Monday, August 14, 2017

Coast Guard getting 7 new helicopters

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): Coast Guard getting 7 new helicopters

The National Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee (ICC)-Cabinet Committee approved the acquisition of seven maritime disaster response helicopters for Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The approval was made during ICC-Cabinet Committee’s meeting last Friday, August 11. ICC-Cabine Committee is being chaired by Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez III, co-chaired by NEDA Director-General Ernesto Pernia.

PCG vessel, Japanese Coast Guard helicopter conducting joint law enforcement exercise, July 2016. PCG photo

The Department of Finance (DOF) said the ICC-Cabinet Committee approved the procurement of seven maritime disaster response helicopters to strengthen and expand the Philippine Coast Guard’s capability to respond to maritime incidents during natural calamities.

DOF said the procurement worth PHP5.887 billion will include training of pilots and technical crew; purchase of mission equipment, maintenance tools and spare parts; construction of hangars; and project management.

This project proposal will no go to NEDA Board chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte for final approval before implementation.

LOOK: Special operations airmen conduct special mission for students

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): LOOK: Special operations airmen conduct special mission for students

Philippine Air Force (PAF) 710th Special Operations Wing (710 SPOW) personnel on August 9 conducted tutorial to 48 Grade 7 students of Sta. Juliana High School at Brgy. Sta Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.

The Specials Operations airmen extended “a helping hand to chosen Grade 7 students which undergone basic tutorial lessons to enhance reading skills and enable them to be more proficient in studying,” PAF said.

PAF photo

PAF photo

“The teachers and students of the said school appreciate the conduct of this kind of activity in sharing the wisdom and efforts in engaging with different schools inside Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base (CERAB), Crow Valley Military Reservation (CVMR) in Capas, Tarlac specifically to the students to develop their self-esteem,” PAF said.

710 SPOW personnel are trained and equipped for Internal Security Operations (ISO) and special operation. It can also conduct counter-urban terrorist operations, coordinate air strike operations, K-9/explosive ordnance operations.

It also conducts special operations for the defense of the PAF bases and installation.

Army division shows capabilities to civilians

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): Army division shows capabilities to civilians

Philippine 10th Infantry (Agila) Division showcased on Saturday, August 12 conducted a static and kinetic display of some of its capabilities at the Gaisano Mall of Tagum City Atrium.

The army division also conducted a thanksgiving concert.

10ID photo

10ID photo

10ID photo

These activities are part of Agila Division’s prelude activities for the upcoming 11th Founding Anniversary of the Agila Division with its theme, “Sustaining the Peace in SouthEastern Mindanao”.

The Division has operational responsibility over the Davao Region (Region 11), parts of Region 12 (Sarangani, South Cotabato, 2nd District of North Cotabato and Columbio, Sultan Kudarat), Trento, Agusan del Sur and Lingig Surigao del Sur.

10ID AOR encompasses 4 Regions, 12 provinces, 7 cities, 72 municipalities and 1, 681 Barangays. It has a total land area of 34,000 square kilometers and an estimated population of 6.4 million with mixed religious beliefs such as the Christians, Lumads and Muslims.

How Two Brothers Took Over a Filipino City for ISIS

From The Atlantic (Aug 12): How Two Brothers Took Over a Filipino City for ISIS (By Ana P. Santos)

The country has a history of separatist movements. But it had never seen an extremist takeover like this.

A Filipino soldier uses binoculars next to a wood panel where the words ' ISIS here' are spray-painted.

A Filipino soldier uses binoculars as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi city, Philippines, on July 1, 2017

Amer Hamzah Lucman last saw Omar Maute at their high school reunion around five years ago. While Lucman’s memory is fuzzy now, he remembers plenty of good-natured ribbing and reminiscing, and Maute talking about how being in the company of old friends made the world’s problems seem to fade away. The next time Lucman heard from Maute was on May 30, under decidedly horrific circumstances that may have long-term implications for regional security and transnational terrorism.

One week earlier, a group of pro-ISIS fighters led by Maute and his brother, Abdullah, overran Marawi City, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Armed men wearing black masks went on a rampage, festooning the city with ISIS flags as they conducted jailbreaks, killed Christians, and torched homes and schools—including Dansalan College, where Lucman and Maute had attended high school. The coalition of local rebels and foreign fighters foiled a military attempt to arrest Insilon Hapilon, leader of jihadist militant group Abu Sayyaf, and surprised the government troops with their force, numbers, and level of preparedness. Residents fled in droves, even as the national security adviser declared that the government was “in full control of the situation.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, then on an official visit to Russia, cut his trip short and flew back to the Philippines. He immediately declared martial law across Mindanao, warning that “I’d be as harsh” as Ferdinand Marcos, the former Philippine president whose nine years of martial law were marked by grave human rights abuses, violence, and corruption.

During the siege, Maute and his band of ISIS-inspired fighters had taken several teachers and a Catholic priest hostage at their former school. School authorities were trying to negotiate their release and Maute would only speak to someone he knew. The task fell to Lucman, who was the representative of his high school class and an active member of the alumni association.

“It was surreal,” Lucman recalled. Initially, the two spoke as old classmates exchanging pleasantries. Then the talk turned to the hostages. Maute assured Lucman that the hostages were “doing okay,” before going on to justify his reasons for the siege.

“I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. Our beliefs [about Islam] are different. I wanted to focus on the hostages,” Lucman said. But the conversation ended with Maute saying that release of the hostages was no longer up to him.

Lucman couldn’t believe he was talking to Maute. “The Omar I talked to that day was not the Omar I remember from high school,” Lucman said.

As the fighting dragged on, Duterte moved to extend martial law beyond the 60 days allowed by the constitution. On July 22, Congress, by an overwhelming majority, approved Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year. Close to three months of fierce fighting and aerial strikes have now displaced more than 500,000, killed more than 500, and reduced much of Marawi City to rubble. Lucman and his family remain displaced, while rebels continue to hold the Catholic priest and about 100 others as hostages.
As ISIS continues to lose ground in Iraq and Syria, analysts say that the siege of Marawi has emboldened and excited jihadists across southeast Asia, including in Indonesia, and will have long-term repercussions for extremism in the region. “I know a lot of Indonesians who are thinking about joining the Maute group in Marawi. Many are looking for the next jihad. The likelihood that Marawi will become a base for ISIS is very, very high,” Iqbal Hussaini, a former Indonesian gunrunner, said in an interview with The Australian.

In early August, the military recaptured a strategic bridge and was reported to be closing in on the remaining 60-80 rebels holed up in the city, suggesting that the siege will soon end. But even when Marawi City is finally liberated, the government will be left to face myriad risks, including cross-border terrorism and the spread of terror cells with the capacity to recruit members and activate attacks. And many, like Lucman and his friends, will be left to grapple with profound sadness and guilt.

* * *

The Philippines has one of the longest-running separatist movements in the region, but the Islamic State takeover of Marawi represented the first time that violent extremists had taken control of part of the country this way.

“The Omar we knew is gone,” Lucman said, reflecting on his schoolmate-turned-extremist. “Another person we do not know and cannot recognize is in his place.”

A study conducted by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) among armed groups in Mindanao shows that two of the biggest factors that determine membership in such groups are the influence of family members and the nature of the indoctrination. (The study was specific to those who joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front insurgency movement, but UNICEF says this can apply to various extremist groups.) A recruitment pitch can be based purely on a severe interpretation of religious teachings, or it can leverage painful memories of oppression such as military brutality and state corruption; it can take the form of in-person persuasion, or of propaganda transmitted through social media and messaging apps. Either way, it offers a compelling narrative that touches a nerve and stokes festering grievances in young people, whether affluent or poor.

“It is what exponentially expands the potential pool of recruits,” Sarah Norton-Staal, the child protection chief of UNICEF in the Philippines, told me.

In this case, the narrative that fed extremism was the history of state brutality against the Philippine Muslim minority, particularly during the martial law years of the Marcos dictatorship.

The Philippines is about 90 percent Catholic, with Muslims making up about 5 percent of the country’s 100 million people. Islam, however, predates Catholicism in the country; when Spanish colonists began forced conversions, Muslims who refused to leave Islam fled to the southern island of Mindinao to escape.

“We never surrendered. We were never subjugated by a colonial power,” Norhata Alonto, a 67-year-old resident of Marawi, told me.

Known as the Philippines’s only Islamic city, Marawi is where the country’s Muslim ancestry and heritage are preserved. Only in Marawi do minarets rather than cathedral spires stretch toward the sky, do madrasas form the norm rather than the exception, do women wear veils and men skullcaps. It is probably one of the few cities in the Philippines where pork (a favorite Filipino dish) and alcohol are not openly sold or made available.

But, Alonto, said, “What no colonial master succeeded in doing, the Philippine government did, many times over.” Alonto was referring to the decades of armed conflict between the government and separatist groups fighting for autonomy for the Filipino Muslim minority. The conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and has seen a series of collapsed peace deals that left openings for the formation of militia groups like the Maute (the terrorist group takes its name from the Maute brothers, Omar and Abdullah).

Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an administrative region in the southern island, was a young girl during the martial law years under Marcos. Back then, government forces served as the president’s private army. She remembers her village being razed to the ground during a military operation, leaving several residents dead. The only reason she and her family were spared was because they were not in their village at the time. “There was no psychosocial support or development aid to speak of then,” Alamia said. “There has been no closure, no healing from this grief.”

As peace proved elusive, development and progress stalled in the region. According to the Asia Foundation, conflict-afflicted areas of Mindanao have the highest poverty levels and lowest levels of human development in the Philippines. Of the 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines, 11 are in Mindanao. Official statistics show that 48.2 percent of families in ARMM lived below the poverty line in 2015, compared with a national average of 16.5 percent. Government data show that across all regions, the ARMM had the highest out-of-school population at 14.4 percent, compared to the national average of 10.6 percent.

The lack of education, scarce job opportunities, and inadequate social services— together with constant displacement due to sporadic skirmishes between government troops and insurgents, as well as clan wars (locally known as rido)—fueled the brewing resentment that positioned violent extremism as an attractive choice.“We are angry at the Maute, but we are also mad at Duterte.”

“When you look at the conditions that were present in other states that created ISIS, they were also present in Mindanao,” Alamia said. She first saw radicalization emerging as a problem in 2015. There was talk in the communities of charismatic recruiters visiting madrasas and universities, luring young recruits.

“The religious message [is] really appealing to middle-upper-class young men who have experienced racism firsthand and have a grudge against society for being born Muslim in the southern Philippines,” said Justin Richmond, executive director of, an NGO that works on countering violent extremism in southern Philippines. “Educated young men from affluent clans often become the higher-level fighters. They are the ones to lead the movement and plan large-scale operations.”

* * *

A promise of hope and change carried Duterte to the presidency in June of 2016. He is the first Philippine president from Mindanao. Much of his populist appeal stems from his more than two decades as mayor of his hometown, Davao City, where he developed a reputation for improving economic conditions. His election, in turn, signaled the end of decades of neglect for Mindanao.

But despite his affinity with the region and its people, Duterte did not focus on protecting them from the looming threat of extremism, instead choosing to concentrate his security forces on a crackdown on illegal drugs.

Last September, the members of the Maute terror group were linked to a bombing incident in Duterte’s hometown. Then, in November, the Maute brothers tested Duterte again when they took over their hometown of Butig in Mindanao and hung the ISIS flag there. With his characteristic braggadocio, Duterte said the following month that he would not negotiate with terrorists. He promised that, with a little bit of salt and vinegar, he would “eat the liver” of terrorists. He also challenged the Maute. “They threatened to go down from the mountains to burn down Marawi. Go ahead, be my guest,” he blustered.

In May, the Maute group, alongside members of Abu Sayyaf and other bandit groups, did just that: They seized Marawi, setting buildings on fire as they went along.

Now, some of those who voted for Duterte are displeased with his actions.

“We are angry at the Maute, but we are also mad at Duterte,” said one 40-year-old decorator who gave his name only as Norodin, as he waved his hand to include the hundreds of others sitting in a public gymnasium that had been converted into an evacuation center for those displaced by the Maute. Although Norodin’s home now consists of a tiny square mat, he managed to crack a joke—“The Maute, they not only ruined city, they also ruined my day!”—even as he reiterated: “We are all angry.”

It hurt Norodin and other Muslims when Duterte jokingly told soldiers fighting in Marawi that they could rape three women and he would protect them. It angered them when Duterte called for aerial strikes and said that he would “carpet bomb” the city, since it was up to civilians to run for safety.

“We campaigned for him. We voted for him. We wanted him to win,” Norodin said. “And this is what he does to us? He jokes about raping our women and burning our homes!”

On July 24, Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address. Marawi, the site of the biggest crisis his administration has faced, was expected to receive plenty of airtime.

Zia Alonto Adiong, a spokesperson for Joint Task Force Marawi, flew to Manila to attend the speech. He left disappointed. There was brief mention of the suffering of evacuees and talk of rebuilding Marawi, but the president focused more on military solutions, like building up defense capabilities. “I understand the president’s declaration of support for the military, but it is not only the soldiers who are dying. Evacuees are also dying,” Adiong said. “The [speech] would have been a perfect opportunity to lay out plans for taking care of the evacuees and the rebuilding of Marawi.”

Crucial to the rebuilding of Marawi, analysts say, will be the government’s willingness to take extra measures to quell potential anger against it, by safeguarding the dignity of evacuees and respectfully rebuilding mosques and religious structures.

Maute fighters, for their part, are already weaving another narrative of state brutality, as Telegram messages intercepted by IPAC show. “We did not destroy Marawi. We did not bomb it to ashes … We never intended harm to the city and its people,” read a July 15, 2017 Telegram posting.

To security expert and IPAC director Sidney Jones, one thing is clear: “The risks won’t end when the military declares victory.”

Addressing violent extremism will require looking beyond military solutions. Brokering peace with other insurgent groups will promote security, as will development projects that address root problems of scarce opportunities and education. Because of its reach, the problem calls for heightened regional cooperation and intelligence sharing, particularly between the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. And because of its complexity and nuance, it requires analysis of messages on social media and a detailed mapping of terrorist personalities to better understand their motives for taking up jihad.

“The Philippines will be playing catch up,” Jones said. “It should have been involved in looking at this five years ago."

Butig: The birthplace of the Mautes

From ABS-CBN (Aug 14): Butig: The birthplace of the Mautes

Before there was Marawi, there was Butig.

A small town hall surrounded by a basketball court, a wet market and a plaza comprise Butig's town center. Butig is a sixth-class municipality with a population of 17,000. This town in Lanao Del Sur belongs to the 10 poorest municipalities in the country. This is where the Maute brothers grew up and spent their childhood.

It is also where the Mautes first made their name.

The terrorist group led by the Maute brothers, who by then had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), first attacked the town in February 2016, leaving 3 soldiers and around 20 terrorists killed. The military regained control of the group's camp and declared victory over the terrorists.

In November 2016, the Maute Group attacked the town again, and held it for 3 days, during which, they raised the black ISIS flag in the town hall. All 17,000 residents evacuated to neighboring towns, but the military again repulsed the invasion.

These 2 major battles left the town in shambles, the schools and mosques destroyed, and families displaced. What did not destroy the Maute Group only made them stronger. They went into hiding and resurfaced only in May 2017 this time to take Marawi City.

The 2-storey home of the Maute family in Butig, with its shell completely damaged, is left with its concrete facade standing. This is where Cayamora and Farhanna raised the Maute brothers. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Watch "Di Ka Pasisiil," an ABS-CBN documentary on the Marawi siege on Sunday, 3:30pm on ABS-CBN

Bello assures NDFP consultants will not be rearrested

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 13): Bello assures NDFP consultants will not be rearrested

Freed consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may not be rearrested because the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) is still in effect, government (GRP) chief peace negotiator Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III said.

Secretay Silvestre Bello III (Credits: Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN file photo)
This amid the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to freed NDFP consultants that they “have to surrender or – we will hunt them down.”

Bello said in an interview with reporters here that unless the talks are officially terminated, the JASIG remains to be in full force and effect.

This JASIG guarantees immunity from “surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations. The immunity guarantees shall cover all acts and utterances made in the course of and pursuant to the purposes of the peace negotiations.”

The GRP chief negotiator added no written notice of termination has been submitted, which notice will take effect after 30 days upon receipt by their NDFP counterparts.

Bello said they are still waiting for instructions from President Rodrigo R. Duterte on the next steps after he called the communists “enemies of the state” during his second State of the National Address (SONA) last July 24.

He said there is no sign that Duterte would change his stance on the peace talks with the communists.

“You heard the President. There is no more peace talk. He has already made his point very clear. He said, ‘no more talks with CPP-NPA-NDF,’ “he said.

Duterte told reporters covering the first day of the two-day Davao Investment Conference on July 21 that since he is no longer pursuing the talks with the NDFP, their freed consultants must “surrender or – we will hunt them down.”

“No, I’m sorry please do not resist because magkagulo tayo niyan (we will be in trouble) if you resist with the firearm or with the violence there. Do not resist, surrender because ang usapan natin i-release kayo conditionally. So that you can participate in the talks and make it successful because your presence is needed,” he said this two days after the July 19 alleged ambush of his presidential guards along the Bukidnon-Davao Road by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Bello added they remain optimistic that they would still return to the peace table hopefully soon but, for now, he said, “the talks are in limbo.”

He added they had been through even worse situations in the past.

“We had worse scenarios before, during the time of former President (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo, terminated ang talks. In other words, our panel went through worse situations, even during (President Fidel) Ramos, nagkaroon ng ganun (we had similar) scenario, pinagalitan ng Presidente (we were scolded by the President) clearly, I can remember his word, ‘sino nagsabi sa inyo na iterminate ang (Who told you to terminate the) talks? I authorize you to talk, not to terminate the talks,” he said.

A joint statement of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad and Save Our Schools Network dated last July 22, said the “lumad will lose their lives, homes, schools, their ancestral lands, and even their future if Duterte pushes through with the cancellation of the peace talks to give way to an all-out-war.”

“Has President Duterte lost his heart for the Lumad of Mindanao?,” it said.

The militant groups said they considered Duterte as an ally when he was mayor in Davao, and were grateful to him that he listened to our appeals to withdraw military and paramilitary elements in our school and communities, and how he helped facilitate our safe return to our homes.

“Now, his all-out-war, martial law extension, and recent pronouncements have alarmed us. In a time of conflict, such declarations that further incite war will put the whole country, especially Mindanao, in a disastrous path,” it said.

It said the groups claimed violations against the rights of the indigenous people have worsened while noting that 20 incidents of attacks were made against schools allegedly by the military.

“Teachers and parents were illegally detained, others have barely survived murder attempts from paramilitary troops, and nearly 800 students and teachers were forced to leave their communities,” it added.

It said the militants “are disheartened with his recent stance of only looking at the loss of soldiers from his side. What about us Lumads, Moro and peasants who have lost many of our leaders and members in the course of the all-out war and continuing plunder of our lands?”

P100-M worth of medical equipment already donated to AFP hospitals, Ubial says

From GMA News  (Aug 14): P100-M worth of medical equipment already donated to AFP hospitals, Ubial says

The Department of Health (DOH) has already donated more than P100-million worth of equipment to military hospitals across the country, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said on Monday.

This, as the department awaits for the procured medical equipment to be delivered to the hospitals for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

During the House budget briefing for the department, Ubial disclosed that the medical equipment they donated to AFP hospitals came from Department of Health hospitals.

"We actually donated several equipment of the DOH hospitals to selected AFP hospitals across the country," Ubial said.

"That's over P100 million worth of direct donations to the AFP hospitals," she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte had previously warned of replacing Ubial as health secretary if she would fail to procure the medical equipment needed for the military as soon as possible.

During his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte even said that a coup d'etat or mutiny is possible if medical equipment for military hospitals have not been delivered.

"If this is the way how you treat our soldiers, and they are dying now, and that machine was ordered a year ago, then [a] coup d'etat ... a mutiny is not a surprise," he said.

Ubial, however, said that they are already fast-tracking the procurement of the medical equipment.

"We have networked with the AFP to fast-track this particular procurement and it is now on post-qualification," she said.

"We actually networked with them to assist them in the fast-tracking of the procurement," she added.

Army verifying Maute reinforcements in Marawi

ABS-CBN (Aug 14): Army verifying Maute reinforcements in Marawi

Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) refuel their boat on one of the wharfs on lake Lanao as clashes are ongoing in Marawi on Tuesday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The military on Monday said it is verifying reports that some 10 fighters of the Islamic State-linked Maute group have snuck into Marawi City to reinforce comrades battling state forces.

"Hindi naman po natin batid kung talagang nangyari ito kaya sinisikap na makumpirma ito," Armed Force spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told DZMM.

ABS-CBN News sources earlier said Maute reinforcements took advantage of heavy rains to creep into the battle zone, entering Marawi via Lanao Lake at nighttime, and landing in an area in adjacent Marantao town.

Padilla said the government has implemented a "fishing lockdown" in the 340-square kilometer Lanao Lake to thwart the possible entry of extremists. Fishing in the area is prohibited from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.
About 40 extremists are still holed up in Marawi, over 2 months after they attacked the city on March 23 and prompted a declaration of martial law over the entire Mindanao, Padilla said.

The terrorists, he added, hold 80 to 100 captives, including Fr. Chito Suganob, who was recently sighted by several rescued hostages.

The battle for Marawi has killed at least 562 extremists, 45 civilians and 128 state troops, said Padilla.

Opinion: Terror on the seas

Opinion piece in the The New Straits Times (Aug 14): Terror on the seas (By Andrin Raj)

THE Sea Lanes of Communication, or the maritime milieu, has been referred to as “ground zero” of the asymmetric security threats, such as piracy, terrorism and organised crime.

The low intensity of maritime operation capabilities of asymmetric non-state actors has emerged over the years and has created a platform for maritime security threats.

Historically, maritime terrorism is rare and it constituted about three per cent of international security threats over the past decades.

The reason is that operations at sea require specialist skills, equipment and resources. These issues constrain terrorists tactically and, hence, prevent them from carrying out operations at sea.

However, there is indication that terrorist groups are setting their focus on vulnerable targets at sea and port areas. There is a growing concern, although fixed land targets have offered higher visibility and greater ease of success globally. Over the years, terrorist groups have been aware of the vulnerability of the maritime domain and the shipping and maritime infrastructure.

How then does maritime terrorism play a role in transnational security threats? Maritime terrorism has not been linked to piracy as transnational threats are usually considered “criminal” in the eyes of the law.

These international criminal activities, however, could be used to fund and finance terrorism. The overlapping nature is misunderstood by the international community. For example, the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines has a credible maritime capability.

Abu Sayyaf has a long history of maritime tradition and we have seen its operations taking place in Southeast Asia, from hijacking, kidnappings, human trafficking to the smuggling of illicit goods and weapons.

Abu Sayyaf operates on two accounts: one as a terrorist organisation and the other as an economic force multiplier.

The “kidnap-for-ransom” strategy employed over the years, the many hijackings of vessels and the Marawi siege are evidence of its terrorist modus operandi.

Abu Sayyaf has been the only terrorist group in the region to actually hijack vessels in Southeast Asia and has vast operational expertise.

Terrorist operations require huge amounts of money and, as such, by following the trail of transnational criminal activities, it may lead us to the terrorists themselves.

Al-Qaeda has been involved in the drug smuggling in Southeast Asia as it depends on the illicit weapons deal in the Sulu arms trade, money laundering and the sale of blood diamonds from Africa.

So, how is maritime piracy associated with transnational threats?

Piracy overlays seamlessly into the criminal activity of organised crime. The maritime domain provides much exploitation and ripe opportunities for piracy and transnational activities. Although maritime terrorism and transnational activities do not seem to justify their means, piracy does.

Piracy as the organised crime has been operational for decades.

The Liberation Tamil Tigers of Elam was operating a fleet of cargo carrying weapons from the east to the west, passing unnoticed through the Straits of Malacca. The exploitation of maritime laws and secrecy using flags of convenience allowed the crimes to flourish.

These and other criminal activities have seen millions of dollars of cargo, kidnappings and phantom ships used for transnational crimes, such as drug and human trafficking, go beyond the eyes of security agencies in ports.

This kind of piracy goes beyond the regular piracy of muggings and robberies at sea. They are usually the small fries that make small headlines and not the real security threats that run beyond the radar.

It is imperative that by analysing the two, one can determine that high-end piracy and terrorism are associated with crime syndicates. With this, we can streamline that the links between terrorism and piracy are very well groomed together and they create a self-mechanism for a support-structure system. Drug trafficking has overtaken the less lucrative smuggling and, therefore, piracy will be a venture for international terrorist groups to work with.

If piracy remains another transnational threat, it will continue to get the same attention as other transnational crimes get, or until another 9/11 takes place.

Will this be too late for measures to be taken?

The global maritime domain is vulnerable. The international community must address calls for continued collaborative action against transnational security crimes.

Oceans are beyond sovereign control, as such, the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea continue to be vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The complicity of the state actors in addressing transnational threats is ineffective and surveillance of these threats is minimal. Conditions now lead to more adroit exploitations of the maritime environment.

The growth of off-shore industries and the increase of resources have shifted to the waters, making them targets of maritime threats from terrorism.

Maritime attacks offer alternative means to terrorist groups. These can lead to large-scale economic destabilisation, mass casualties and environmental damage.

These groups have also infiltrated the governments of some states into selling their sove-reignty so as to create state of convenience for themselves. Corruption is no longer simply greasing the wheels of commerce. It has become more dangerous when mixed with terrorism, piracy and transnational crimes. The threat is so real that it rules some states.

Corruption also facilitates the entry into the financial sector, where some states may depend on dirty money and, thus, the chain becomes harder to curtail.

Where do we go from here? There are preventive measures that have been in place but are they relevant to the threats posed by transnational groups in support of terrorism and piracy?

With the implementing measures to secure the waters, the essential tool for governments is to degrade the land capabilities of these groups.

The biblical cord at sea has a strong bond with the facilities on land or events at shore. These threats to the maritime domain must be curtailed and focused on land where it all begins. Counter measures need to be addressed on land instead at sea. The reliance on corrupt officials and the ability to launder the proceeds are therefore their vulnerabilities. Terrorists, pirates and transnational criminal groups need a place to live and they have found weak states to solicit their business and operations.

[Andrin Raj is the Southeast Asia regional director for the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professional-Centre for Security Studies, Kuala Lumpur, and is also a national security and counterterrorism expert.]

MILF clashes against jihadist BIFF faction continue

From the Philippine Star (Aug 14): MILF clashes against jihadist BIFF faction continue

Two factions in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are worried they will be targeted in operations against a third BIFF splinter group.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has a peace agreement with the government, has been fighting a militant BIFF bloc in three southern towns in Maguindanao in recent weeks. The operations are in support of the government's war on terror.
The recurring encounters between MILF guerrillas under Task Force Ittihad and the radical BIFF group led by Esmael Abdulmalik, which is inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has already exacted more than a dozen fatalities on both sides.
Army units near the scenes of the MILF-BIFF encounters in Maguindanao’s adjoining Salibo, Sharif Saidona and Datu Piang towns have been firing artillery at Abdulmalik's followers each time they try to get close to populated areas.
Abdulmalik started as a commander in the BIFF while still a monolithic jihadist group, but broke away early this year and established his own ISIS-inspired faction.
The two larger BIFF factions, one led by Imam Karialan and the other by Imam Bongos, had hastily issued separate statements urging for an end to the hostilities between Abdulmalik’s group and pursuing MILF forces.
The groups of Imam Karialan and Imam Bongos also announced they will avoid undue encounters with the MILF as long as they can.
BIFF insiders told reporters the statements from both groups were released to forestall possible attacks by the MILF.
“These two factions are worried now of being targeted next by the MILF,” said a source, who is related by blood to the late BIFF founder Imam Ameril Ombra Kato.
The MILF and the government are bound by a 1997 accord, the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, to cooperate against criminal gangs and terrorists in conflict flashpoint areas in Mindanao.
The BIFF faction under Imam Bongos even invoked the plight of innocent civilians displaced by figthing between Abdulmalik’s group and the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad to argue for an end to hostilities.

“So many civilians are now affected by these hostilities,” the spokesman of Imam Bongos, Abu Misry Mama, said in Filipino as he appealed for a ceasefire.
Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said last week that they will do their best to immediately contain Abdulmalik and his followers to prevent them from recruiting more members.
MILF coordinates with military, police
The groups of Imam Bongos and Imam Karialan could be the next targets of the MILF, according to local officials in towns affected by the fighting..
Followers of Imam Bongos attacked on Monday morning soldiers patrolling in a remote barangay in Mamasapano, Maguindanao to divert the attention of military units providing artillery support to Task Force Ittihad.
Mamasapano is a short distance from Maguindanao’s Sharif Saidona town, a stronghold of the BIFF faction led by Abdulmalik, a former henchman of the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan.
Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, commanding officer of the Army’s 6th Civil Military Operations Battalion, said he received reports on Monday that MILF guerillas are now trying to surround the barangay where Abdulmalik is holding out.
Local officials in Midsayap town in North Cotabato told The STAR on Monday that 10 trucks of MILF guerrillas from their main enclave, Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao, passed by the municipality last weekend en route to Sharif Saidona to reinforce companions fighting BIFF gunmen there.
“The sight of heavily-armed MILF men on board trucks passing by alarmed some residents in Midsayap but they calmed down when they learned that the movement was coordinated with the police, the military and the local government unit,” a town official said.
Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said on Monday that municipal police stations are now guarding against diversionary attacks by the BIFF.
Army bomb experts promptly disarmed on Sunday a powerful improvised explosive device that BIFF bandits planted along a farm-to-market road at the border of Barangays Kuloy and Tapikan in Sharif Aguak, Maguindanao.
Tello said the IED was found by villagers passing by, enabling government ordnance experts to immediately deactivate its blasting mechanism.

LOOK: 2 teenager NPAs surrender with rifles

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): LOOK: 2 teenager NPAs surrender with rifles

Two eighteen-year-old NPA members on August 12 surrendered to the joint elements of the Charlie Company of 60th Infantry Battalion and the Delta Company, 72nd Infantry Battalion in Laak, Compostela Valley Province.

The two young rebels of Brgy. Melali, Laak, Compostela Valley voluntarily surrendered with their rifles with the help of the local tribal chieftains who are also CAFGU Active Auxiliaries, the 60th Infantry “Mediator” Battalion (60IB) said.

“Nicky and Pido are both new recruits, having entered the NPA only last August 1, 2017. The NPA, however, have been utilizing Nicky as a supply errand boy since 2016,” 60IB said.

60IB said the two decided to surrender after encountering hardships in their two weeks of operating in the hinterlands and evading military troops.

The two said they were mistreated by other members because they were new recruits. They said other NPA members were jealous because they were immediately issued with rifles amid lack of proper training.

“But we were already lacking members; that’s why we were already given our guns,” Nicky said using local dialect.

“Our campaign to end the criminal acts of the NPA shall continue and will only intensify as we reach the point of success. This has been our mandate ever since and it is now even more emphasized in this time of Martial Law. These surrenders are proof that our efforts are gaining momentum and, for as far as our legal orders can cover, we do not intend to stop,” 60IB Commander Lt. Col. Emmanuel Canilla said.

468 Youth formally enter Air Force training

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): 468 Youth formally enter Air Force training

468 Candidate Soldiers who are part of Class of 2017 Charlie formally entered the Philippine Air Force Air Education and Doctrine Command (AETDC) through the Basic Military Training School (BMTS) on August 8.
The Candidate Soldiers were received at the hallowed grounds of AETDC, Fernando Air Base, Lipa City, Batangas.

“The BMT Class 2017 Charlie is programmed to undergo training in a span of four (4) Months,” AETDC said.

AETDC photo

“During their stay, the CS will be subjected to a series of rigorous training which will surely test not only their physical abilities, mental toughness but also their emotional responses as well,” AETDC said. “The set of training programs will definitely transform each individual to solely obtain the basic knowledge with an immovable attitude that is required in serving the Military.”

They will also be indoctrinated with the essential PAF core values of InSTEP which stands for Integrity, Service above self, Teamwork, Excellence and Professionalism.

LOOK: First ever training of PH Marines in US base

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): LOOK: First ever training of PH Marines in US base

The United States Embassy in Manila today reported the joint training conducted by personnel from Assault Armor Battalion of Philippine Marines and Combat Assault Battalion of US Marines 3rd Marine Division held July 11 to 26 at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan.

Filipino and American Marines joint training was first reported late July.

The training involved utilization of Amphibious Assault Vehicles. This is the first time members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines trained on a US military base.

US Embassy photo
“During this training, Philippine Marines learned different amphibious skills such as hand signaling, egress training, and water operations. They also familiarized themselves with maintenance procedures, logistical planning, and facility capabilities,” the US Embassy said.

“This training benefits both forces moving forward as they continue to work together during exercises such as Kamandag this October to bolster Philippine amphibious capability and combined security operations,” the embassy added.

US Embassy photo
In April 2016, it was reported that Hanwha Techwin, previously Samsung Techwin, was declared as the winning bidder for the Department of National Defense’s Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) acquisition project.

8 AAVs are expected to be delivered in 2018. These assault vehicles can be housed and deployed at sea by Philippine Navy’s two Tarlac-class landing platform docks.

‘Attacks in answer to gov't all-out war'

From  the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 14): ‘Attacks in answer to gov't all-out war'

The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People's Army in central Negros claimed that its series of military actions against “legitimate targets” was in answer to the “all-out war” declared by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ka JB Regalado, in a statement posted at the Leonardo Panaligan Command website, has claimed that 12 police and military personnel were killed in their month-long military action in Negros Oriental on July 21.

He cited what he described as a successful ambush in Guihulgan City, where they had killed six policemen and an alleged military asset, and recovered 17 firearms, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and four cellular phones.

He again justified the ambush of policemen, stressing that they are legitimate targets of the NPA.

They also claimed responsibility for the liquidation of former Army Sgt. Ronnie Montejo in Canlaon City, also in Negros Oriental, and the recovery of a 45 caliber pistol with a magazine containing ammunition on June 20.

On June 30, they also claimed to have killed four soldiers in Brgy. Binubuhan, Guihulngan City, in an encounter with the 79th Infantry Battalion. But the claim was dismissed by the 303rd Infantry Brigade as mere propaganda, and a product of the NPA's fertile imagination.

The ambush of policemen in Guihulngan has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte, who personally condoled with the families of slain and wounded policemen and gave them immediate financial assistance and medals, to order an aggressive operations against the NPA in Negros Island.

Intel improvement, other lessons learned in ongoing Marawi tiff

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Intel improvement, other lessons learned in ongoing Marawi tiff

Enhancing the country’s intelligence gathering capabilities, among others, is one of the key improvements that has to be done by by defense and military as fighting in besieged Marawi City reaches its 83rd day Monday.

“The Marawi incident (which erupted last May 23) taught us a lot of lessons. First, we have to re-study and improve our intelligence capability,” Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said over the weekend, as he welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to seek and increase intelligence funds by 2018.

“We are going to present our budget, and we’re going to ask our Congress to increase our intelligence budget,” he said.

If granted, the DND would spend some of the money to acquire CCTVs which can be installed at point-of-entries, drones that could take pictures day and night, and facial recognition systems which would allow the country to develop a database of “bad people,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said the military needs more training in urban warfare, citing difficulties in neutralizing Maute Group terrorists who opted to entrench themselves in houses and buildings.

“We are looking into this (matter), we will do this, definitely. In fact, we have several offers from different countries (to train our soldiers) in urban warfare,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana also sees the need for a stronger reserve force to back up the regular units in their security and other roles.

“We should also have a stronger reserve force that is well-trained, adequately equipped and mission-ready,” he added.

He also called on the public to be more vigilant and report suspicious-looking acts or individuals in their communities.

58 accused Maute recruits submit counter-affidavits vs rebellion raps

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): 58 accused Maute recruits submit counter-affidavits vs rebellion raps

Some 58 suspected Maute group recruits who were arrested in Zamboanga City submitted their counter-affidavits against the rebellion charges filed against them during the preliminary investigation before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.

During the hearing, the suspects were presented by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) before the panel of prosecutors chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong.

The hearing was mostly conducted in Tausug dialect, since some of those arrested said that they cannot understand Tagalog.

The suspects filed their counter-affidavits, also written in the vernacular, before the panel of prosecutors.

They tagged Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) member Nur Supian as their recruiter. 

After the respondents have sworn in their counter-affidavits, parts were read by the prosecutors where the respondents asked the DOJ to dismiss the complaints. They also claimed that they were duped into joining the army, but were instead said to have joined the Maute terrorist group.

However, Supian denied the accusations and he was tasked by prosecutors to submit his counter-affidavit on Friday represented by his lawyer.

The panel of prosecutors decided that they will submit the charges for resolution even if Supian does not submit his counter-affidavit on Friday.

After the hearing, they were brought back to the Special Intensive Care Area of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City escorted by Philippine Army and PNP-SWAT.

Of the 59, Supian and 32 other suspects were arrested by the police and military manning a check point in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay while the remaining 27, of which four were minors, were arrested along Daisy Road in Guiwan, Zamboanga City. They were all arrested last July 25.

Authorities seized from the suspects military uniforms, boots and MNLF identification cards.

Earlier, the Supreme Court (SC) has granted the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II to move the trial away from Cagayan de Oro City -- currently under martial law -- citing threats to the prosecutors' lives.

Once the case reaches court trial, it will be handled by the Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) following the SC's order.

Palace slams alleged Maute plot to use hostages as suicide bombers

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Palace slams alleged Maute plot to use hostages as suicide bombers

Malacañang on Monday condemned the alleged plans of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group to use civilian hostages as suicide bombers if cornered by state forces.

“We have been receiving accounts from hostages who were able to escape from the Maute rebels in Marawi that the enemies would be using using hostages as suicide bombers once they were cornered by government troops,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said at a Palace briefing.

“We strongly denounce these desperate actions which apparently are carefully calculated to create a violent reaction from the general populace in order to create tension between ethnic groups, which the terrorist groups expect to work in favor of their cause,” Abella said.

Three escaped hostages had earlier told authorities about the group's plan.

Romar Marjalino, his brother Roel, and Jimmy Esperat said the terrorists are planning to strap explosives to their hostages before freeing them.

With this development, Abella said ensuring the safety of hostages is of paramount importance.

“We, however, assure our people that government forces will continue to abide by the rules of engagement to ensure the safety of hostages particularly women and children in our drive to clear Marawi of all armed elements,” Abella said.

“No less than the Commander-in-Chief has given this primordial consideration and guidance to our troops,” Abella said.

The Marawi City rebellion on Monday entered its 84th day.

Official reports showed that 562 extremists have been killed in the almost three months of fighting.

On the other hand, 128 security forces have been reported killed in action.

According to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Brig. Gen Restituto Padilla Jr., the remaining Maute fighters are now trapped in parts of two villages in the city that is less than a square kilometer in area.

He said the number of enemy forces is also getting smaller but the complexity of the battle environment -- which encompasses well-built buildings in the heart of the city’s business district -- makes it harder to move.

He added that while ground commanders estimate that there are less than 40 fighters remaining, their ability to inflict harm on security forces remains.

“Their capacity to inflict harm is still there because they still have arms, they still have adequate ammunition and they still continue to hold hostages. So that’s the compounding factor,” the AFP official said.

However, he assured that government forces are doing everything to secure the lives of the remaining hostages.

“The only thing that we’re really seeking to do is to be able to rescue them safe and sound, alive, at the conclusion of this fighting. And we’re doing that,” Padilla said.

AFP: Ranking terror leaders still trapped in Marawi City

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): AFP: Ranking terror leaders still trapped in Marawi City

Three ranking terrorists leaders, who plotted the attack against Marawi City, are still in the locality, the military said Monday.

This was confirmed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, who said that latest monitoring indicated that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, and Omar and Abdullah Maute, the alleged leaders of the Maute Group terrorists, are still inside the city.

"Yes for the record, our monitoring shows that they are still in Marawi City. This can be considered a piece of good news as the people who instigated the fighting and the subsequent destruction are still inside and we hope that we will be able to neutralize them (soon)," he said in Filipino.

But Arevalo declined to comment on where these terrorist leaders are right now for security and operational reasons.

As of this posting, killed Maute Group elements are placed at 562 along with 128 troops while 45 civilians were executed. Firearms recovered were estimated at 619 along with 11 improvised explosive devices, while 1,728 civilians were rescued from the hands of the enemy.

Abu Sayyaf leader killed in clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Abu Sayyaf leader killed in clash

An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader , described as a well-experienced navigator, was killed in an encounter with government troops in Sulu, military officials said Monday.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, identified the slain ASG sub-leader as Salvador Muktadil alias Badong, who was a well-experienced speedboat operator.

Sobejana said the troops killed Muktadil in a heavy gunfight at around 1:10 a.m. Sunday in Silangkan, Parang, Sulu.

Sobejana said Muktadil had an arrest warrant for kidnapping and serious illegal detention and nine-count murder.

He said the ASG usually tapped the services of Muktadil in the execution of high profile and cross-border kidnappings.

“Badong is well-experienced in operating speedboats utilized by the Abu Sayyaf as getaway vehicle n executing kidnapping ploy,” he said.

“His death rendered high seas kidnappings, particularly in Tawi-Tawi and Sabah, suppressed,” he added.

He said Muktadil was involved in the kidnappings of Yahong Lim in Sempornah, Sabah; Evelyn Chang of Tawau, Sabah; and, Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

He said the remains of Muktadil was brought to Camp General Teodulfo Bautista Trauma Hospital in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu for proper procedure.

Muktadil was a sub-leader operating in Sabah, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga City, and Zamboanga Sibugay.

“His neutralization was a result of the maximized intelligence operations of our troops and the cooperation and support of the local leaders and folks,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief.

“I commend the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu led by their Commander Brigadier General Sobejana for this recent accomplishment,” Galvez added.

Bataan police holds anti-terrorism exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Bataan police holds anti-terrorism exercise

Members of the Police Public Safety Company (PPSC), Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT), Bomb Squad and the Abucay police conducted Sunday an anti-terrorism simulation exercise as part of the preparation strategy to combat terrorism and other criminal groups.

"This is part of the continuing drill on the preparedness of the police station against the possible attack of any criminal group," explained Police Inspector Eric Manuel, Abucay deputy police chief.

SPO2 Roy Castillo of the PPSC briefed the participants before the drill.

During the simulation exercise, five local terrorists "died" as they tried to "attack" the police station here.

On board a car, the armed men, one in police uniform, approached the closed front gate of the police station and told police officers they were there on inspection.

Police officers on duty asked for a “password” but instead, the armed men opened fire.

Two police officers bravely stood their ground and fired back, hitting one of the terrorists. By this time, the deputy police chief already called for reinforcement.

Another terrorist aimed to throw a hand grenade but was also slain.

Three remaining armed men then escaped on board their car but in a checkpoint put up by responding government troops a few meters before the Roman Superhighway, they were flagged down.

The armed men, instead of surrendering, fought back but in the process were slain by the more superior lawmen.

The Abucay deputy police chief said the exercise is regularly being held in all police stations in the province as per directive of Police Senior Supt. Benjamin Silo, Jr., Bataan police director.

Stricter security measures for 32nd Kadayawan Fest

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Stricter security measures for 32nd Kadayawan Fest

 Police Poster

A Davao City Police Office (DCPO) poster on Community Awareness during the Kadayawan Festival.  (Photo courtesy of DCPO PIO)

The Davao City Police Office (DCPO) and the Task Force Davao iare implementing stricter security measures in Davao City as the week-long activities for the celebration of Kadayawan Festival opens at 4 p.m. Monday.

City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio leads the opening ceremonies at Magsaysay Park.

Task Force Davao Chief Col. Bernard Neri said the security plan for the 32nd Kadayawan Festival has been in place in the past week and it is only a matter of implementing measures to ensure a safe celebration and secure the public. More police and security forces with the support of the other units, Cafgus and reservists will be seen on streets.

The Davao City Police Office (DCPO) already released posters on the do’s and don’ts whenever the public go to event venues. The public is asked to observe security measures to be implemented during the duration of the festival.

People going to converging points are not allowed to bring backpacks, cola drinks in bottle and canisters, bottled water, firearms, and other bladed or sharp weapons.

Duterte-Carpio had earlier ordered security forces to harden security preparation for the Kadayawan more than what is currently implemented in the city.

The city mayor wanted an “over preparation”. This means, “prepare more than the standard preparation for the Kadayawan, to excess all possible means for the security of Davao City,” she said.

She said the security forces cannot just simply prepare for the Kadayawan celebration, but to prepare more than their usual procedure to ensure a safe celebration of the Kadayawan Festival.

Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) chief Benito De Leon said an estimated 17,000 personnel will be deployed in the entire city to implement security measures.

He added the security forces will implement stop and frisk procedure to ensure that no person will carry bladed weapons, explosives, and firearms especially inside venues of the events.

De Leon said the security forces may conduct warrantless searches through stop and frisk procedure following the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, De Leon said.

While the Kadayawan Festival is officially celebrated from August 14 to 20, City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO) Chief Generose Tecson said Kadayawan-related events will still continue the whole month of August. Last Friday, the Kadayawan Dragon Boat Festival was held at Sta. Wharf.

This year’s events include the Kadayawan Village and Bantawan (Cultural Show); Hiyas ng Kadayawan Talent Competition on August 15; Habi Kadayawan (Fashion Competition) on August 17; Kaondayawan (Food and Music) on August 17; Tribal Games, mugan Kadayawan, river float parade, Doodle Competition, Hiyas ng kadayawan (finals) on August 18; Indak-Indak sa Kadayawan on August 19; and the Floral float parade on August 20.

Tecson said the city government and the executive committee have not invited guests or politicians to grace events but everybody is welcome to celebrate the Festival with the Davaoenos. She said the city is still expecting many visitors during the Kadayawan.

Remaining Zamboangueño hostage escapes from Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Remaining Zamboangueño hostage escapes from Abu Sayyaf

Zamboangueño construction worker Edmundo Ramos (left) on Monday chats with his co-workers Filemon Guerrero Jr and Jason Vailoces while his daughter sits on his lap. Troops safely recovered Ramos on Monday after he escaped from th Abu Sayyaf captivity. (Remus Ong/PNA)

Government forces have safely recovered the remaining Zamboangueño construction worker seized by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu, a top military official said Monday.

Recovered by Navy forces was Edmundo “Moymoy” Ramos, a resident of Barangay Tumaga, this city.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, said Ramos was recovered around 1 a.m. Monday at the vicinity of Tapiantana Island in the municipality of Tabuan Lasa, Basilan province.

Ramos said he was taken to Tapiantana Island by a “concerned civilian” whom he sought help after his escape on Sunday from the custody of the ASG.

Ramos said he immediately revealed that he just escaped from captivity when the Navy personnel intercepted them Monday upon disembarking from a motorized banca in Tapiantana Island.

Medina said Ramos was recovered by Joint Task Force Basilan through Naval Task Group Basilan, Naval Task Force 61, and Naval Intelligence Security Group Western Mindanao (NISGWM).

He said the injured Ramos was immediately taken to the hospital at Adm. Espaldon Naval Base that houses the NFWM headquarters.

Ramos was among the five Zamboangueño construction workers the ASG has kidnapped while they were asleep in their barracks at the Provincial Sports Complex on July 15 in 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 other three namely Jason Vailoces, Joel Adanza, and Filemon Guerrero Jr. have escaped in the after of Thursday, August 10, and were safely recovered around 9 a.m. Friday, August 11, in Barangay Kagay, Talipao, Sulu.

Medina turned over Ramos on Monday to Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and consequently to his family.

25 killed in MILF-BIFF clashes in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): 25 killed in MILF-BIFF clashes in Maguindanao


CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao –- The Army’s 6th Infantry Division based here reported Monday clashes between Moro armed men wo have pledged allegiance to ISIS and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) already claimed the lives of 25 people.

Army Colonel Gerry Besana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division Civil Military Operations, said 20 of the fatalities belong to joint forces of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Jamaatul Mujajideen Wal Ansar under Commander Esmail Abdulmalik alias Abu Torayme.

Five MILF fighters under the 108th base command were also killed. Ten MILF were injured, three of whom are in critical condition getting medical treatment at an Army hospital here.

He said fighting erupted August 7 in Barangay Tee and Andavit, both of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao when the BIFF tried to enter an MILF identified area in the village of Tee.

The Army based the number of casualties on the report by GPH-MILF ceasefire monitoring units in Maguindanao.

The Army has been providing artillery support to the MILF against the ISIS inspired group.

As this developed, civilians have fled to safer grounds and are being attended to by local disaster offices in the affected towns of Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, and Datu Piang.

Two other factions of the BIFF, the Karialan and Abdulhaman Bungos have issued separate appeals to both the BIFF and the MILF to cease fighting.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF Bungos faction, said the fighting has affecting civilians who have been displaced by what he described as “nonsense armed struggle.”

“It is not correct when Muslim mujahiddens (freedom fighters) fight each other,” he said. An MILF official who asked not to be named said a “rido” (clan war) is now in effect between the BIFF and MILF.

DWDD: Battle-Hardened Soldiers Recognized, to Receive P1 Million Each

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 14): 3 Battle-Hardened Soldiers Recognized, to Receive P1 Million Each

CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – Three seasoned warriors who fought local terrorists in Mindanao were presented as this year’s “The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers” (TOPS) in a ceremony held today, 14 August 2017 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters Building.

“Our awardees are all battle-tested soldiers who are deployed in the most conflict-affected and challenging areas of our country. But more than being warriors, they have personified our AFP mandate of being genuine catalysts of peace, progress, and development,” General Eduardo Año, AFP Chief of Staff said.

Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Suderio, Lieutenant Colonel Ricky Bunayog, and Staff Sergeant Narding Pascual will be honored during Metrobank’s 55th Anniversary in September. They will each receive P1 Million cash incentive, a gold medallion, and a trophy from the Metrobank Foundation, Inc.

The three awardees were chosen for rendering service beyond the call of duty, and for inspiring and influencing their comrades and the people in their respective communities. All three members of the Philippine Army were selected from around 40 nominations from the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

Lt. Col. Suderio is presently the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, of the 1st Infantry Division in Zamboanga Del Sur and concurrently as the Operations Officer of Joint Task Force Marawi.

Known as Basilan’s Soldier-Trailblazer, Lt. Col. Suderio formerly commanded the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion in a series of armed operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan from 2015 to 2017. These resulted in the neutralization of highly-wanted terrorists and capture of numerous enemy strongholds.

Lt. Col. Bunayog is the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao. Dubbed as Central Mindanao’s Warrior-Peacekeeper, he facilitated hundreds of combat operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other lawless armed groups. These operations resulted in the neutralization of high-value criminals and the recovery of various war materials and ammunitions.

SSg Pascual hailed as CARAGA’s Lumad Hero is currently deployed with the 26th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division in San Nicolas, Agusan Del Sur. As a squad leader, he spearheaded a number of successful armed operations against the CNN (CPP-NPA-NDF) rebel units aimed to bring peace and order in the Banwaon Communities.

This year’s winners of the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos were selected from a large pool of candidates from the military, police, and the academe. Other awardees are three members of the Philippine National Police and four civilians.

“The AFP expresses its gratitude to Metrobank Foundation Inc. headed by Mr. Aniceto Sobrepeña, and the Rotary Club of Makati-Metro led by Mr. Johnny Sy. We are always honored and grateful to have partners in advancement, especially through force motivation and capacity-building in the Armed Forces,” General Año said.

DWDD: SCHEDULE | Army Recruitment Office – Mindanao – PA Qualifying Exams

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 14): SCHEDULE  |  Army Recruitment Office – Mindanao – PA Qualifying Exams


FORT ANDRES BONIFACIO, Taguig City (DWDD) The Army Recruitment Office for Mindanao will administer the pre-entry examinations for qualified applicants of Officer Preparatory Course (OPC), Officer Candidate Course (OCC) and Candidate Soldier Course (CSC). An information and recruitment drives will also be conducted prior to the scheduled examinations.

Indicated below are the Dates and Venues of the qualifying exams:
         Recruitment/Information Drive
17-18 August 2017AFPSATH1ID, PA Pulacan, Labangan, ZDS
19 August 2017AFPSATH102Bde, Sanito, Ipil, ZSP.
Qualifications are the following:

For the Candidate Soldier
  1. 72 units in college
  2. If High School graduate only, must possess a certified skill needed in the military service
  3. 18 – 26 years old
  4. Single
  5. Minimum height is 5 feet
  6. Physically and Mentally Fit
  7. No pending case in any court
Philippine Army Officer Candidate Course:
  1. 21 -29 years old upon admission (no age waiver)
  2. Enlisted Personnel who have not yet completed one (1) term can now apply
  3. Graduate of any 4- year college course
  4. Single and never been married, never borne or sired a child
  5. Minimum height is 5 feet (152.4cm) both male and female but not more than 6’4” ft. (193.04)
  6. Filipino
  7. Physically and Mentally Fit
Philippine Army Officer Preparatory Course:
  1. 21-31 yrs. old
  2. MS43 graduate (Advance ROTC grad)
  3. Graduate of any 4- year college course
  4. Single
  5. Filipino
  6. Minimum height is 5 feet
  7. Physically and Mentally Fit

Requirements for Taking the AFPSAT are the following:

  1. NSO Birth Certificate
  2. For college graduates, Transcript of Record or Diploma
  3. For High School Graduates, Diploma with Form 137-A
  4. Valid ID
  5. One (1) 2×2 picture
Interested applicants you may contact: Corporal Michael H Assistin at 0927-332-1077 or visit Facebook account: ARO Mindanao for more information. OACPA / MCAG

DWDD: VISIT | PA Welcomes NDC Bangladesh delegates

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 14): VISIT | PA Welcomes NDC Bangladesh delegates

Philippine Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Robert M. Arevalo (7th from the left) speaks with Rear Admiral Muhammad Anwarul Islam, Senior Directing Staff (Navy), NDC Bangladesh (6th from the left) welcoming their delegation here on, August 9, 2017.

FORT ANDRES BONIFACIO, Taguig City (DWDD) – The Philippine Army welcomes the delegates from the National Defence College, Bangladesh, here on Wednesday, August 9, 2017.

Army Chief of Staff MGen. Robert M. Arevalo, took the Commanding General’s stead in welcoming the 22 delegates comprising Bangladeshi, Indian, Nigerian, Omani, Sri Lankan, and American senior military officers, headed by Rear Admiral Muhammad Anwarul Islam, Senior Directing Staff (Navy), NDC Bangladesh.

Not being the first encounter with the NDC, the Philippine Army aims to foster good relationship with the Bangladesh Armed Forces with their Overseas Study Tour, which was the reason for their visit.

The courtesy call was followed by a briefing on the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR), and a tour at the PA Museum. OACPA / MCAG

DWDD: VISIT | US Marines Commandant Meets AFP Chief

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 14): VISIT  |  US Marines Commandant Meets AFP Chief

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps visits General Eduardo Año, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the AFP Hall of Flags in the General Headquarters Building, Thursday, 10 August 2017.

General Neller met with other senior AFP leaders to discuss current military to military partnership and support. Present in the courtesy call is Rear Admiral Narciso Vingson Jr, the Deputy Chief of Staff AFP (left), and behind General Neller is his Filipino Counterpart, MGen Emmanuel Salamat, Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps. Photo by SN1 Donald Viluan PN / PAOAFP / MCAG

DWDD: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS | Lone Philanthropist donates P1-M for every AFP KIA in Marawi City

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 14): SUPPORT OUR TROOPS  |  Lone Philanthropist donates P1-M for every AFP KIA in Marawi City

From one military spouse to another. Mrs Jean Joselyn Dioso-Año, wife of AFP Chief of Staff General Eduard Año, hands over the P1-million check to Mrs Leah Dinglasan, spouse of the late TSg Aldrin Dinglasan of the Philippine Marines who died fighting the Maute-IS group in Marawi City. Mrs Dingalasan is one of five beneficiaries who received financial aid in a Ceremonial Turnover held 09 August 2017 at the GHQ Conference Room here. (Photo by SN1 Viluan/PAOAFP)

CAMP GENERAL EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – At least P98 million have been donated for each families of soldiers Killed-in-Action (KIA) during the ongoing fight against Daesh-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office Chief Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

“The lone philanthropist donor, who wished to remain anonymous despite the large amount of financial aid, pledged and actually donated P1-million each to the kin of our brave soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting to wrest Marawi City from terrorists’ control,” Colonel Arevalo added.

From the P98 Million donation, five donees received a-million-peso check each during a ceremonial turnover presided by the AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año on 09 August 2017 at the General Headquarters Conference Room here.

A week earlier, on 02 August 2017, Gen Año handed over the same amount of check each to the families of three fallen heroes in Marawi during his visit to the Headquarters, 4th Infantry Division at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan De Oro City.

The remaining P90 Million will be turned over to the Major Services for distribution to other beneficiaries.

“What is immensely admirable with this anonymous donor, apart from his or her selflessness in giving away such an enormous sum of money, is the express continuing commitment to provide a-million-peso each to the family of soldiers who may be KIA, God forbid, in the continuing crisis in Marawi. The number of soldiers KIA has now reached 122 from 98 at the time of the pledge,” Col Arevalo said.

The donation was deposited in the account name AFP Marawi Casualty in Landbank of the Philippines. The account was opened in June for those who have expressed desire to help the families of soldiers who died in battle.

“On behalf of the AFP, our soldiers, and their families, I wish to commend the generosity of our benefactor who chose to remain anonymous despite the enormity of this gesture,” General Año said.

“This, and the countless other gestures of goodwill, sympathy, and support that we have received in this time when our resolve is being challenged manifest the true spirit of Bayanihan that is kindled in each one of us,” General Año added. PAO AFP / MCAG