Monday, July 10, 2017

7 IS suspects held at NAIA, 3 released

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 11): 7 IS suspects held at NAIA, 3 released


Immigration autho-rities who are conducting a tight watch on the movement of militants amid the Marawi City siege held seven suspected members of the Maute terror group who were supposed to leave the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI), however, allowed three of the seven passengers to leave while the four were held by the police for having warrants of arrest issued by various courts. It was not clear if the four have any links with the Maute terrorists who continue to fight the military in Marawi City.

Brought to the police headquarters were Al Nizar Maute; Abdulrahman Maute, Yasser Maute and Ashary Maute who have pending warrants of arrest.

The BI, however, allowed Cota Mawiyag, Acmali Mawiyag and Abdulkahar Maute to leave the country after they were cleared by the airport police of any criminal activities.

Unfortunately, the plane the cleared individuals were supposed to take had already left the NAIA and they had to take another flight.

BI Port Operations chief Marc Red Mariñas said the seven were supposed to board Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 499 bound for Kuala Lumpur at 2 pm yesterday before they were stopped by immigration officers,

They were held by BI-Travel Control Enforcement Unit headed by Danieve Bensol, Anthony Lopez and Maida Rebong, who called the police.

The four will undergo further investigations to determine whether they are among the personalities listed under the arrest order issued by the Department of Defense.

 War vs IS enters day 50

As the siege entered its 50th day, government security forces were still struggling to flush out Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists despite continued pounding of their positions at the city’s downtown using the military’s full air and ground might.

As of yesterday, the military continued to conduct air strikes as the ground troops advanced to areas still being occupied by the terrorists.

Reports said air strikes were intensified as ground troops continued to penetrate downtown Marawi City to neutralize enemy snipers, who are still positioned in high-rise buildings.

For several weeks now, the military has struggled to flush out the IS-inspired terrorists from portions of four barangays in downtown Marawi City.

As of July 9 at 6 p.m., civilians killed by terrorists remained at 39 while those rescued were 1,723.

The number of terrorists killed reached 379 while the recovered high-powered firearms from terrorists ballooned to 451.

On the other hand, the government has suffered 89 fatalities since the siege started last May 23 when troops attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon.

The military estimated the number of remaining terrorists who continued to put up resistance at about 80, under the command of Abdullah Maute.

It was not clear, however, where Hapilon is, the designated emir or leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Southeast Asia.

Brig. Gen. Ramiro Manuel Rey, commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, said that the military is now finalizing preparations for the deployment of soldier-engineers in Marawi City to spearhead the rehabilitation of the Islamic city.

“The AFP is finalizing the preparation for deployment of Army engineers to be supported by Navy and Airforce engineer units,” said Rey.

He said the same soldier-engineers were responsible in constructing mosques and schoolbuildings in Mamasapano, Maguindanao after the January 2015 infamous Mamasapano massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

Kids, hostages forced to fight

Children and hostages are being forced to fight alongside pro-Islamic State gunmen waging a seven-week battle for a Philippine city, the country’s military said Monday.

Militants seized Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, on May 23 in a bid to create an IS province, and over 100 remain holed up in the city despite intense military efforts to oust them.

Some of the extremists are teenagers who may have been recruited and trained to use guns when they were still children, said Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman.

“We continuously get disturbing narratives from (escaped residents) that children as well as hostages are being employed in the firefight,” Padilla told reporters in Manila.

Casualties among children and civilians forced to take up arms cannot be ruled out, Padilla said.

“As disturbing as it is, our troops are doing their best to avoid any casualty among these children who are being employed,” he said.

“But in the event... they bear arms and are involved in the fighting, there is nothing much that we can do. Similarly with the hostages who are being forced.”

Shortly after seizing Marawi gunmen took at least a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest.

Some of the estimated 300 other civilians still trapped in the area may have also been taken captive, said Padilla.

The military earlier said civilians had been forced to help the gunmen by carrying supplies and ammunition, bearing their wounded and even helping them loot the city.

Daily air strikes and artillery barrages against militant snipers who control tall buildings have left Marawi’s central business district a ghost town.

President Rodrigo Duterte last month vowed to “crush” the militants but several government-set deadlines to end the conflict have already been missed.

The fighting also prompted Duterte to declare martial law over Mindanao. Padilla expressed hope that the fighting would soon be concluded.

“We continue to gain headway with our operations on the ground,” he said.

 IS remains a serious threat

The military may have succeeded in degrading the armed capacity of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants days before martial law expires but that doesn’t mean that the terrorist threat has subsided.

Padilla told reporters yesterday in a Palace briefing that there are indicators that IS fanatics have scattered throughout Mindanao.

Such claim justifies why martial law should not be limited to IS-occupied Marawi City, the military official pointed out.

“We should not limit our concerns to Marawi alone. We should remember that the structure the rebellion has caused is not contained in Marawi,” Padilla said.

“They only launched Marawi as an attacking zone... Their network has expanded elsewhere in Mindanao,” he added.

Padilla noted that troops were able to encounter elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that are said to be adherents of the IS.

Padilla, furthermore, defended soldiers involved in clearing operations in Marawi who were accused of taking properties and valuable items like appliances, cash and jewelries.

He said items recovered by soldiers were turned over to their owners and houses and establishments that they could not safeguard were ordered to be padlocked.

He noted that the morale of the soldiers remains high due to continuing public support that they have been receiving.

“Our troops are continuously forward-looking, hoping and looking forward to resolve this issue or this incident in Marawi at the soonest time possible,” Padilla said.

7 suspected members of Maute clan barred from leaving PH

From ABS-CBN (Jul 10): 7 suspected members of Maute clan barred from leaving PH

MANILA - Seven suspected members of the Maute clan were barred from leaving the country Monday.

The seven passengers, including 2 minors, were supposed to leave for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on board Cebu Pacific flight 5J 499 when they were intercepted by Bureau of Immigration personnel.

Red Mariñas, Immigration Port Operations Division head, said some of seven passengers have the Maute surname.

He added that it is part of their protocol to check whether the seven passengers are members of the Maute clan fighting with government forces in Marawi City.

BI spokesperson Atty. Ma. Antonette Mangrobang said they are investigating four of the seven passengers because

"Four of the seven passengers found to be...have namesakes in the arrest order so there is a need to further verify their identities with the PNP, CIDG, and the NBI," Mangrobang told ANC.

The other three passengers were later released because they have no derogatory records with the BI, Mangrobang added.

Yasser Dumaraya Maute, one of the four who are being investigated, denied links to the Maute terrorist group.

"Hindi naman tayo kasama. Malayo. Alam mo naman sa pamilya, parang sa inyo rin, may Juan, may Dela Cruz, magkakapangalan lang, hindi naman kasama," he said.

He said he was able to leave the country last month without any problem.

"Wala tayong magagawa, nasa kanila 'yun, 'yun ang desisyon eh. Kaya lang, talagang masama ang loob ko. Nung paalis kami nung nag-pilgrims kami noong June 5, bumalik kami ng 28, okay naman 'yung flight. Ngayon lang," Maute said.

The passengers have claimed they were supposed to visit Malaysia to take religious studies, a requisite to become an imam or Muslim religious leader, BI's Mangrobang said.

Three of the passengers were brought to Camp Crame while one more was held at the National Bureau of Investigation pending further investigation.

4 men from Marawi barred from leaving Philippines

From ABS-CBN (Jul 11): 4 men from Marawi barred from leaving Philippines

Photo by Raoul Esperas

Four Pakistan-bound men from Marawi City were barred from leaving the Philippines on Monday afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

The four passengers were scheduled to depart for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on board a commercial flight when immigration officers noticed newly issued Pakistani visas on their passports.

Initial information gathered by ABS-CBN News showed that the men are all from Marawi City and claimed to be vacation-bound for Malaysia. The incident was almost the same time as 7 other passengers suspected to be related to the Maute clan were intercepted at NAIA on Monday afternoon.

The four passengers said they are tourists bound for a vacation in Malaysia but they failed to show their travel itinerary.

The four men also failed to produce airline onward tickets to Pakistan from Malaysia.

Red Narinas, head of the immigration port operations division, said that as standard operations procedure, all passengers with questionable itineraries as tourists, are subjected to a secondary interview.

All the four passengers failed the secondary interview and were not allowed to board their plane to Kuala Lumpur.

Marinas also informed other law enforcers at the airport on the identity of the 4 passengers but in the absence of a written derogatory information, authorities only imposed an offloading.

6 soldiers hurt in Quirino blast

From ABS-CBN (Jul 11): 6 soldiers hurt in Quirino blast

At least 6 soldiers were injured in an explosion in Nagtipunan, Quirino on Tuesday.

There were no other immediate details about the 8 a.m. blast in Barangay Sangbay.
Keep refreshing this link for more details.

Operations vs Maute fine-tuned, says AFP

From the Malaya Business Insight (Jul 10): Operations vs Maute fine-tuned, says AFP

THE military is fine-tuning operations against members of the Maute Group still holed up in parts of Marawi City, a military official said yesterday.

The adjustments were crafted during a visit of top security officials in Marawi City last Friday, who checked on efforts to end the conflict which is on its 49th day today.

The conflict has so far resulted in the death of 367 Maute members, 85 soldiers and policemen, and 39 civilians.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office, declined to give details on the adjustments being made on the ground, saying these are operational details that may compromise the efforts to rid the city of Maute remnants.

The visiting officials were led Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año, National Secretary Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and the major service commanders.

Arevalo said the top officials were given a 25-minute briefing by Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the 1st Infantry Division commander and concurrent head of the Joint Task Force Ranao.

“A thorough deliberation and assessment followed unhampered” after the briefing, he said.

Arevalo said Lorenzana, Año and Esperon gave inputs but this does not mean the officials were “imposing” their thoughts on the ground commanders.

Arevalo said the current approach to defeat the Maute may be “perfect” for ground commanders but inputs from “experienced” and “knowledgeable” persons like Lorenzana, Esperon, and Año should be welcomed.

Lorenzana is a former Army major general who commanded the elite Special Operations Command of the Army. Esperon was Armed Forces chief, Army chief, and Army Special Operations Command chief.

“They are merely airing their (views) how it (operations) will be improved,” said Arevalo. He said these inputs were “married” to the concepts of the ground commanders, thus the adjustments.

“It’s going to be implemented because that is what was discussed,” said Arevalo of the adjustments, which he said will hasten the accomplishment of their mission to neutralize the Maute Group, rescue civilian hostages, and pave the way for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city.

“The overall objective is towards the attainment of the mission. The objective is for us to accomplish our mission better,” said Arevalo.

Arevalo reiterated that the military is not setting a timeline as to when to end the conflict. “It might be detrimental to our interest if we are going to set a deadline.”

Asked if they can finish the job before President Duterte’s state of the nation address on July 24, Arevalo said: “We can’t say that, it’s difficult. It’s like setting a deadline already because SONA is on the 24.”

“We are going to finish it the soonest time possible without sacrificing the safety of our civilians and course our personnel... Our objective is to finish this the soonest time possible given the observations and adjustments. We are hopeful that we are going to accomplish it the soonest time possible but we cannot set a deadline,” said Arevalo.

Arevalo said Lorenzana and Año were satisfied at how the operations are being conducted.

Año reiterated that the fighting will be soon over.

“We draw closer to the conclusion of this crisis each day. We are constantly and daily gaining battle space while the terrorists’ grounds recede by the day as our troops press on relentlessly with their advance,” said Año.

“We have the momentum; we dictate the operational tempo; we have the support of the people at large. Thus we are confident that the triumph of the forces of good against that of evil is irreversible. It is just a matter of time,” said Año.

President Duterte attempted to visit Marawi last Friday but the trip did not push through because of bad weather, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a radio interview yesterday.

Malacañang released photos of Duterte in Iligan City, wearing the Army’s camouflage uniform and with a rifle slung on his shoulder.

Andanar said Duterte was in soldier’s uniform to show solidarity with the forces.

Duterte first planned to visit Marawi on June 30, coinciding with his first year anniversary as president, but had to scrap the plan.

Soldiers wounded in Kalinga clashes with NPA get medals

From the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Soldiers wounded in Kalinga clashes with NPA get medals

Members of the Philippine Army during a training exercise in 2015. US Army/Steven Hitchcock/Released, file
Four soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division were awarded with wounded personnel medals at their hospital beds in Camp dela Cruz in Upi, Gamu, Isabela.
Major Gen. Paul Atal, commanding general of the 5th ID and Joint Task Force “Tala”, awarded the medals as well as grocery items and P5,000 cash from the “Star Trooper Active Relief Fund” to Sergeant Joselito Felipe from Isabela; PFC John Cris Dangatag from Kalinga, PFC Richard Panga-or from Mt Province and Pvt. Henry Camatcho from Isabela.
On July 4, soldiers from the 50th Infantry Battalion fought with around 20 communist guerillas in a village in Pasil, Kalinga. Several hours before the firefight, another armed encounter occurred in Pinukpuk town, also in Kalinga where a Cal. 30 US carbine, two magazines and four homemade landmines were seized after the rebels withdrew.
Atal hailed the extraordinary courage the four soldiers and their unit showed in the skirmishes with the NPA. “Kayo ay mga bayani na dapat tularan. Ang pagkakasugat ninyo sa digmaan, ay maging hamon sana sa inyo na mas lalo pang gampanan ang inyong tungkulin sa paglilingkod sa bayan” he said.
Soldiers are still pursuing the rebels in the remote hinterlands of Pinukpuk and Pasil, Atal said.

Analyst: China diverting int'l pressure while completing facilities in disputed sea

From the Philippine Star (Jul 10): Analyst: China diverting int'l pressure while completing facilities in disputed sea 

New Chinese missile shelters and radar facilities have spotted on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

Beijing appears to be engaging with Manila and other Southeast Asian governments to divert international pressure from the disputed South China Sea, a foreign policy analyst said.

A few weeks ago, Washington-based CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) released new satellite imagery that China has been continuing the construction of facilities in three Manila-claimed reefs in the Spratly Islands.
China appears to have installed new missile shelters, radar and communication facilities on Fire Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef despite starting direct negotiations with the Philippines last May.

READ: As it engages Duterte, China keeps building in South China Sea

Gregory Poling, director of the AMTI, said that the approach of the Duterte administration hasn't resulted in any slowdown in the construction of military facilities on the artificial islands.

"This suggests that Beijing wants to keep Manila and the other Southeast Asian governments talking, diverting international pressure, while it finishes its power projection capabilities without interference," Poling said in an exclusive interview with

Poling added that Beijing is determined to establish de facto control over all features within its so-called nine-dash line in the South China Sea.
Beijing appears to be bent on establishing such control regardless of international law, as seen on its response toward the ruling of the United Nations-backed tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.

"That means that it does not want to allow any exploitation of fisheries, oil and gas, or other resources, or any other economic or military activities, by the Philippines without China’s say-so," Poling said.

China's first step in gaining control would be to install radar and patrol capabilities to keep watch on Reed Bank and Second Thomas Shoal, according to Poling.
This will allow Chinese surface fleet and combat to prevent operations by other Southeast Asia claimants anywhere within its so-called nine-dash line.

"The missiles and point defenses are necessary to prevent the US or others from being able to easily eliminate that threat to regional freedom of the seas," the AMTI director said.

Poling also warned that Beijing is already capable of operations such as launching its first combat aircraft and missiles in the disputed waters.

"Once that political decision is made, they could be there in a matter of days," Poling said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed the US for sending a pair of B-1B Lancer long-range strategic bombers flying over the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that China has always respected and supported the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea but Washington's recent activity appears to be a case of "flexing of military muscles."

"However, we firmly oppose the flexing of military muscles by individual countries to endanger China's sovereignty and national security under the pretext of 'freedom of navigation and overflight," Geng said.

Militiaman killed by suspected extremists

From the Philippine Star (Jul 11): Militiaman killed by suspected extremists

Suspected religious extremists shot dead Monday an off-duty militiaman in Pikit town, the fourth murder of a paramilitary volunteer in the province in about four months.
 Chief Inspector Donald Cabigas of the Pikit municipal police said the fatality, Gilbert Samonte, Sr., was cutting grasses along a stretch of a highway in Barangay Dalingaoen when two men on a motorcycle arrived, pulled over and attacked with pistols.
The suspects also shot and wounded Samonte’s son, Gilbert Jr., now confined in a hospital.
The suspects escaped using their motorcycle even before responding soldiers guarding a roadside detachment about 40 meters away arrived at the scene.
Cabigas said police and Army intelligence units are now cooperating in identifying the culprits for them to be charged in court.
Local officials are convinced the murder of Samonte could be related still to the deep-seated animosity among local members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit residing at the border of North Cotabato’s adjoining Aleosan and Pikit towns and Moro guerillas led by Abdulrashid Ali.
Ali is known in the military and police intelligence communities as a violent religious extremist wanted for various criminal offenses.
Two of Ali’s followers were killed early on by CAFGUs when they tried to rob villagers of their cattle grazing in an open field in Barangay Tubak in Aleosan.
Hostilities again erupted between both sides two weeks ago, causing the dislocation of dozens of peasant families.
Ali’s group has been blamed for three fatal attacks on off-duty CAFGUs based in Pikit and Aleosan early on.

Military to create cyber army for defense

From Update Philippines (Jul 10): Military to create cyber army for defense

With the Internet now being used as a platform for attacks by various threat groups natiownide, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday announced that it will build up a capable “cyber workforce” that will secure and defend the military’s information networks and systems.

This was announced by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo as the military concludes its Cybersecurity Summit which is aimed at educating and informing its members about the latest trends in cybersecurity.

It tapped partners from the information and communications technology sector to impart knowledge and strategies on how to address the latest cybersecurity threats.

“It is high time that the AFP raise awareness for a secure and resilient AFP cyberspace as we adapt to the rapid technological advancements brought by the digital age,” Arevalo stated.

The two-day summit was spearheaded by the Office of the Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Communication Electronics and Information System (CEIS).

It took place last June 28 to 29 at AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

It gathered some of the military’s information technology experts as well as representatives from the CEIS offices of the AFP Major Services and Unified Commands, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Coast Guard.

Resource persons from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group, National Privacy Commission, and other partners from the private sector attended the event.

Among the topics discussed in the summit were the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022, Data Privacy Act of 2012, Cyber Crime and Prevention, and Cyber Threat Awareness and Updates.

During the summit, AFP deputy chief-of-staff for CEIS Major Gen. Jose Tanjuan, Jr. , announced that his office has been developing a strategic plan specifically to enhance the military’s cyberspace capabilities.

“The development of the AFP Cyberspace Strategic Plan is one of the thrusts of the AFP in attaining information security. It will provide the Armed Forces with a roadmap that will lead us to the realization of a fully cyberspace-capable organization by 2022,” he added.

The AFP Cyberspace Strategic Plan is expected to be finalized within the third quarter of 2017.

PH military now has dozen 155mm Towed Howitzers from Israel

From Update Philippines (Jul 10): PH military now has dozen 155mm Towed Howitzers from Israel

A dozen of Israeli Elbit-Soltam M-71 155mm/39CAL Towed howitzers are now with the Philippine Army and Philippine Marines, each service having 6, according to MaxDefense Philippines who has sources from the military and defense community.

“Based on information we received, the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps are now in possession of all their ordered M-71 155mm/39 towed howtizers delivered by Soltam through Elbit C4 and Land Systems, as part of the AFP Modernization Program under the old RA 7898 of 1995, not under any of the newer Horizon phase,” MaxDefense Philippines said today in its social networking page.

The Department of National Defense (DND)-Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initiated the project to acquire twelve 155mm Towed Howitzer with 240 rounds of high explosive ammunition including an integrated logistics support package early 2015 with approved budget of PhP438.6 million.

Elbit won the bidding by submitting a bid of PHP410.84 million.

DND public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong revealed early last month that three of the 12 Israeli towed howitzers have arrived in April and the other nine were in transit.

Military says 5-year martial law extension ‘too long’

From Rappler (Jul 10): Military says 5-year martial law extension ‘too long’

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may have had other information for suggesting martial law remain in place until 2022, says AFP spokesman Restituto Padilla

TALKING MARTIAL LAW. AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla give updates on Marawi. Malacañang photo

TALKING MARTIAL LAW. AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla give updates on Marawi. Malacañang photo

Based on Mindanao’s current security situation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the 5-year extension of martial law, as suggested by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, may be “too long.”

“Actually, 5 years may be too long for the moment,” said AFP Spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla on Monday, July 10, during a Palace news briefing.

Padilla clarified that he does not know what information Alvarez may have had in order to float such a proposal. He added that the military can only make recommendations but the final decision rests on political leaders like Alvarez.

“First, we don’t know what basis our Speaker has for saying that, because martial law is a political decision. DND (Department of National Defense) or AFP will only recommend but the eventual decision will come from our leadership with wider range of basis for their decision,” he said.

The military’s recommendation on how long martial law should last will be based on whether or not it has accomplished orders given to troops when martial law was proclaimed.

“Our primary basis is whether or not we have accomplished the operational directives given to us at the very beginning of martial law,” said Padilla.

These objectives include the arrest of around 300 individuals listed in martial law arrest orders. So far, only over 60 persons have been arrested.

Another is to re-establish the “rule of law” in Marawi City, ground zero of fighting between Muslim extremists and government troops.

Another basis for the AFP’s recommendation on martial law is whether or not terror groups in Mindanao are still capable of launching attacks similar to the Marawi siege.

The recommendation will be submitted to Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana in a “few days.” Lorenzana will then endorse the document to President Rodrigo Duterte who will make the decision on whether to lift martial law or ask Congress for its extension.

Duterte has said he will not lift martial law before he delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 24. Martial law, with its 60-day period of validity, is set to lapse by July 22.

The President has said he will base his call on martial law on inputs from the military and police.

Alvarez, during an interview with the Inquirer on Saturday, July 8, said he would “push for” an extension of martial law in Mindanao until 2022, Duterte’s last year in power.

"If I can convince my colleagues, I will push for an extension until 2022, because two months is too short. Five months or one year or two years is too short," Alvarez said.

Marawi death toll tops 500

From Rappler (Jul 10): Marawi death toll tops 500

The AFP says 379 terrorists, 89 soldiers and policemen, and 39 civilians have been killed as of Sunday, July 9, bringing the death toll to 507

MARAWI CLASHES. A soldier checks on his fellow soldiers over the radio as he holds his post inside Marawi City on June 22, 2017. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

MARAWI CLASHES. A soldier checks on his fellow soldiers over the radio as he holds his post inside Marawi City on June 22, 2017. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

The death toll from 48 days of fighting in Marawi City has breached the 500-mark, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday, July 10.

As of Sunday, July 9, government troops have been able to kill 379 of the terrorists who attempted to take over the Lanao del Sur capital on May 23.
At least 89 soldiers and policemen have also been killed in the clashes, while 39 civilians were killed by members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, according to the AFP.

More than 1,723 civilians – either those trapped in the combat zone or those who were taken hostage – have been rescued by both government and non-governmental bodies. Military and police have recovered 451 firearms from the terror groups.

Over 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the clashes began.

The attempted takeover of Marawi City – and the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) – prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Both the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS. Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader, is supposedly the appointed "emir" of ISIS in the Philippines.

While the military has refused to give a new deadline for the conflict after missing several self-imposed deadlines in the past, it is already starting to help plan Marawi City's rehabilitation.

The AFP earlier announced it would be sending military engineers to map out the rebuilding of the city.

"In the coming days, we hope to show to the public the artist's rendition of temporary shelters to be constructed consistent with Maranao culture," the military said on Monday.

Under the 1987 Constitution, martial law stays in place for a maximum of 60 days or July 22 in this case. If Duterte wants an extension, he must get the approval of Congress, which is composed mostly of his allies. The Supreme Court earlier upheld Duterte's basis for declaring martial law.

Military and police have yet to finalize their recommendation on whether martial law should be extended or not. Duterte himself, however, has said that he will not be lifting military rule before he makes his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

A key Duterte ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, said he wants martial law to stay in place until 2022 or the end of Duterte's term. But AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said on Monday that a 5-year extension of martial law might be too long. Some of Alvarez's fellow lawmakers also slammed his proposal.

U.S. carrier group leads biggest yet drills with India and Japan

From InterAksyon (Jul 11): U.S. carrier group leads biggest yet drills with India and Japan

The USS Nimitz (Reuters file)

A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group began naval exercises with India and Japan on Monday that the U.S. navy said would help the three countries tackle maritime threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

The annual exercises named Malabar are being held off India. They are the largest since India and the United States launched the exercise in 1992. Japan was later included.

“Malabar 2017 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific,” the U.S. Pacific command said.

Military officials say the drills involving the U.S. carrier USS Nimitz, India’s lone carrier Vikramaditya and Japan’s biggest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo, are aimed at helping to maintain a balance of power in the Asia-Pacific against the rising weight of China.

The three countries have been concerned about China’s claims to almost all of the waters of the South China Sea, and more broadly, its expanding military presence across the region.

Chinese submarines, for example, recently docked in Sri Lanka, an island just off the southern tip of India that it has long seen as squarely in its back yard.

The maritime drills are taking place as India and China are locked in a standoff on their land border in the Himalayas.

The U.S. Pacific command said in a statement the exercises would help the three countries operate together and it was learning how to integrate with the Indian navy.

India and the United States were for decades on opposite sides of a Cold War divide but have in recent years become major defense partners.

China has in the past criticized the exercises as destabilizing to the region.

India this year turned down an Australian request to join the exercises for now, for fear that would antagonize China further.

The Indian navy said the exercises would focus on aircraft carrier operations and ways to hunt submarines.

The navy has spotted more than a dozen Chinese military vessels including submarines in the Indian Ocean over the past two months, media reported days ahead of Malabar.

“Naval co-operation between India, US and Japan epitomizes the strong and resilient relationship between the three democracies,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The border stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighboring giants, who share a 3,500-kilometer (2,175 miles) frontier, large parts of which are disputed.

MNLF ‘faction’ recruiting in Palawan promises salary, guns; AFP raises scam alert

From InterAksyon (Jul 10): MNLF ‘faction’ recruiting in Palawan promises salary, guns; AFP raises scam alert

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines -The military’s Western Command (WESCOM) on Monday warned factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Palawan to stop their recruitment activity as it was sowing fear among the people.

Recruitment of members is prohibited under the peace process, added the Armed Forces of the Philippines. WESCOM spokesperson Captain Cherryl Tindog told the Philippine News Agency that “recruitment activities of any MNLF faction are provocative and inimical to the commitment to attain enduring peace.”

Since the first quarter of the year, WESCOM has been continuously receiving reports about MNLF recruitment activities “from the ground,” and these are now causing public anxiety, according to her.

“We have received intelligence that some MNLF front runners are recruiting in southern Palawan. To convince new recruits, they are exploiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid for a shift to federalism, and they are also pledging to give them money, identification cards, and firearms,” she said.

The amount of compensation promised is said to range between P20,000 and P30,000.

“They are supposed to get this after paying a required registration fee,” she said.

The sightings were reported in Aborlan, Quezon, Rizal, and Bataraza in southern Palawan; at least two barangays in the fringes of Puerto Princesa going south; and in the northern towns of Taytay and El Nido.

“They even had their selfies taken with local officials in one event in a southern Palawan municipality to show that their recruitment is legal. They wore uniforms bearing the name MNLF,” Tindog stated.

She said they attempted to put up a MNLF camp in Bataraza town, but Mayor Abraham Ibba ordered the members not to persist because it was illegal under the comprehensive peace process and without his authority.

Rip-off, dangerous

“Aside from the fact that the recruitment [activities] all have the trimmings of being a scam, a rip-off — to fraud people into paying hard-earned money, what really raises our concern is the declaration of issuance of firearms, which is an outright violation of the peace process,” she said.

Earlier, lawyer Teodoro Jose Matta, legal adviser of the Palawan government and vice-chair of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), also confirmed to PNA reports about the recruitment sightings.

“Yes, we are monitoring it. These acts are not allowed under the peace agreement. We have been monitoring this with WESCOM,” said Matta.

In Palawan, there are two factions of the Moro separatist group: the MNLF under Prof. Nur Misuari, and the MNLF Mainstream (Central Committee) that takes command from Yusop Jikiri, the former governor of Sulu province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

MNLF Mainstream high-ranking leader Estino Jairie Ayyobie, whose group alliance is with Jikiri, said they have heard about the concern and stressed their group was not involved.

“We have heard about it, but we are not the one recruiting new members. It is not allowed for us to recruit under the peace process. What is allowed is only to reactivate our old MNLF members,” Ayyobie said.

Ayyobie admitted this was treacherous, particularly because their faction was most often the one being accused.

The MNLF bloc under Jikiri’s leadership is the biggest faction that is not hostile to President Duterte’s leadership and not antagonistic to the peace treaty, said Ayyobie.

Promise of salary a hoax
On compensation promises, there is no way the bona fide MNLF will pay salary, said the senior Moro leader.
“I’ve been a member of the MNLF for more than 40 years, and not once have I been paid my salary,” he said.

Ayyobie suggested that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) resolve the problem.

A highly-placed source in OPAPP said in a text message: “The MNLF are not allowed to recruit. We have already reported this issue to the MNLF Implementing Panel for them to put a stop to it not only in Palawan.” This was in response to the text message from PNA inquiring if MNLF factions were allowed to recruit.

The source said OPAPP would meet with all MNLF factions in the province to talk on the PAMANA or PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn, the national government’s “convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.”

“Then, perhaps we can talk about other issues,” said the OPAPP source, who requested anonymity for now.

Monitoring the movements of the MNLF recruiters is part of WESCOM’s efforts to continuously keep “Palawan safe” from any threat, Tindog said.

“We continue to encourage the public to report to WESCOM any suspicious individual or group movements to ensure that they are safe, as well as their communities. Keeping Palawan safe involves more importantly the support of its people,” she said.

Reports can be made by calling or texting the WESCOM Emergency Hotline 09178960014, and by accessing the Volunteers for a Safe Palawan Facebook Page at

Tindog gave assurances that WESCOM would keep anonymous the identities of those with useful information if they fear reprisal.

Report: Land : territory, domain, and identity

The World Bank (Jan 1): Report: Land : territory, domain, and identity


It is acknowledged that conflict over land is a major source of violence in various parts of Mindanao, particularly the prosed Bangsamoro region. Historical accounts trace the root cause of land issues and identity-based conflict to the introduction of the Regalian doctrine of land ownership by Spanish colonizers. During the American colonial regime at the turn of the 20th century, dispossession of land held by the original inhabitants of Mindanao accelerated, with an emphasis of titling lands for private ownership that clashed with the tradition of ancestral domain. This was further exacerbated by migration instigated by the central government, starting with the development of "agricultural colonies: in the early 1900s to 1940s, to the passage of a series of land reform laws from the 1960s until the end of the 1980s to encourage individual land titling as a strategy for agricultural development. These evens radically altered land ownership patterns in Mindanao, as communal ownership of land by its original inhabitants gave way to individual titles in the possession of settlers from Luzon and the Visayas.

Complete Report in English
Official version of document (may contain signatures, etc)

NO TO MUSLIM ID | AFP, expert say that’s no way to peace in Mindanao

From InterAksyon (Jul 10): NO TO MUSLIM ID | AFP, expert say that’s no way to peace in Mindanao

A general map of Mindanao Island.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has thumbed down the proposal to issue identification cards for those professing the Muslim faith, saying this was a form of discrimination.

At the same time, an expert on migration issues has urged the public to view peace and development in Mindanao through the lens of land ownership, or the lack of it.

According to, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla on Monday told Malacañang reporters it was “discriminatory” to ask for IDs “from just one sector of society.”

“Our proposal is when we start checking identification of individuals, it should not be aimed at certain sectors of our society but it must be applicable to everyone,” he said. “It’s good and it is logical to always check on the identities of everyone in your line that you are about to check.”

Central Luzon police director Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino had recently brought up the idea of having an ID for Muslims after consulting with Muslim religious and community leaders in the region. According to news reports, he had explained that it would prevent infiltration by extremists and their sympathizers.

Dr. Fermin Adriano, the lead author of a World Bank and International Organization for Migration report on land dispossession on Mindanao, also called the proposal a “blatant, inflammatory discrimination” against Muslims.

Speaking at a forum in the Ateneo de Manila University on Monday, Adriano reminded the audience of the historical injustice Moros and indigenous people in Mindanao had experienced over the centuries.

“Land lies at the intersection of peace and development in Mindanao,” his team’s report, titled “Land: Territory, Domain, and Identity,” says.

“Injustice and unjust dispossession of land – combined with confusing and overlapping legal and institutional frameworks for land administration and management – are a major trigger of violent conflict.”

Adriano explained that, up until the 1890s, it was the IPs who were the dominant groups in Mindanao, and Christian settlements could only be found in the northern parts not far inland.

But, in the 20th century, there was a systematic resettlement of Christians to Mindanao, which came in four waves.

The first occurred from 1898 to the Commonwealth Period. A number of policies were put in place that deprived the Moros and IPs of ownership of those lands. All land grants given by sultans, datus, and local leaders were deemed null and void. The Americans strengthened individual and corporate ownership of land – a contrast to the Moros’ and IPs’ communal view of land use.

The second wave was from 1946 to the late 1960s. Then President Ramon Magsaysay initiated the “land to the landless” resettlement program to counter the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (Huk) rebellion. Government agencies were formed to oversee the resettlement.

Many of those who moved to Mindanao were military personnel and Huk rebels. With a weak land administration system, and no formal way to delineate land owned by one person and from that owned by another, they resorted to violence to settle disputes, according to Adriano.

But the report also adds that by the late 1950s, many Moros and IPs did not oppose the Christian settlers. This was because they wanted to learn modern farming methods from them, and get workers who could clear the land. At the same time, disputes were not as bad since there was still an abundant supply of land in Mindanao.

The third wave, from the Martial Law days of the 1970s to the mid-1980s, saw militias wreaking havoc in Central Mindanao.

Former President Diosdado Macapagal had said: “The authorities sanctioned and believably helped arm Ilagâs, an armed band of Christian Filipinos, who have waged an operation to kill Muslims. Reports of massacres both of Muslims and Christians, in a mutual rampage of violence and killing as a result, have considerable truth in them.”

The Ilagâs were even believed to practice cannibalism, said Adriano, citing one of the books that served as his sources. One Ilagâ supposedly reasoned that it was easier to kill a Moro than it was to kill a boar.

“There was practically ethnic cleansing at that time,” Adriano said.

In fact, 52 percent of Mindanao’s population was made up of Moros and IPs in 1903, and this went down to 17 percent in 1970. The latest figure was 35 percent in 2010.

Moros and IPs became minorities in their own land, according to Adriano.

Mindanao is now experiencing the fourth wave, which began in the 1980s. It was characterized by an even more complicated legal framework. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law placed the whole country under land reform coverage and strengthened individual ownership of land. The Mining Act promoted the mining industry and became problematic for the IPs’ ancestral domain in mineral-rich areas. At the same time, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act recognized the right of IPs to own their lands under communal ownership.

Land dispossession had resulted in ethnic segregation. Before, communities were made up of Moros, IPs, and Christians. But they were forced to become ethnic communities by themselves.

Some 75 percent of Moros in Mindanao became concentrated in five provinces: Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Land dispossession also led to widespread poverty in Mindanao. The Philippines’ poverty incidence in 2015 was 21 percent. But this was a far cry from the poverty incidence in Lanao del Sur for the same year: 74 percent.

“This combination of historical forces, legal and institutional changes, violent conflict, growing land scarcity and rising land prices has produced a variety of land conflicts in the proposed Bangsamoro area — between Moros and IPs, Moros, and Christians, and among Moros themselves,” the report says.

“(T)he search for solutions must be seen not only through the lens of historical injustice committed by the central government and Christian settlers against Moros and IPs, but also reflect contemporary injustice driven by land grabbing and violent conflict.”

In short, the discriminatory ID proposal does nothing to heal the hurt but could rub salt to old wounds.

WATCH | Marawi crisis: Maute child warriors go through a gruesome initiation

From InterAksyon (Jul 10): WATCH | Marawi crisis: Maute child warriors go through a gruesome initiation

Marawi child warrior

A confessed child warrior from the Marawi armed standoff reveals details of his experience with the jihadist Maute Group.

Recovered by the military in clearing operations is a mobile phone video showing a child, clutching a rifle as he trudges from ravaged house to ravaged house in the ravaged Islamic City of Marawi, carrying out errands for his jihadist Maute handlers the way child warriors are commanded to do.

Before they are deemed to have passed the training, the child warriors have one assignment before formally getting accepted as a brother: Bring back a Christian’s head, to prove your worth as ad-Dawla al-Islamiya, a term that the jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also ISIS) has referred to itself since June 2014.

There is another mobile phone image showing still one more child warrior, who a military source has tagged as one of the snipers battling the military at Ground Zero in the ongoing campaign to retake Marawi, once home to more than 200,000 largely Maranaos but now a veritable ghost town, from the extremists.

In our exclusive story here, a spry young male barely in his teens, let’s call him Benjie, shares his story before the News5 camera, the youthful innocence on his face hardly betraying the kind of brutal initiation that, he claims, he has had to undergo after being recruited into the militant extremist militant Maute Group, in thee process forfeiting a large part of his childhood.

At the age of 12, “Benjie” narrated, he was befriended by foreigners he met in 2009 during worship. He was recruited to join a militant army; “may sweldo pa (You get paid a salary).”

For a budding juvenile like Benjie, the two-month boot camp was no child’s play, however.

You rise at 5 a.m. to pray, then learn Arabic, then plow into combat training.

One and only one thing has been drilled into them: In case of capture, never ever admit or confess – “whatever they do to you.”

And, before they are deemed to have passed the training, they have one last assignment before formally getting accepted as a brother and jihadist warrior: Capture a Christian and bring back his head, to prove your worth as ad-Dawla al-Islamiya, a term which the jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS) has called itself since June 2014.

Benjie left the organization, but, unfortunately, was spotted by his former comrades during the standoff in Marawi.

He was conscripted and compelled to gather food for the terrorists led by Isnilon Hapilon and Ommar Maute. He shared that he has come face-to-face with yet another of the leaders, Abdullah Maute.

On May 30, Benjie said word came that many of the child warriors have been moved to Butig, another of the Maute Group’s lairs in the province off the southeastern tip of Lake Lanao.

But, he added, the group is actively recruiting replacements from the 7-to-17 age group, “ipapalit sa mga bata (to replace the kids).”

Benjie has been taken in by the Department of Social Welfare and Development for appropriate debriefing and counseling purposes.

Click and watch this video report below:

[Video report: Child warriors ng Maute Group, pinapapatay ng Kristyano bago makasali sa grupo]

Firearms carted

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 11): Firearms carted

Rebels ransack official’s house

ARMED men, believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA), ransacked the house of a barangay official in Talomo River, Calinan District on Friday.

The men introduced themselves as members of the New People’s Army and took two firearms owned by Barangay Councilor Felix Sabio around 2:40 p.m. Friday.

They carted a carbine with five loaded magazines and one caliber .45 pistol with four loaded magazines, said Chief Insp. Nolan Raquid, the precinct commander of Calinan Police.

“When they arrived at the place, the group asked where is the house of Councilor Sabio,” Raquid said.

Once inside the house, the suspects destroyed the padlocked bedroom of the barangay councilor.

The suspects tied the councilor’s son.

The group carted the councilor’s firearms as they left on board three motorcycles, going towards the direction of Barangay Pangyan, also in Calinan District.

Raquid said they are still conducting further investigation to validate if the group was indeed NPAs.

MILF perplexed at way Maute Group is fighting military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): MILF perplexed at way Maute Group is fighting military

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a 40-year veteran of separatist insurgency in Mindanao, is perplexed at the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute terrorist group fighting the government head-on.

In a statement posted on its official website, the MILF said on Sunday the Maute Group was “defying the logic of war.”

Guerrilla warfare

“A weak party can only fight a strong party through a highly mobile warfare … If the MILF has managed to stay alive and kicking to this day, it is because of the early realization that a weak party can never fight a [strong] party effectively, except by using various guerrilla warfare, including psychological war operation,” the MILF said.

Styling itself as a local branch of the IS jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, the Maute group, backed by the Abu Sayyaf faction led by Isnilon Hapilon, rampaged through Marawi on May 23 and seized parts of a city in a bid to establish an IS enclave in Southeast Asia.

The MILF dismissed that goal as “more in the mind rather than an immediate possibility.”

It said the Maute terrorists’ “apparent wish or love [of] martyrdom” prevented them from pursuing guerrilla warfare as a means to advance their cause.

“It is their belief or obsession that martyrdom brings them direct to heaven … This perhaps explained their almost stationary style of fighting, especially during the early part of the siege of Marawi City,” the MILF said.

Prior to signing a peace deal with the government, the MILF fought four major wars with the military, the longest of which was in 2000, lasting some five months and concluding with the capture of its main camp in Maguindanao.

At the time the peace agreement was signed in 2014, the MILF had an estimated 12,000 fully armed fighters.

IS, despite losses, still incites global attacks

New York Times article posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 11): IS, despite losses, still incites global attacks

Three years ago, a black-clad cleric named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ascended a mosque pulpit in the Iraqi city of Mosul and addressed the world as leader of a new terrorist state.

The announcement of the so-called caliphate was a high point for the extremist fighters of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Their exhibitionist violence and apocalyptic ideology helped them seize vast stretches of territory in Syria and Iraq, attract legions of foreign fighters and create an administration with bureaucrats, courts and oil wells.

Now, their terrorist state is crumbling.

In Syria, US-backed militias have surrounded Raqqa, the IS group’s capital, and breached its historic walls.

Across the border, Iraqi forces have seized the remains of the Mosul mosque where al-Baghdadi appeared and besieged the remaining jihadis in a shrinking number of city blocks.

According to US and Middle Eastern officials, however, the loss of its two largest cities will not spell a final defeat for the IS group—also known as Isis, Isil and Daesh.

The IS group has already shifted back to its roots as an insurgent force, but one that now has an international reach and an ideology that continues to motivate attackers around the world.
Ability to grow still there

“These are obviously major blows to IS because its state-building project is over, there is no more caliphate, and that will diminish support and recruits,” said Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington and a coauthor of a book on the group.

“But IS today is an international organization. Its leadership and its ability to grow back are still there,” Hassan added.

IS has overshadowed its jihadist precursors like al-Qaida not by just holding territory, but by running cities and their hinterlands for an extended period, winning credibility in the militant world and building a complex organization.

So even while the physical hold of IS slips, its surviving cadres—middle managers, weapons technicians, propagandists and other operatives—will invest that experience in the group’s future operations.

Not yet homeless

And even though its hold on crucial urban centers is being shaken, IS is in no way homeless yet.

In Iraq, IS still controls Tal Afar, Hawija, other towns and much of Anbar province. In Syria, most of its top operatives have fled Raqqa in the past six months for other towns still under IS control in the Euphrates valley.

Many IS leaders have relocated to Mayadeen, a town 177 kilometers southeast of Raqqa near oil facilities and with supply lines through the surrounding desert.

They have taken with them the group’s most important recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations functions. Other leaders have been spirited out of Raqqa by a trusted network of aides to a string of towns from Deir al-Zour to Abu Kamal.

US Special Operations forces have targeted this area heavily with armed Reaper drones and attack planes, disrupting and damaging the IS leadership and ability to carry out plots. But the battle for Raqqa still could last many months.
New chapter

It is all a new chapter in the history of a group whose roots go back to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Fighting under various names and leaders, the Sunni militants who would evolve into the IS group killed many Iraqis and US troops before Sunni tribal fighters paid by the United States decimated them, driving the survivors underground by the time the United States withdrew from Iraq in 2011.

But new conflicts provided new opportunities. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011, IS dispatched operatives there to build the force that later seized the country’s east, including Raqqa, which became its administrative capital.

Then IS turned its sights back to Iraq, seizing Mosul in 2014, where al-Baghdadi made clear what distinguished his followers from al-Qaida: They were not just insurgents, but also the founders of a state infused with extremist ideology.
Inspiring, directing attacks

Senior US intelligence and counterterrorism officials say that more than 60,000 IS fighters have been killed since June 2014, including much of the IS leadership, and that the group has lost about two-thirds of its peak territory.

But those officials, including Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, one of the Army’s top Special Operations officers, also acknowledged that IS had retained much of its ability to inspire, enable and direct terrorist attacks.

“When I consider how much damage we’ve inflicted and they’re still operational, they’re still capable of pulling off things like some of these attacks we’ve seen internationally,” Nagata said recently in an interview, “we have to conclude that we do not yet fully appreciate the scale or strength of this phenomenon.”

IS has carried out nearly 1,500 attacks in 16 cities across Iraq and Syria after they were freed from the militants’ control, showing that the group has reverted to its insurgent roots and foreshadowing long-term security threats.

Internationally, IS has partly compensated for its losses at home by encouraging affiliates abroad—in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Philippines—and by activating operatives elsewhere.
Conditions ripe for resurgence

The United States and its allies have focused on breaking the IS group’s control of territory, but its departure could accelerate other conflicts.

Many fear that with poor governance and sectarianism still the rule in Syria and Iraq, some reconstituted form of the IS group’s extreme Sunni Islamism could yet find support.

“All of these conditions in the end form the basic environment for the IS group,” said Hassan Abu Haniyeh, a Jordanian expert in extremist groups. “They formed the environment for it to start and spread, and now they are increasing, not decreasing.”

MNLF veterans meet with MILF in unity bid

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 11): MNLF veterans meet with MILF in unity bid
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday met with over 500 Moro National Liberation Front members, also known as Gagandilan (one who will die fighting), here.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair, said the meeting was aimed at creating a bridge between the two Moro revolutionary groups.

“We need to make bridges. One of the issues thrown against the Moro people is that there is so much disunity among us. I am disputing that,” he said.

Iqbal and his team were welcomed by more than 500 Gagandilan members and their dependents.

Languyan Mayor Ismael Sali said the Gagandilan members were excited to see Iqbal and his team and listen to them talk about the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Sali said there are some 1,000 Gagandilan members, some of them engaged in fishing, farming, business and education.

LOOK: Maute gunmen laughing, relaxing between clashes in Marawi

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 9): LOOK: Maute gunmen laughing, relaxing between clashes in Marawi

Maute gunmen are seen laughing and having fun in this undated photo taken from a smartphone of a slain suspected Maute fighter in Marawi City. The military released photographs of the Maute militants in candid moments to reporters on Sunday, July 9, 2017. (Photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines)
MARAWI CITY — The military on Sunday released photos of alleged Maute fighters having fun inside their lair in Marawi City. The undated photos were reportedly extracted from a cellphone recovered from a recently slain suspect.

The military did not release any more details about how or when they got these photographs, who the slain suspected Maute fighter was and how and when he was killed. No information was also available on whether these fighters were still alive as of Sunday. SFM

A Maute gunman is seen taking a nap while another fighter rests in between fighting in Marawi City in this undated photo taken from a smartphone of a a slain suspected Maute terrorist. The military released photographs of Maute militants in candid moments on July 9, 2017. (Photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines)

A Maute gunman looks back silently at the unknown photographer during a lull in the fighting in Marawi City in this undated photograph. The military said this photograph was taken from a smartphone of a slain suspected Maute fighter. The military released photographs of Maute terrorists relaxing on July 9, 2017. (Photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines

AFP: Kids forced to fight with terrorists

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 11): AFP: Kids forced to fight with terrorists


A Maute gunman is seen taking a nap while another fighter rests in between fighting in Marawi City in this undated photo taken from a smartphone of a a slain suspected Maute terrorist. The military released photographs of Maute militants in candid moments on July 9, 2017. (Photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines)
Children, including those taken as hostages, are being forced to fight alongside Islamic State-inspired terrorists battling government forces for control of Marawi City, the military said on Monday.

The terrorists seized Marawi on May 23 in a bid to establish an enclave for the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Southeast Asia, and about 80-100 remained holed up in the city despite intense military efforts to oust them.


Some of the terrorists are teenagers who may have been recruited and trained to use guns when they were still children, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told reporters in Malacañang.

“We continuously get disturbing narratives from [escaped residents] that children as well as hostages are being employed in the firefight,” Padilla said.

He said the military did not know exactly how many children had been taken by the terrorists as hostages.

Casualties among children and adult hostages forced to take up arms could not be ruled out, Padilla said.

“As disturbing as it is, our troops are doing their best to avoid any casualty among these children that are being employed,” he said.

“But in the event that they are armed and they bear arms and are involved in the fighting, there’s nothing much that we can do. Similarly with the hostages being forced [to fight],” he added.

Shortly after seizing Marawi, the terrorists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups took at least a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest.

Some of the estimated 300 other civilians still trapped in the battle zone may have also been taken captive, Padilla said.

The military earlier said civilians had been forced to help the terrorists by carrying supplies and ammunition, bearing their wounded, helping them loot the city and fighting government forces.

Escaped hostages, the military said, reported that the terrorists executed at least six hostages for refusing to take up arms against the security forces.

Asked how the military would engage the child warriors, Padilla said soldiers, while allowed to take defensive action when their lives are at risk, would endeavor to rescue “a child or an individual who is being forced into the fight.”

“During engagements, if there are wounded and [we] see they are children, we help them right away. We are not in a rush to shoot a child who is running even if they are armed. If we could disable them, but we will not kill them,” he said.

More than 500 killed

More than 500 people have been killed in the fighting, including 379 terrorists, 89 soldiers and police, and 39 civilians, according to figures released by the government on Monday.

Most of Marawi’s more than 200,000 residents have fled their homes.

Daily airstrikes and artillery barrages against terrorist snipers who control tall buildings have left the city’s central business district a ghost town.

Padilla expressed hope that the fighting would soon be concluded.

“We continue to gain headway with our operations on the ground,” he said.

MNLF execs in Palawan gives 100% rating for PRRD's 2nd year

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): MNLF execs in Palawan gives 100% rating for PRRD's 2nd year

A high-level leader of a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction in Palawan on Monday gave President Rodrigo Duterte’s second year in office the highest rating of 100% for its goal to bring lasting peace in conflict-ridden Mindanao and in the Philippines through federalism.

MNLF top-ranking leader Estino Jairie Ayyobie, whose group is in league with former Sulu governor Yusoph Jikiri, said President Duterte’s aspiration to shift to a federal form of government has brought “hope” to him and the people of Mindanao, “who are already tired of conflicts.”

“Federalism is a conflict-reducing mechanism among different political groups, like us, as it countenances the enactment of some laws below the national level. And because of his sincere campaign for the federal type of government, we became hopeful that at last, peace will now come to us. For me, I give him 100%,” Ayyobie said.

Under federalism, President Duterte’s leadership can entirely focus on issues about foreign policy and national defense, and leave regional concerns to local government units, he said.

“Problems on health, on education, environment, transportation, and the likes – the autonomous states like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), can decide for solutions on their own without bothering Malacañang,” he said.

The senior MNLF leader in Palawan furthered that he was giving President Duterte the high mark, particularly after he accepted their bloc’s offer of creating the MNLF Anti-Kidnapping and Anti-Terrorism Task Force (AKATTF).

"This only means he is a leader who is ready to put his trust on them to curb kidnapping and terrorism not only in the ARMM area, but the rest of the country," he said.

The AKATTF, which was officially launched on July 1 and is composed of former MNLF combatants in Barangay Pasil, Indanan, Sulu, will reportedly “clear its communities of all criminal elements.”

“This task force will work to help the government prevent kidnappings and extremism acts from being perpetrated by these terrorists by not allowing them to have access to MNLF areas where they can hide and seek support from us,” Ayyobie stated.

MILF urged to shun terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10): MILF urged to shun terrorism

An influential Muslim religious leader here on Monday urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to safeguard its territory from intrusion and influence by jihadists who have been eyeing poor communities in Mindanao.

Bangsamoro Murfti Abuhuraira Abdurahnam Udasan, head of the Bangsamoro Darul Ifta (House of Opinion), has issued a Shariah asserting on the need to fight extremism that has brought misery to many Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao, especially in Marawi City.

In a seven-paragraph Fatwa No. 1 (ruling), Udasan stressed that the issue of extremism espoused by misguided has sown intrigues and division among Muslims and non-Muslims in the island.

He pointed out that the Islamic’s principal sources of law – the Qur’an and the written tradition of Prophet Muhammad are clearly against abuses and violence.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have infiltrated the Muslim communities in southern Philippines, the military has admitted and President Duterte made it public few months after assuming office.

Dr. Aboulkhayer Tarason, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM’s) grand mufti and head of Regional Darul Ifta, issued the same ruling and urged the regional government to invest more on the Muslim youth education to protect them from becoming easy prey of jihadists. He stressed lack of education makes the young easily corrupted by terrorists.

The MILF which is talking peace with the Philippine government readily responded and assured the Muslim religious leader of its determination to prevent the spread of false Islamic belief in areas where MILF communities exist in Mindanao.

He was quoted as saying that all MILF leaders across the island have been alerted and will do its best to reject, if necessary, fight, extremists entering their communities in Mindanao.