Friday, August 11, 2017

3 construction workers escape from Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): 3 construction workers escape from Abu Sayyaf

Government troops safely recovered three of the four Zamboangueño construction workers who escaped from captivity in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu, a top military official said Friday.

Recovered by joint military and police team were Jason Vailoces, Joel Adanza, and Filemon Guerrero Jr., all residents of Barangay Tumaga, this city.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said they were found at around 9 a.m. Friday in Barangay Kagay, Talipao.

Sobejana said they were safely recovered when the barangay captain of Kagay reported to the authorities the presence of the three victims in the village.

“At 9 a.m. today, 11 August 2017, unfamiliar-looking individuals were seen by the residents of Barangay Kagay, Talipao, Sulu. Immediately, the matter was reported to the barangay captain,” he added.

He said the three Zamboangueño construction workers were immediately taken to the provincial police headquarters for documentation.

He said the three victims revealed that the Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Almujer Yadah moved them from one place to the other “pushing them away from the ASG stronghold where they don’t avail of any community support anymore like provision of food, etc.” because of continuous military operations.

He said the three kidnap victims took the opportunity to escape at around 4 p.m. Thursday while their Abu Sayyaf captors were praying.

“They ran for their lives until they reached a community in Barangay Kagay (Talipao) early this morning where the locals helped them and turned them over to the authorities,” Sobejana said.

He said they will undergo medical examination and custodial debriefing at headquarters of the Joint Task Force Sulu in Camp Bautista, Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu.

He said they will be airlifted to this city to reunite with their families and loved ones after completing the mandatory procedures.

They were among the five construction workers the Abu Sayyaf bandits have seized on on July 15 from their barracks at the provincial sports complex in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu.

One of the five identified as Jenly Miranda escaped hours after they were seized.

Miranda jumped into a cliff while they were being taken to an Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul town.

The escape on Thursday of the three hostages has left Edmundo Ramos in captivity in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Talipao, Sulu.

NPA admits IED 'mistake'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): NPA admits IED 'mistake'

Two civilian commuters were seriously injured Thursday evening when communist guerillas detonated a landmine along the national highway in Marihatag town, Surigao del Sur.

The New Peoples Army's (NPA) Front 19 operating in parts of Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur admitted the improvised explosive device (IED) they set up in Amontay village had detonated by mistake.

It hit the vehicle of the victims Philip Silva Medrano, 47 of Tandag Cit,y and Joel Silyares, 47, of Butuan City, who sustained injuries and are now recuperating in a hospital.

Ka Amihan, spokesperson for NPA Front 19, in statement sent via SMS, said the IED's intended target was the Army troopers and the patrolling police. She said the NPA members involved in the operation mistakenly set off the IED when the ill-fated vehicle passed by.

Ka Amihan assured they will compensate the victims, who were rushed to Adela Sy Memorial Hospital in Tandag City. Judith Suarez, manager of DXBP SURE FM in Tandag City, reported the victims were already safe and recuperating from their wounds.

Many other vehicles were stranded for 30 minutes at the time of the incident, police said.

The Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion based in the nearby Tago town condemned the incident, saying the ambush was a clear violation of the United sanctioned Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, of which the rebel movement is a signatory.

“To the NPA Front 19, are you happy with what you did? Now you are asking sorry to the innocent civilian victims which you claimed were wrong targets?” said Lt. Col. Randolph Rojas, commanding officer of the 36th IB in a statement posted on the Army's Facebook page.

"We condemn the NPA for targeting civilains and we are in pursuit to serve justice to the victims,” Col. Rojas added.

DPWH: Villaverde Trail construction stalled due to insurgency concerns

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): DPWH: Villaverde Trail construction stalled due to insurgency concerns

Because of insurgency concerns, work on the remaining portions of the Villaverde Trail linking Pangasinan to Nueva Vizcaya was temporarily suspended till the police and the military make an assurance of the safety of the construction crew working on the project.

This was revealed by Emmanuel Diaz, director officer-in-charge of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office, even as he said workers of a construction firm completing the remaining six kilometers of the Villa Verde Trail fear for their lives because of the possibility of attacks by New People's Army (NPA) terrorists.

He said although there was no actual threat yet, the construction workers based their fear on the recent encounter between elements of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 (RPSB) and the NPA rebels between Barangays Sta. Maria and Malico, San Nicolas.

In that encounter, one RPSB 1 member, PO2 Aries Tamondong, was killed while his comrade was wounded..

Diaz said the cessation of work is a temporary set back in the construction of that highway especially because of the fact that DPWH Secretary Mark Villar had given them up to Christmas this year to complete the project.

He said the DPWH is still optimistic of completing the project within the deadline set by Secretary Villar as he believes that the threat by the NPA in eastern San Nicolas is now over with increased police and military visibility in the area.

Still to be completed is the widening of a six-kilometer portion of the highway in Barangay Malico, San Nicolas -- the scene of a fierce firefight betwen RSPB1 elements and NPA rebels last July 28.

This portion is part of the 21-kilometer Pangasinan side of the Villa Verde Trail, construction of which started in 2013 with a budget of more than P2 billion, and implemented in three phases.

Diaz said to date, all types of motor vehicles can already pass through Villa Verde Trail in going to Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya but the remaining six kilometers are yet to be widened before it could be finally opened in December.

Once opened to vehicular traffic, travel time between Pangasinan to Nueva Vizcaya will be reduced by two hours, thus a big boon to motorists and traders.

It will be an alternate road to Cagayan Valley in case the Dalton Pass in Sta. Fe is closed due to landslide.

DND plans to ask for add'tl funds for intel

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): DND plans to ask for add'tl funds for intel

The Department of National Defense (DND) plans to seek additional funding from Congress to further beef up the military's various intelligence networks, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said late Thursday.

Lorenzana , however, declined to detail the plan, including the amount needed as the department was still determining the prices of equipment to be acquired for intelligence works.

"We are trying to get the exact figure (because) we would like to acquire (these) equipment for our intelligence gathering," Lorenzana said in Filipino.

These includes long-range drones which can fly day-and-night missions and facial recognition devices which the military presently lacks.

The DND chief is expected to face the House of Representatives within the month for the annual budget hearing. The defense department's budget for 2016 is PHP126.64 billion.

And while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has received two intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance Cessna 208Bs from the US, the DND chief said more similar equipment were needed to further beef up the country's ISR capabilities.

Also, the additional funds will allow the Armed Forces to further develop its human intelligence assets in the ground, allowing ground units to detect and neutralize various threat groups.

Cost of Marawi City fighting now at PHP2.5-B

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): Cost of Marawi City fighting now at PHP2.5-B

As fighting in Marawi City reached its 81st day, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana estimates that the government has spent close to PHP2.5 billion in its ongoing efforts to neutralize the Maute Group terrorists who took control and ravaged parts of the locality since May 23.

Of the PHP2.5 billion, PHP1.3 billion alone was spent by the Army, he added.

Lorenzana said that he would still find out the amount spent by Air Force and the Marines units deployed there and those used for the acquisition of fighting equipment like bullet-proof vests, helmets, night-vision goggles and assorted munition.

Also, the DND chief expressed hopes that Congress would replenish the expenditures as these were pulled out from ongoing projects.

US Marine Corps commandant visits PH (Photos)

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): US Marine Corps commandant visits PH


The Commandant of the United States Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller is in town since Aug. 9 to meet with Philippine military and US Embassy leadership and discuss matters of partnership and future engagements.

During his visit, he met with Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Gen. Eduardo Año, Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim and US Marines on assignment at the Embassy in Manila.

The General’s meetings focused on upcoming bilateral engagements in the country, regional security, and the future of diplomacy and interoperability between the two nations.

At a wreath-laying ceremony at the PMC Heroes Memorial on August 10, he honored the sacrifice of the brave Philippine Marines who have died fighting in Marawi. He will stay in the country until Aug. 11.

"These Marines were our friends, our partners and our allies, so on behalf of the entire US Marine Corps, I wanted to honor their sacrifice," Gen. Neller said.

AFP denies offering P100K bountry for every NPA rebel neutralized

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): AFP denies offering P100K bountry for every NPA rebel neutralized

The military on Friday denied claims that it is offering PHP100,000 for every New People's Army (NPA) rebel neutralized or arrested.

"There was no such announcement made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the reported 100 thousand pesos reward money for every member of terrorist NPA (neutralized and arrested). Just as there is no existing AFP policy governing such rewards, the AFP denies allocating such amount for such purpose," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.
He added that the giving of the PHP100,000 reward was earlier declared by the Negros Occidental provincial government and its stakeholders in a bid to destroy the remaining NPA and other criminal and lawless groups that repeatedly victimized local residents and businesses.

"But we appreciate their valiant stand against these menaces to society. That manifests theirs and stakeholders' united resolve to protect their constituents and residents. That was intended to solidify support for and engender cooperation with government to counter these terrorist-bandit-organized crime groups," Arevalo added.

It was shown in many instances in the past --the recent ones being in Bohol, Cebu and Palawan-- that the cooperation, vigilance, and active involvement of local government, the citizenry, and the stakeholders can help prevent or resolve quickly any attempts to disrupt the peace and the onslaught of development in their localities.

"They can, by their concerted efforts to secure their communities, shield the peace dividends from the clutches of evil," Arevalo said.

Opinion: Now, the propaganda battle with Islamic State

Opinion piece by Ricardo Saludo in the Manila Times (Aug 10): Now, the propaganda battle with Islamic State

BY today, there are at least 523 Mindanao martyrs to the cause of Islamic State, the brutal terrorist group based in war-torn swathes of Iraq and Syria, which aims to establish a caliphate following strict Muslim laws and tenets, and waging war on infidels everywhere.

That’s the enemy body count put out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines over the weekend. Add to that terrorist list the hundred or so terrorist leaders and suspects, including members of the Maute clan, arrested or hunted by the AFP and the Philippine National Police.

Once the clans, cohorts and communities of these casualties, detainees and fugitives learn of their fate, it’s fair to assume dozens, if not hundreds of families across Mindanao, plus many thousands of friends and fellow villagers of the dead, detained or hounded terrorists will not only be praying for them, but also extolling their supposed sacrifice for Islam and Allah. And many a relative, friend or neighbor will be inspired to follow down the same IS-charted path.

This “Islamic martyr” cult is part of the extremist propaganda, fund-raising and recruitment campaign, not just in Mindanao, but across Southeast Asia and even in the Middle East. And if the nation is to defeat terrorism, we and our allies must counter this next phase of IS caliphate-building strategy.

It’s the propaganda, stupid

In truth, Islamic State’s goal was never Marawi, but messaging, men, and money. IS leaders told the Maute group to assault the city, knowing the terrorists could not hold it and would suffer massive casualties against the vastly superior AFP.

But with the unexpected length of the Marawi siege, IS has shown its power far away from its Middle East base. That will likely impress financiers and potential fighters, boosting the flow of money and men into its Southeast Asian foray.

And even the high body count will translate into far more recruits of much greater radicalism and willingness to fight, sacrifice and die. Is there any doubt that for every one of the 523 terrorists killed in Marawi, there will be at least one family member, one close friend, and one youth in the casualty’s community who will want to kill and be killed for what the terrorist died for?

So, by this calculation, after losing some 600 fighters, the IS-driven Maute, Abu Sayyaf, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters would reap 1,800 willing recruits, probably more. And that’s not even counting the terrorists wounded, captured, and escaped, all with war stories to regale impressionable youths keen for great struggles, plus a generous stipend from IS.

As for propaganda messaging, the hours of news and cellphone footage from Marawi — terrorist snipers picking off government troopers, improvised bombs blasting advancing soldiers, terrorists tending to the wounded, mounds of looted cash and valuables, and daily prayers amid air strikes, and far more — will feed IS social and online media, and stir the hearts and fancies of recruitables.

Then there is the eye-popping news of looted wealth running beyond a billion pesos, by one estimate of an unnamed AFP officer. With money sure to gush into IS from financiers wowed by Marawi, there will be more money offered for fighters, firearms and firebombs.

Assuming just $3 million goes to IS after Marawi, at a modest $200 a month for every fighter, the presumed funds could fund a 1,000-man terrorist force for six months, or that many attackers organized in small bands for city attacks.

And for all those propaganda, recruitment and financial gains, IS lost just over 500 men, 400-odd guns, and P79 million in cash and checks seized by Marines. Is that a steal for Islamic State or what?

Countering the IS message

 What can the government and our allies do against that masterstroke strategy, turning the carnage and casualties of a nearly three-month siege into a powerful messaging vehicle to add fighters, firearms, and financing to IS-driven forces.

In Lanao del Sur, of which Marawi is the capital, AFP Western Mindanao Commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez will meet local officials to mobilize them against IS recruitment.

And at the other end of the power spectrum, children among Marawi evacuees will get counseling after some expressed admiration for Maute fighters, and a wish to become like them when they grow up.

But really, such efforts, while certainly necessary and laudable, may not go far against counter-messaging by IS and those inclined by youth, disposition or economic need to fall for its propaganda, They will dismiss any government messaging as, well, propaganda, just as we do the Islamic State deception.

What’s needed is for Muslim Filipinos to have their own narrative of what’s right, true and holy for them as a people, to defeat the lies propagated by IS.

The extremists paint a bloody landscape of war against oppressive Christians. Filipino Muslims must hold fast to aspirations of Bangsamoro advancement even in a Christian-majority republic.

Against IS dreams of victory, Muslim rebels know from past decades of fighting that extremism would only drive the Philippines and its allies to wage more war in other Marawis. Terrorism will be endless carnage, not eventual triumph.

And to the Islamic State mantra of death to infidels, Mindanao ulamas can espouse even more loudly that Islam is a religion of peace, and declare a fatwa on those exploiting the faith and grievance of Muslims for violence.

To defeat IS lies, Muslim Filipinos must speak the truth and peace of Islam.

In sha Allah!

Pentagon may boost support to PH counter-IS ops

From the Manila Times (Aug 9): Pentagon may boost support to PH counter-IS ops

The United States is weighing additional support to the Philippine military as it fights an Islamist insurgency in the south, a US defense official said Tuesday.

Discussions are “pretty advanced” and would see the US provide increased surveillance drone capabilities and training for local forces, the official told AFP on condition on anonymity.

The drones could hypothetically be used to conduct strikes, the official added, although that would only be for self-defense reasons to protect US or partner forces, and would not signal another front in America’s drone wars.

“It’s not necessarily what those (drones) are there for. Those are there for ISR and support,” the official said, using an abbreviation for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The Philippines’ Department of National Defense said there had been no discussions regarding the use of US drones to strike IS-inspired “terrorist groups.”

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Logan said all military assistance in the Philippines is conducted at the request of the government.

“We respect the sovereignty of the Philippines, and we are not pursuing unilateral action in the Philippines,” he said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked lawmakers to approve the recruiting of 20,000 more soldiers to tackle increased security threats following a bloody urban siege in the south.

Almost 700 people have been killed, according to the official count, in over two months of fighting in the southern city of Marawi against Islamist militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The militants, waving the black IS flag, have occupied parts of Marawi since May 23, prompting Duterte to declare martial law in the entire southern region of Mindanao.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday called the crisis in Marawi a “tragic situation” and said US forces were providing surveillance aircraft and important advice for the Philippines forces in the battle there.

The US has for years provided intel to the Philippines and has between 300 and 500 special operations and regular forces stationed in the country.

‘Dasia’ vehicle recovered

On Wednesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that government troops were able to recover a “Dasia” armored vehicle from the Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists in Marawi City.

The blue Dasia vehicle was used by the Maute members in the first days of the battle that began on May 23.

A photo posted on social media in the early days of fighting showed Abdullah Maute, one of the leaders of the Maute group, riding the vehicle with an IS flag hoisted in front.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokeswoman for the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, said Wednesday the car was found in one of the structures used by Maute terrorists as storage area for firearms and other materials and as a temporary base for wounded members.

Government troops were also able to find a tunnel in the building where Maute men stocked food, ammunitions and weapons.

“The recent capture of one of the terrorist’s strongholds connotes that the troops are advancing towards the battle positions of Maute remnants, signifying that the terrorists are already contained in a narrower engagement area,” Petinglay said.

Military officers also rescued four civilians from the battle zone. They were found near Lake Lanao and were brought to army headquarters for medical assistance.

“Their escape and rescue was made possible due to the close coordination made by the wife of one of the civilians to our navy in Zamboanga and eventually coordination with the units under [the military’s]Joint Task Force Marawi,” she said.

As of the latest count, 45 civilians have been killed in Marawi City while a total 1,728 civilians have been rescued.

 Fighting has claimed the lives of 122 government troops and at least 539 terrorists, from whom 607 firearms were recovered.

The military estimates that 50 to 70 terrorists are still holed up in the city, in an area measuring one square kilometer.

Exclusive: Japan seeks S.E. Asia clout with chopper parts for Philippines military - sources

From Reuters/Yahoo! News (Aug 10): Exclusive: Japan seeks S.E. Asia clout with chopper parts for Philippines military - sources

Japan's army will give thousands of helicopter parts to keep Philippine military choppers airborne, helping Tokyo gain clout with Manila in a contest with China to secure influence over the strategic South China Sea nation, four sources said.

Military diplomacy is a new means for Japan to confound China's bid for control in the bitterly contested South China Sea as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks a regional military role amid a retreat from decades of state pacifism.

The pact could be the first in a series of similar deals as Tokyo cranks up defence diplomacy with Southeast Asian nations eager for hand-me-down patrol aircraft, ships and other military equipment.

"This is a demonstration of the robust strategic partnership and cooperation of the two allies," a senior Philippine Air Force commander told Reuters, adding that Japan would deliver around 40,000 parts under the deal.

The value of the parts could not be determined.

The sources, who have knowledge of talks between the two countries, asked not to be identified because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

The supply agreement will be Japan's first military aid deal since lawmakers scrapped a rule in June barring giveaways of surplus military kit to other countries.

"We are looking at what we will do with our spare parts, but have nothing concrete we can discuss," said a spokesman for the procurement agency of Japan's defence ministry.

"In order to strengthen national security we want to push ahead with defence equipment cooperation."

Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have already asked about taking Japan's submarine-hunting P3-C maritime patrol aircraft, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, as they are replaced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries P-1 planes, two of the sources said.

"There has been some preliminary discussion," said one of the sources.

Japan worries that Beijing could blunt opposition to its territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea with arms sales and development aid to countries surrounding the busy waterway.

About $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes through the sea each year, much of it touching Japanese ports.


The aircraft parts for the Philippines are meant for workhorse UH-1 utility helicopters that can be used for transport or deployed as airborne gunships, the sources said.

Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) retired older H versions of its Vietnam-era Hueys in 2012, after four decades of use, but retained their spare parts.

Japan earlier agreed to supply the Philippines with three second-hand Beechcraft TC-90 King Air patrol planes, in a deal structured as a lease arrangement, under the old rule.

Other initiatives by Japan to build military ties include a four-day South China Sea tour aboard its navy flagship, the Izumo helicopter carrier, by military officers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in June.

Military officials of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam also observed disaster relief drills in Japan.

Abe's government believes Japan is better placed than Washington to woo Southeast Asia away from Chinese influence, as it is free from the rules forbidding the United States to fully engage with non-democratic regimes, such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Conditions set by the United States forced the Philippines to turn to China and Russia for arms supplies, the Southeast Asian nation's defence minister has said.

China has offered to donate $14 million worth of military hardware to the Philippines, besides a soft loan for $500 million in Chinese arms.

NPA rebels tagged in killing of cop in Davao del Norte

From ABS-CBN (Aug 11): NPA rebels tagged in killing of cop in Davao del Norte

A cop was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants in Panabo City, Davao del Norte on Wednesday.

A policeman was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants in Panabo City, Davao del Norte on Wednesday.

SPO2 Orlando Badar was gunned down and his service firearm was taken, police said.

Police Senior Inspector Frederick Deles said the closest motive of the crime would be weapon robbery.

However, Davao City Police director Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum said the New People's Army could be behind the crime.

"With the modus operandi, and what transpired in the past days and weeks, wherein policemen were also killed in other areas, we are looking into the possibility that NPA hitmen killed our men," he said.

"We are looking into that, but nonetheless ang NPA naman alam natin na ganyan ang kanilang modus. Ang kanilang tinitira 'yung walang kalaban-laban. 'Yung naka-motor, yung nakatayo lang," said Maj. Ezra Balagtey, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson.

Tagum gave financial assistance to Badar's family from the Philippine National Police.

"We provide mortuary support to the family of policemen killed in line of their duty. Police regional office XI and the city mayor's office also pledged to give financial assistance," he said.

Badar's wife Rolina couldn't think of a motive why her husband was murdered and said SPO2 Badar was a good and friendly person, and did not receive any death threats.

In Catanduanes, 2 cops killed, 4 others wounded in bomb blast, ambush staged by NPA rebels

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 11): In Catanduanes, 2 cops killed, 4 others wounded in bomb blast, ambush staged by NPA rebels
Two policemen were killed while four others, including a town police chief, were wounded in attacks staged by suspected communist rebels in Viga town in Catanduanes province on Thursday afternoon.

A report from the Bicol regional police said PO1 Eva Torcilino and PO3 Joseph Tupue of the Viga police were killed in the ambush staged by suspected New People’s Army rebels in the village of Sagrada.

Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, Bicol police spokesperson, said among the wounded were Senior Insp. Ernesto Montes Jr., Viga police chief; SPO1 Marwin de Vera; and two drug surrenderers.

Calubaquib said an explosion hit two police vans carrying policemen and 10 drug suspects while they were on their way to Virac town at 11:20 a.m.

The explosion, which wounded a policeman and two drug suspects, was followed by gunfire from at least 20 NPA rebels, Calubaquib said.

The next attack happened at 1:40 p.m. when policemen, led by Montes, returned to the encounter site in Sitio Pinarayan, and were ambushed by rebels.

A firefight ensued, killing two policemen.

Montes, who was hit in the back, was taken to Viga District Hospital.

P100,000 reward for dead Reds an ‘invitation to killing spree’ – Zarate

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 10): P100,000 reward for dead Reds an ‘invitation to killing spree’ – Zarate

Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate branded the announcement of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Eduardo Año of a P100,000 reward for every slain or captured New People’s Army (NPA) member as an “invitation for a killing spree.”

In a press conference yesterday, the leftist lawmaker and his fellow Makabayan Bloc members condemned this as a “gravely dangerous” move from Año.

It is tantamount to sanctioning murder for a fee and an open travesty of the rule of law,” Zarate said.
“This will definitely further spike the already alarming number of human rights violations in the country committed by elements of the AFP and the PNP (Philippine National Police) – who will just use this as another money-making scheme,” said the Mindanao-based solon.

The NPA is the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has engaged the Philippine government (GRP) in a bloody insurgency that has lasted for decades.

“This is similar to the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Joint Order No. 14-2012 during the time of President Benigno Aquino III which listed the alleged ‘235 wanted communists’ with a total monetary reward of P466.88 million,” Zarate said.

Zarate said the best approach for the government would be to push for the resumption of the peace negotiations and the signing and proper implementation of the agreements between the two parties.

'Burn them in their homes': What IS' new propaganda video reveals about their changing strategy

From the New Arab (Aug 10): 'Burn them in their homes': What IS' new propaganda video reveals about their changing strategy

 'Burn them in their homes': What IS' new propaganda video reveals about their changing strategy

Comment: As the Islamic State group rapidly loses ground, it's doing what it does best - reinventing itself for new battlefields, both physical and virtual, writes Gemma Fox

On Monday the Islamic State group (IS) released a propaganda video via their al-Hayat Media Centre, featuring Australian jihadi Mounir Raad, known by his nom de guerre Abu Adam al Australi, calling upon fellow Muslims to take up arms at home and abroad.

In the video Abu Adam commands fellow Muslims to go to Marawi to join the ongoing fight between what he describes as the "Crusader" government and groups allied to Islamic State.

Marawi, a city in the south of the Philippines on the island of Mindanao, has been turned into a deadly street to street battleground between the Duterte government and Maute and Abu Sayyaf militant groups, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
According to Philippine military figures, around 45 civilians have been killed in the crossfire.
Propaganda videos show in graphic detail militants beheading captured government soldiers, and there are growing concerns that the Philippines will become the new focal point for IS recruitment.

For those unable to make "hijra" to Marawi, however, Abu Adam advocates a different set of lone wolf tactics: Muslims in Australia should take up any kind of weapon - be it a nail gun, petrol or driving trucks - to strike the "unbelieving Kuffah".
While he justifies action by pointing to the Australian government's military support for to the Philippines, there is little doubt that ordinary civilians are the target.

"Kill them, wherever you may find them", "burn them in their homes" he says, as voices sing in the background, "the Kuffah - we will slaughter them all". As he speaks into the camera, graphics are overlaid on the video with the weapons of choice.
"The slick, professional look of this video is akin to much of what al-Hayat media produces."

The bloodthirsty, twisted messages in the video are not new. Islamic State has always tried to appeal to followers using explicit violence and the slick, professional look of this video is very much akin to much of what al-Hayat media produces.

The video does, however, illustrate two important developments in the group's strategy.

The video crucially reiterates the dangerous narrative of carrying out lone wolf attacks at home [al-Hayat Media Centre screenshot]

Firstly, it supports the idea that as Islamic State rapidly loses its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the group is to some degree changing its regional focus increasingly towards South East Asia.

Just last month, Iraqi Armed Forces successfully retook Mosul, the group's last major bastion in Iraq. In Raqqa - once considered the group's de facto capital - Islamic State is currently engaged in a bitter fight for survival and yet Syria's northern city is only mentioned briefly, and resigns itself to the idea that only God can decide the outcome of the battle.

It is likely that the city will indeed by recaptured in the near future, with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the US having already "cleared about 45 percent of Raqqa since early June" according to Brett McGurk, US special envoy for the coalition against Islamic State.

Secondly, the video crucially reiterates the dangerous narrative of carrying out lone wolf attacks at home using any weapons at your dispense. These types of attacks are becoming all too familiar and present particular difficulties for the security services to detect.
"Lone wolf attacks give Islamic State the opportunity to appear omnipresent in countries impossible for it to set up an actual base ."

Crucially, they give Islamic State the opportunity to appear omnipresent in countries impossible for it to set up an actual base. As I’ve written before in the case of the Manchester attack, although Islamic State called the attacker a "soldier of the Khalifah", nothing in the statement suggested any prior knowledge of the group - even getting the numbers of dead and injured wrong, and omitting the fact that Salman Abedi was martyred.

Nevertheless, to inspire such attacks is clearly an important part of their propaganda as the Islamic State rapidly loses ground. It means they are still associated with such atrocities against the "kuffah" without having to put in the same investment into vetting and training a recruit in Syria and sending them back.

Videos like Abu Adam's call to arms simply need to be shared online to reach thousands of potential recruits [al-Hayat Media Centre screenshot]

Instead, videos like Abu Adam's call to arms simply need to be shared online to reach thousands of potential recruits. Although the tech giants have been cracking down on removing IS propaganda on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter - the encrypted messaging service Telegram still offers potential jihadis a forum to connect with other sympathisers and look at extremist material.

Unlike whatsapp, users can follow channels and join groups via invite links, thus allowing thousands - even unlimited with a telegram supergroup - of like-minded individuals to connect and spread information. While videos on YouTube are unlikely to last the hour and will thus have limited shareability, telegram channels are being constantly opened and shared.
"While videos on YouTube are unlikely to last the hour and will thus have limited shareability, telegram channels are being constantly opened and shared."
It may have moved more underground and may and at first glance seem difficult to find, but the propaganda value and the capacity to indoctrinate is very much still there.

It is this ability to adapt to new battlegrounds, both physical and virtual, that will give Islamic State a deeply concerning amount of staying power.

WATCH | Marawi Crisis: AFP still sifting through intel on status of Hapilon, Abdullah Maute

From InterAksyon/News 5 (Aug 10): WATCH | Marawi Crisis: AFP still sifting through intel on status of Hapilon, Abdullah Maute

Abdullah Maute Isnilon Hapilon

Photograph shared by military intelligence purports to show Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon (right) and Abdullah Maute.

In a photograph obtained by News5, two persons can be seen, face-to-face and in amiable conversation, it is said, in the Islamic City of Marawi.

These persons have been identified by military sources as Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has moved to Marawi from his erstwhile base on the island province of Basilan to link up with the terrorist Maute Group leader Abdullah Maute.
Noticeable in the image, it is pointed out, that the two look rather drawn and haggardly, a bit on the gaunt side, compared to past pictures of them from dossiers and archives.

A News5 source shared that the image was a fairly recent one.

Their appearance could be due to the stress and difficulties experienced in the almost three-month Battle of Marawi, which has still to enter the end-game phase, as the government forces continue to pile pressure on the remnant terrorist forces.

The image is at odds with various claims and accounts tending to dismiss the leaders of the siege as having either died or fled the war zone, especially with an apparent rash of “sightings” of them reported in recent days.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, the Spokesperson of West Mindanao Command, told journalists: “We do have various intelligence reports, but we’re still checking these out. We can’t say for sure until we are able to verify the reports and establish positive confirmation.”

One thing the military is confident about: The enemy has no possibility to slip out of the battle area.

Capt. Petinglay added: “We have to neutralize them here and now. Our mission is to neutralize them, but at the same time avoid unnecessary harm befalling the civilian hostages.”

Day by day, the air strikes and surgical bombardment continue and intensify, even as the military has always taken care not to indiscriminately target buildings and structures that might have non-combatants, civilians, being held as human shields.

Click and watch this video report below:

Marawi: Fighters killed by military as siege continues

From Aljazeera (Aug 10): Marawi: Fighters killed by military as siege continues

At least nine fighters killed as military conflict with Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups continues in the Philippines.

Philippine military forces have continued their offensive against armed groups linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in the country's south, killing at least nine fighters as the conflict in Marawi continues.

On Thursday morning, fighters from the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf engaged with the military forces who retaliated with air attacks and artillery fire, Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, military spokesperson, told Anadolu news agency.

"Those enemies who died in the offensives include men of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon who are digging for a tunnel under a mosque trying to escape the battle zone or reach the lake," Petinglay said.

READ MORE: Marawi - The girl and her red shoes

Hapilon, who is wanted by the FBI and has a $5m bounty on his head, is suspected to have led the siege in Marawi which is now in its 12th week.

His group, Abu Sayyaf, had previously pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda.

Earlier, the military confirmed that Hapilon was still alive and inside the battle zone, despite earlier reports he had escaped along with Abdullah and Omar Maute, local leaders of the Maute group that has pledged allegiance to ISIL.

The Philippine government has also offered a separate reward for the capture of Hapilon and the Maute brothers.

According to Petinglay, the number of deaths on the side of Maute and Abu Sayyaf has gone up to 548 due to continuous fighting in Marawi - a once bustling university town in Mindanao.

More than 350,000 have been displaced in the fighting in Marawi, almost 60 percent are children [Reuters]

At least 122 soldiers have also been killed while 45 civilians have died in the fighting.

The remaining fighters, including several foreigners, have at least 100 civilian hostages. Four were recently rescued.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the whole island of Mindanao after the Maute group attacked Marawi on May 23.

When the fighting began, the military had initially vowed to end it within weeks. But the fighting continues into its third month now, and martial law has been extended until the end of 2017.

The armed conflict has displaced about 359,680 people, as of July 29, with many living in host communities or in 75 evacuation centres across Mindanao.

More than 200,000 children have also been displaced. Many of those living in host communities are affected by the scarcity of household resources, including food, medical and school supplies, in one of the poorest areas in the country.

5 Abu Sayyaf men, 2 soldiers killed in Mindanao

From The Gulf Today (Aug 11): 5 Abu Sayyaf men, 2 soldiers killed in Mindanao

Five members of the Abu Sayyaf terror group linked to the Marawi City siege and two soldiers were killed in a fresh outbreak of clashes on the island province of Sulu in Mindanao, the military reported on Thursday.

Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejano, the Task Force Sulu chief, said a team of the elite Marines were on security patrol when they clashed with 30 terrorists in a remote village in the town of Kalingala on Thursday morning.

Sobejano said the encounter was the latest with the terrorists who were confirmed to have participated in the siege of Marawi City on May 23 that prompted President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to impose martial law over the whole of troubled Mindanao.

The Abu Sayyaf has gained notoriety through a spate of kidnap-for-ransom cases that were often marred by the beheading of their foreign and Filipino hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group that pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East have been blamed for the Marawi siege that is now on its third month.

The military has confirmed that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon has been actively involved in the battle for Marawi following a reported Daesh order for him to establish a caliphate in the city.

On Wednesday, Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, the spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the battle for Marawi has entered its final and critical phase, with the battle zone now confined to just a square kilometre of the city.

But Petinglay admitted that government forces were facing a “suicidal enemy” who now numbered only about 70 heavily-armed terrorists in the last stages of the campaign.

Petinglay also reported that that the presence of from 50 to 70 civilian hostages has been compounding the problem as soldiers have to battle their way from one building to another in Marawi’s central business district.

“The situation,” Petingly said, “is getting more critical. As our soldiers advance and get closer to the main objective, anything can happen.”

She added: “As of Tuesday night, it is with grief that we report 122 soldiers were already killed due to the continuous fighting in the main battle area.”

On the other hand, the soldiers killed 539 terrorists and recovered 607 high-powered firearms with the civilian casualty at 45 and 1,728 non-combatants rescued.

Duterte asked to certify terror deterrence bill

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 11): Duterte asked to certify terror deterrence bill

A Manila congressman is appealing to President Duterte to certify as urgent a bill he authored seeking to impose more measures to fight the spread of terrorism, including the mandatory registration of prepaid mobile phone lines and social media accounts.

In a statement, Rep. Manuel “Manny” Lopez (first district, Manila) said House Bill No. 5382, or the proposed Terrorism Threat Deterrence Act of 2017, would help prevent the use for terrorism of social media and mobile phone networks through prepaid lines.

Lopez said gunmen who tried to set up an Islamic State (IS) province in Marawi City had been found to use social media and mobile phones for communication, propaganda and psywar operations against government soldiers.

New security threats
He said his bill became more relevant after Mr. Duterte met senators in Malacañang to discuss new and more serious security threats in Mindanao, particularly from groups that had sworn allegiance to IS.

The President also announced plans to recruit 20,000 more soldiers to strengthen the fight against terrorism.

NDFP, Año continue to trade barbs

From Malaya Business Insight (Aug 11): NDFP, Año continue to trade barbs

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines yesterday lashed backed at AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año who said communist party founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison needs psychiatric help after exposing a supposed military plan to assassinate Sison and oust President Duterte.

In a statement, the NDFP said it has sufficient “factual basis and compelling reason” to expose the plot to discourage and frustrate the execution of the plan of the military establishment.

“In due time, more facts shall be revealed, with due consideration to the safety and security of patriotic military officers who are the sources of information,” the NDFP said.

The NDFP first revealed the supposed plot last Tuesday. Sison later confirmed the plot, adding he has taken security measures to preempt the plot. The following day, Año dismissed the revelation, and said Sison “needs psychiatric help to treat his hallucinations.” Año said Sison made the same kill plot story during the time of President Estrada in 1999.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the supposed plot is baseless.

“However, this latest twist where they include themselves is an insertion of themselves into the plot. It’s rather pathetic,” he said.

The NDFP, commenting on Año’s latest statement, said the AFP chief “is completely unqualified to posture as an honest person and to cast invectives against Prof. Sison who is the target of the first stage of the military plot.”

The NDFP also said it is not recommending psychiatric treatment for Año “because he is obviously an irredeemably cold-blooded and cunning butcher.”

“It is his boss Rodrigo R. Duterte who needs urgent professional psychiatric help for trusting him too much and other military officers who have consistently sabotaged the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” the NDFP said.

AFP seeks execs’ help in foiling Mautes escape

From Malaya Business Insight (Aug 11): AFP seeks execs’ help in foiling Mautes escape

A TOP military official in Mindanao is seeking assistance from local government officials, warning of possible reinforcement of Maute Group forces from areas outside Marawi City and escape of about 50 to 70 Maute members holed up in a portion of the city.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said local government officials should ensure their areas will not be used by the Maute as passage for reinforcement and escape.

He made the appeal during a dialogue with Lanao del Sur officials on Wednesday in Marawi City. He told the local officials the Maute Group, which has been battling government forces since May 23, is running out of ammunition and food, and the military is close to ending the conflict.

The fighting has so far resulted in the death of 548 Maute members, 125 soldiers and policemen, and 45 civilians. Officials said the Maute remnants are in the main battle area which is less than square kilometer. About 200 civilians remain trapped in the area.

“We are nearing the end of this prolonged battle with the penetration of our troops into the main battle area, but we beseech your consideration and assistance... we do not discount the possibility of reinforcement and retreat. This is where the key involvement of local government units comes in,” he said.

He asked the officials to guard their areas. “Do not allow these terrorists to use your towns as recruitment areas and safe passage,” he said.

Galvez even offered military assistance to help local officials defend their communities. “You can create your inner defense. If you need it, we can provide you with training and support for security if you request for it.”

Vice Mayor London Dagalangit of Lumbao-Bayabao town said they are establishing checkpoints, using their barangay peacekeeping action teams (BPATs). He gave the assurance motorboats along Lake Lanao will be monitored.

“We are preparing our constituents so that we will be able to make ourselves ready. We want our BPATs to be trained so that we can take appropriate actions when needed,” he said.

Other local officials also heeded the appeal of Galvez for help and agreed to meet regularly.