In the end, the story of amalgamation is the story of marginalization; Filipino Muslims believe they were pushed to the periphery. As a result, Filipino Muslims’ perception of Filipinism is ambiguous and often merely territorial or geographic in nature, which is a serious ideological problem for the state.

Such ethnic tensions are exacerbated through terror acts. If clans and tribes have made the Marawi crisis complex, terrorism has made it chaotic.

[Chester Cabalza, Ph.D., is a security anthropologist. He is an Associate Professor at the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman. The views of the author are his and do not represent his organizational affiliations.]

Troops kill Sayyaf gunman in Basilan clash

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 7): Troops kill Sayyaf gunman in Basilan clash

Government troops killed an Abu Sayyaf militant in a clash Friday that left 4 soldiers wounded in the restive province of Basilan in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the fighting erupted after militants under Nawapi Abdulsaid attacked a group of soldiers in the village of Bohe Pahu in Ungkaya Pukan town. The soldiers were sent to the area after receiving reports that a group of Abu Sayyaf gunmen were spotted in the village.

“It was a heavy gun battle between the elements of the 18th Infantry Battalion and the Abu Sayyaf members led by Nawapi Abdulsaid,” she said, adding, soldiers recovered one M79 grenade rifle and a Carbine rifle, including suspected crystal meth at the clash site.

She said the body of the slain militant was also recovered by soldiers. The wounded infantrymen were airlifted to Zamboanga City for emergency medical treatment.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding 3 Vietnamese sailors they kidnapped off Basilan in November last year. Two other sailors Hoang Thong and Hoang Va Hai were beheaded in the village of Tumahubong in Sumisip town after their families failed to pay ransom. One seaman Huang Vo, was released last month by the Abu Sayyaf in Sumisip town. They were all crew members of the cargo ship MV Royal 16.

The fate of the remaining Vietnamese sailors is unknown. The military said the jihadist group affiliated with the Islamic State is still holding over a dozen foreign captives and 6 Filipinos in the restive region.

Sayyaf man dies in clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): Sayyaf man dies in clash

A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) involved in the trade of hard drugs was killed while five soldiers were wounded in a clash early Friday, a top military official announced.

Col. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, said the clash occurred around 7:30 a.m. Friday in Sitio Block 41, Barangay Bohe Pahuh, Ungkaya Pukan.

Uy said the clash occurred when the troops raided the suspect’s hideout while conducting law enforcement operation.

Ungkaya Pukan Vice Mayor Joel Maturan identified the slain ASG member as Tules Pangamdas.

Uy withheld the identities of the five injured soldiers who belong to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion.

Maturan said Pangamdas utilizes the proceeds of his hard drugs trade to finance the operations of the ASG in Basilan province.

The troops recovered two firearms consisting of an M2 Carbine and an M-79 grenade launcher as well as hard drugs paraphernalia.

AFP to public: Be more security-conscious

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): AFP to public: Be more security-conscious

While it has yet to detect any threat related to ongoing efforts to clear Marawi City of the remaining Maute Group terrorists, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has urged the people to be more observant of their surroundings to preempt any possible attempt by lawless groups to create havoc in their communities.

"We have not monitored (any threat against) any major city as of the moment, but then again, as I have mentioned, the threat never stops. There will always be threat coming from anywhere, any time of the day, any time of the week, and hence, the issue here is readiness," AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said Thursday when asked whether they have information on possible attacks being plotted by supporters of the terrorists.

"More than anything else, whether there is a crisis or not, we need to be vigilant. We need to be alert. We need to be very observant of our surroundings."

Padilla noted that every member of the community must be watchful because it is not only the Philippines and the AFP who are facing threats from terrorism but the whole world as well.

"This concept of shared responsibility and security is a relevant item that we need to reiterate because every citizen must realize that our country has a limited number of soldiers. It has a limited number of police and other security personnel," he said.

As of this posting, the number of Maute Group terrorists killed in Marawi City has reached 351, with 425 firearms seized, while the number of civilians executed by the terrorists has been placed at 39, and the number of civilians rescued at 1,723.

Fighting in Marawi City broke out when government security troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, tagged as the ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia, last May 23.

"Our population is more than 100 million, and if every member of the community… takes up the cudgels, shares the responsibility and is on the lookout whenever they are outside or in their communities for suspicious persons and other suspicious items, then the manner by which we address all these threats becomes faster and it becomes safer for everyone else," Padilla said.

PHL condemns barbaric beheadings of Vietnamese

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): PHL condemns barbaric beheadings of Vietnamese

The Philippine government on Friday strongly condemned the barbaric beheadings of two Vietnamese nationals, as it committed to bring perpetrators to justice.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this barbaric act carried out by criminal elements preying on innocent civilians,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

The DFA said it is “greatly saddened” with the discovery of the bodies of two Vietnamese nationals, who were found in Basilan on July 5.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and stand in solidarity with the government and people of Viet Nam in this trying time,” it said.

The DFA further said the government is resolute in its commitment in ensuring that the perpetrators of such vile act will be brought to justice.

Residents in Sumisip, Basilan province discovered early Wednesday (July 5) the decapitated remains of two of the remaining five abducted Vietnamese sailors.

Col. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan, identified the remains as those of Hoang Thong and Hoang Va Hai, both crew members of the Vietnamese bulk carrier, M/V Royal 16.

The two slain sailors were among the six crewmen the Abu Sayyaf bandits seized when they hijacked the bulk carrier on November 11, 2016 in the seawater of Sibago Island, Basilan province.

Of the six crewmen, three remain in captivity as one of their companion, Hoang Vo, 28, managed to escape last month at the height of a military air strike.