Saturday, August 26, 2017

Philippines re-launches acquisition of 2 long-range patrol aircraft

From Update Philippines (Aug 26): Philippines re-launches acquisition of 2 long-range patrol aircraft

The Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) released the bidding documents for the acquisition of Philippine Air Force’s 2 long-range patrol (LRP) aircraft. Pre-bid conference will be on September 8, while bid opening will be on September 22.

This is after two failed attempts with first in August 2014, and the second was last month.

The Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) is PHP5.976 billion, with funds being sourced from AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund (Republic Act No. 10349 “Revised AFP Modernization”, singed December 2012).

The acquisition includes integrated logistics support (ILS) package, sensors, sensors integration, and mission support facilities.

Delivery of goods must be withing 1,035 calendar days after the issuance of Notice to Proceed.

PH interested to buy Russian fast-attack vessels

From Philippine Update (Aug 26): PH interested to buy Russian fast-attack vessels

The Philippines is interested to buy Russian fast-attack vessels manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern, a spokesperson of the Russian manufacturer said in a report by Russian news agency TASS.

"The Armed Forces of South Africa are considering the purchase of 12 boats of both modifications while the Philippines and Argentina want to buy 10 such vessels,” Kalashnikov spokeswoman Sofia Ivanov said.

The said vessel has two modifications which are transport/landing and assault.

According to Navy Recognition website, BK-16 has an operational range of 400 km, a maximum speed of 42 kt, a crew of two servicemen and a passenger capacity of 19 soldiers, while BK-10 has a maximum speed of 40 kt and a passenger capacity of 10 soldiers.

It added that both can be equipped with 7.62 mm machinegun, 12.7 mm heavy machinegun or 30 mm/40 mm automatic grenade launchers.

The Philippine Navy is currently operating 9 Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) with very similar specifications with the mentioned Russian fast-attack crafts.

MPAC Mark IIIs, the newest 3 MPACs of Philippine Navy, are set to be fitted with Israeli missile system.

ISIS militants, hostages escape Marawi mosque

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 27): ISIS militants, hostages escape Marawi mosque

Military photos released to the Mindanao Examiner regional newspaper show President Rodrigo Duterte speaking to soldiers in the battlefront in Marawi City.

Dozens of local ISIS militants and their hostages managed to escape undetected from a mosque they used to attack security forces in the besieged city of Marawi.

The daring escape was only discovered after troops managed to advance and eventually recaptured the mosque from militants on Thursday hours before President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Marawi. The military trumpeted the “liberation” of the mosque, but it did not say how ISIS fighters and their captives managed to escape from thousands of troops who surrounded Marawi, and spy planes and drones monitoring the siege since May 23.

The fate of the hostages, including a Catholic priest and church workers, remains unknown.

Duterte, wearing a Kevlar helmet and a bullet-proof vest, inspected troops in the battlefront and spoke to them. “The President also congratulated the troops for defending Marawi from terror elements and for successfully retaking the Islamic Center yesterday, a structure that was maintained as the Daesh-inspired terrorist group’s command and control for the longest time before it was retaken,” said Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.

It was his 3rd visit to Marawi since the fighting began when militants occupied the city in an effort to put up an Islamic province in the restive region. Security officials also briefed Duterte on the progress of the military operations against the militants.

In his talk with the soldiers, Duterte assured his full support to the military and police forces fighting ISIS. “I would like to reiterate this, I will never abandon you as long as you are doing the right thing. This would include fighting against the terrorists groups, the drug lords or the common criminals as long as you are doing your sworn duty to enforce the law and protect the republic. Let me emphasize however that you must do your job in accordance with the law,” he said.

Duterte was accompanied by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano and Army Chief Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda.

Oust Duterte

His visit to the battlefield came days after disgruntled soldiers and policemen who are members of a shadowy group called Patriotic and Democratic Movement or PADEM called for the ouster of Duterte. They accused Duterte of treating the military and police as his private armies and for betraying and violating public trust and cited 10 reasons to call for his ouster.

The group also urged Filipinos to join PADEM in condemning and fighting Duterte and his administration and to stage mass actions and demand the President’s ouster.

In a manifesto, Antonio Bonifacio, who claimed to be PADEM’s spokesman, called on members of the military and police to also join the people in demanding Duterte’s resignation and also his administration. It said the group is working for the withdrawal military and police support for Duterte.

“We urge all Filipinos as individuals and as groups in whatever social sector, field, institution or organization to exercise their right of assembly and expression to undertake mass actions demanding the ouster of Duterte and his administration. We call on our fellow officers and members of the AFP and the PNP to join the people in demanding the resignation or ouster of Duterte and his administration.”

“We pledge to work for the withdrawal of military and police support for Duterte and his administration in conjunction with mass mobilization of the Filipino people in millions to manifest their demand for the resignation or ouster of Duterte and his administration. Upon the change of administration, we pledge to follow the principle of civilian supremacy and support a new civilian administration, in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and the rule of law,” the manifesto, released by Bonifacio – believed to be a nom de guerre – said.

PADEM also condemned and holds accountable for gross crimes in betrayal of public trust and in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people. It cited the following reasons as alleged crimes of Duterte:
  1. Treating the AFP and the PNP as these were his private armies and practising favoritism and violating professional and service standards in the promotion and assignment of officers;
  2. Corrupting the PNP and the AFP with a system of monetary awards for the extrajudicial killing of alleged illegal drug users and of NPA suspects;
  3. Condoning and protecting top-level illegal drug lords;
  4. Emboldening/inciting police officers to engage in extrajudicial killings of poor suspected illegal drug users and pushers by publicly telling officers to plant evidence and by guaranteeing their pardon and promotion in case of conviction;
  5. Aggravating corruption in government and criminality through the collusion of Duterte trustees and crime syndicates;
  6. Allowing China to occupy maritime features in the West Philippine Sea and to violate Philippine sovereign rights upheld by decision of the Arbitral Tribunal in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  7. Bungling the operations in Marawi City and indiscriminately destroying lives and property through aerial bombings, artillery and mortar;
  8. Favoring certain Chinese businessmen and Duterte relatives and cronies in the award of projected infrastructure projects using loans from China;
  9. Betraying the sovereign rights of the Filipino people by making the Philippines a debt vassal of China and offering to China the oil and gas resources under the West Philippine Sea as collateral for Chinese loans; and
  10. Seeking to replace the partnership with the United States in matters of national security with an even more lopsided relationship with China and Russia.

Television network GMA reported that the military has reiterated its support for the administration of Duterte and strongly denied PADEM’s allegations. Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with all the men and women of the uniformed services and all their civilian personnel, stand by the government and support Duterte, their commander-in-chief.

Padilla said the accusations and issues cited by the group are unfounded and uncalled for. “Such issues are clearly politically motivated and a matter that the AFP does not and will not subscribe to,” GMA quoted him as saying, adding, they are the constitutionally mandated protectors of the people and will stand by law-abiding citizens whenever and wherever they are needed.

“Having affirmed this, the AFP, however, will not hesitate in acting against forces who shall undermine the stability and security of our country and those who wish to destabilize our nation thru unconstitutional means,” he said.

CIA Plot

Communist rebels had previously said that the Central Intelligence Agency is plotting to oust Duterte alongside the plan to assassinate Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Sison, in a statement he issued in May, said those who continue to support him assert that performance in a year is not enough basis for a final judgment and that there is more than enough time ahead for him to accomplish promises that have most impressed them, such as the eradication of the drug problem, criminality, and corruption.

He said Duterte has, in fact, pleaded that he needs three or four more years to bring about the significant changes that he previously thought would be done in six months’ time. His promised campaign against the pork barrel and other forms of corruption of the Aquino regime has not yet materialized.

“Where he has been most successful at, projecting himself as a strong leader by calling on the police and the public to kill drug addict-pushers, he has attracted the most severe and sustained condemnation by institutions, the mass organizations, the human rights formations, various churches, major mass media and respected personages in the Philippines and abroad.”

“These detractors allege on the basis of mass media reports and police records that 7,000 to 10,000 extra-judicial killings have been perpetrated in violation of human rights and with impunity by the police and by police-directed vigilantes. The victims are overwhelmingly poor people in urban slum areas,” he said.

Sison said U.S. officials and the European Commission have criticized the Duterte regime and threatened to impose certain sanctions. Most recently, the representatives of 45 out of 47 governments in the UN Human Rights Commission universal periodic review of the human rights situation have urged the Philippine government to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings.

“In turn, the Duterte regime has expressed fears that the dissenting military and police officers are engaged in a coup plot. To counter the coup threat, Duterte appointed to his cabinet more retired military officers whom he considers personally loyal to him. But the United States is still the master of the coup through its Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Philippines,” he said.

Situation under control after 2 clashes with Reds: San Nicolas mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 27): Situation under control after 2 clashes with Reds: San Nicolas mayor

Mayor Rebecca Saldivar on Saturday assured the situation is already under control following the second encounter between government forces and New People's Army (NPA) members in remote Barangays Malico and Sta. Maria here in less than a month.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are continuously conducting clearing operations and intelligence monitoring, Saldivar said.

"I am appealing to the public to remain calm, be alert and get involved against threat groups like NPA," Saldivar said after attending Saturday morning’s Command Conference called by Police Provincial Director, Sr. Supt. Ronald Oliver Lee, and attended by different heads of police and military security units.

It can be recalled that three suspected NPA members were killed in an encounter between policemen and NPA troops at around 5:20 p.m. Friday in the boundary of Barangays Malico and Sta. Maria, San Nicolas town..

Earlier on July 28, PO2 Aries Tamindong of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 was killed in an encounter with NPA members .

The mayor also appealed not to believe baseless information or false news that are circulating, and rely only on official reports of proper authorities.

She urged the people of San Nicolas to always notify or report suspicious-looking personalities or incidents to the police.

"Rest assured that the local government, the PNP and AFP are determined to put an end to the deplorable acts of the enemies and will always ensure that the enemies will never threaten the peace and order of our beloved municipality, San Nicolas," she added.

Rebels to blame for non-dev't in countryside: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 27): Rebels to blame for non-dev't in countryside: Lorenzana

The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) is the group responsible for the non-development of the rural areas due to the ongoing "armed struggle" against the government.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the statement after National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili's tagged him as a "peace spoiler".

"The leaders and members of the CPP-NPA are the real and original peace spoilers," he added in a statement late Saturday.

"First, their so-called 'armed struggle' to replace our democratic way of life with a communist form of government since the 1960s has consistently blocked the government's efforts to develop the countryside," the DND chief stressed.

He added the nation is well aware that the poverty experienced by the people in the countryside is due to the greed and desire of the rebels to be the ruling class in rural areas.

"Secondly, Fidel Agcaoili of the NDFP claims that the money they extorted from our people (what they call revolutionary tax) is being spent on the poor. Saan napupunta ang salaping sapilitan nilang kinukuha sa taong bayan? Ano ang maipapakita nilang katunayan na nakinabang ang bayan lalo na ang ating mga mahirap sa pangingikil nila? Ang maliwanag, ang kanilang 'revolutionary tax' na sapilitang kinukuha sa mga tao ay ginagamit nila upang tustusan ang marangyang pamumuhay ng iilan, (Where does the money they forcibly get from the people go? What proof can they show that the country, especially the poor, benefitted from their extortion? What is clear is that they use the 'revolutionary tax' which they extort from the people to sustain the lavish lifestyle of a few.)" Lorenzana disclosed.

"Alam naman po nating lahat na ang gobyerno lamang ng Pilipinas ang puwedeng mangolekta ng buwis ayon sa ating saligang batas. (We are all aware that the Philippine government is the only one allowed to collect taxes as stated in our Constitution) All others who do it, especially those using the threat of violence, as what the NPA does, are plain and simple extortionists. Wala na pong ibang tawag diyan. Hinahamon ko ang mga NPA na mangolekta nang walang kasamang pananakot kung makaka-kolekta sila, (There is no other term that can be used to call them. I challenge the NPA to collect without inflicting fear, I wonder if they can still collect)" he added.

Lorenzana also belied accusations of corruption hurled by the rebels at DND officials, stressing that the agency's budget is under tight scrutiny by the Commission on Audit and Congress.

"How could it line the pockets of top officials as their propaganda claims when it is barely enough for salaries, pensions, health care and maintenance and operations of the Department, including its five bureaus? Kaya nga po marami pa ring kakulangan sa kagamitan ang ating AFP at may pagkakautang o arrears pa tayong kailangang bayaran sa mga retiradong sundalo.(This is the reason why lack of equipment remains a problem in the AFP, not to mention the arrears for our retired soldiers that we have to pay.) In fact, the defense budget only accounts for less than 1 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product)," the DND chief stated.

Lorenzana said Agcaoili and the rest of the CPP-NPA-NDF are laying the blame on the government for the failure of the peace talks because of the extent of their extortion and its adverse effects on businesses, people's lives, and development especially in the countryside.

"If the CPP-NPA cannot win their so-called war of liberation at the height of their self-proclaimed successes in the 80s, how much more now that they are marginalized, with many of their fighters surrendering, and their influenced barangays are dwindling," the DND chief asked.

He added that the rebels have stepped up their rhetoric because their ploy to continue talking while fighting (euphemism for continued extortion) was finally terminated by the President.

3 suspected Reds die in Pangasinan clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): 3 suspected Reds die in Pangasinan clash

Three suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with police personnel of the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) here Friday.

In a text message, Chief Insp. Norman Florentino of the Pangasinan Police’s public information office, said the clash occurred in an area between Barangays Malico and Sta. Maria in the eastern Pangasinan town of San Nicolas.

Florentino said elements of the PPSC, Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 (RPSB1), and the Pangasinan Police’s Regional Intelligence Group were conducting clearing operations in the area at around 5:20 p.m. when the clash happened.

The three were believed to be the same rebels who fought elements of the RPSB1 in the area last July 28 that resulted in the death of PO2 Aries Tamindong of Manaoag, Pangasinan.

Recovered from the scene of the encounter were an improvised explosive device, trip wires that measured approximately 36 meters, an ignition switch, a submachine gun, a rifle grenade, and two assorted ammunition and magazines, among others.

There was no casualty reported on the government side.

Other rebels are being pursued by the police in coordination with the military.

MILF hunts ISIS-inspired group in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): MILF hunts ISIS-inspired group in Maguindanao

Government forces and Moro rebel group that signed a peace deal with the government have continued to hunt down ISIS-identified armed group in Maguindanao.

Under the 1997 ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the latter must help the government get rid of terrorists in communities identified with the MILF in various parts of Mindanao.

For the past two weeks, the MILF had been pursuing the ISIS-flag carrying armed group, led by Esmael Abdulmalik of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao’s second district.

Abdulmalik heads a faction of the BIFF thay pledged allegiance to ISIS.

A military intelligence officer said Abdulmalik, one of the lieutenants of slain Malaysian terrorist and bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was believed to be injured.

Abu Amir, spokesperson for the Imam Karialan faction of the BIFF, said Abdulmalik was injured in several clashes with the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad (Unity) in remote villages of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the Bongos faction of the BIFF, said he has no report about Abdulmalik getting injured but his son, Abu Torayfe, sub-leader leader of the BIFF whose men were identified with ISIS, was reported dead.

Abu Torayfe was killed. He is the son of Commander Esmail Abdulmalik,” Mama said. “We have no report that Abdulmalik was injured.”

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao police director, said the police have been helping the MILF in locating the BIFF/ISIS group.

The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade had been providing artillery assistance to the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad and placed its forces on alert to thwart any possible retaliatory or diversionary attacks by Abdulmalik’s men on civilians and “soft targets” in Maguindanao.

More than 50 fighters from both sides have been killed while dozens were hurt in the clashes between former comrades.

It started when the ISIS-flag carrying BIFF tried to encroach an MILF community in Barangays Tee and Andavit in Datu Salibo by setting off improvised bomb that injured 10 MILF fighters.

AFP underscores significant positive developments n Marawi conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): AFP underscores significant positive developments n Marawi conflict

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday underscored significant positive developments this week in war-torn Marawi City following the retaking of the Marawi City Grand Mosque.

AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., said it took the government troops almost a month to retake the Grand Mosque or the Islamic Center from the terrorist Maute group.

“We did not conduct a frontal attack because we wanted to preserve the Grand Mosque, owing to the promise of our Commander-in-Chief, the President, and our Chief of Staff, who strongly provided guidance not to destroy any place of worship even if international protocols would allow us to do that,” Padilla said during the regular Mindanao Hour briefing in Malacañang.

“We met resistance in the surrounding areas over that less than a month of time, until we got to that point when we were able to assault the Grand Mosque,” Padilla explained.

The AFP official said the government forces are now clearing the Grand Mosque of unexploded ordnance and IEDs.

“The Grand Mosque is located in the central area of Marawi. It is the most significant landmark because it being the biggest mosque in the area,” Padilla said.

“So having it under the hands of government provides us the impetus to symbolically say that nakuha na natin ‘yung sentro mismo ng bayan,” he said.

Padilla explained that it took a month to retake the Grand Mosque to ensure that it will not be destroyed during the conflict, and that there would be a place of worship for Muslim brothers and sisters to go to when the conflict is over.

Aside from the Grand Mosque, Padilla said government troops were able to retake the Marawi City Police Station.

With these developments, Padilla said the battle area has been reduced to about one-half square kilometer grid.

Padilla meanwhile said President Rodrigo Duterte was able to visit Marawi City anew last Thursday afternoon.

“Ito po ay pagnanais ng ating Commander-in-Chief na makapiling ang mga tropang direktang nakikipaglaban sa mga kalaban natin,” Padilla said.

“Siya po ay nagpaabot ng kanyang pasasalamat sa ating mga kasamahan at ganun din, nag-abot po ng ilang tulong at pampa-high morale na mga bagay tulad ng relo at iba pang mga grocery items na kinakailangan po nila,” he said.

In the same briefing, meanwhile, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima said there is no humanitarian crisis in Marawi.

“We do not think it’s a humanitarian crisis because we’re addressing the situation that’s happening. We know what’s happening on the ground and we’re addressing all the needs of our IDPs, whether they be in our evacuation centers or home-based,” Purisima said.

Purisima said that Task Force Bangon Marawi has already started its post-conflict needs assessment, which is part of the comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery program.

“Kung wala tayong ginagawa on the ground, maaring sabihin na may krisis. Pero, I differ on that because I know that we’re doing everything we can on the ground,” Purisima said.

“This is an inter-agency effort. Hindi lamang ito Office of Civil Defense, hindi lamang ito DND or DSWD or AFP. Lahat ito ng mga ahensya na kasama sa Task Force Bangon Marawi, 23 agencies and growing,” he added.

“So makakaasa ho ang ating mga kababayan na hindi natin pinapabayaan ang sitwasyon sa ground and this is not a humanitarian crisis,” Purisima said.

Meanwhile, Purisima said the proposal to distribute chickens to the evacuees would need the approval of the Task Force.

“Pag-aaralan natin 'to. Dahil syempre kailangan 'yung welfare ng ating mga evacuees, ating mga IDPs ang nakasalalay dito… at syempre hindi tayo gagawa ng isang plano o isang programa na makakasakit lamang sa ating mga IDPs,” he said.

Palace fetes Filipino athletes win in SEA Games

In the same briefing, Presidential Communications Office Director Omar Romero congratulated Filipino athletes who have won in the ongoing Southeast Asian Games.

“The Philippines now has 15 gold, 18 silver, and 31 bronze medals, as of August 25, this morning at 1 am,” Romero said.

Gold medals were bagged by Eumir Marcial for Boxing Middleweight - 75 kilograms event; Marvin John Tupas for Boxing Lightweight - 81 kilograms event; Curte Robert Guarin, Emmanuel Portacio, Leoncio Carreon Jr., and Ronald Lising for Lawn Bowls-Men’s Four event; Trenten Anthony Beram for the Athletics Men’s 400 meters; and the Philippine Men’s Ice Hockey Team.

Silver medals were meanwhile won by Mario Fernandez for Boxing Men’s Bantamweight - 56 kilograms event; Marisa Baronda, Nancy Toyco, Nenita Tabiano, and Sharon Hauters for the Lawn Bowls – Women’s Four event; and Yvonne Alyssa Dalida and Jemyca Aribado for the Squash Women’s Jumbo Doubles.

Filipino athletes who won bronze medals were Lois Kaye Go for the Golf Women's Individual Stroke Play; Amparo Teresa Acuña for Shooting Women's 50-meter Rifle Prone; Ian Clark Bautista and Charly Suarez for Boxing Men’s Flyweight - 52 kilograms event and Light Welterweight - 64 kilograms event, respectively.

Also winning bronze medals were Janry Ubas for Men’s Athletics Long Jump; Warren Kiamco and Dennis Orcollo for Billiards & Snooker Pool 9 Ball Doubles; David William Pelino and Robert Andrew Garcia for Squash Men’s Jumbo Doubles; as well as Bowling Tenpin Team of Five, and the Women’s Karate Kumite Team.

North Cotabato council BATs for MILF men wounded in fight

From the Manila Times (Aug 25): North Cotabato council BATs for MILF men wounded in fight

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: North Cotabato provincial board passed a resolution urging the Department of National Defense (DND) to assist “friendly forces” from among the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members wounded in gunfight with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Vice Gov. Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva said the resolution, proposed by Board Member Socrates Piñol, was approved during the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) in Kidapawan City.

The resolution urged the DND to help shoulder the medical expenses of MILF guerrillas and members of Barangay Peackeeping Action Teams injured in hostilities with local terrorists.

More than a dozen MILF guerillas were killed in a series of gunfights with members of a third faction of BIFF in Maguindanao.

The MILF is obliged by a 1997 ceasefire accord with the government to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to maintain law and order in conflict affected areas in Mindanao where martial law is enforced.

IS Media Arm Celebrates Marawi Siege

From Benar News (Aug 25): IS Media Arm Celebrates Marawi Siege


A man rides his motorcycle past shuttered storefronts sprayed with pro-Islamic State grafitti in Marawi, June 12, 2017.

In mid-August, the Islamic State's Al-Hayat Media Center released a long-expected video on the siege of Marawi, now in its 4th month. The 6:47 video, first released on Telegraph channels, is the latest in an ongoing series entitled "Inside the Khalifah," and everything that one would expect in an IS video. It is well produced and edited, clearly narrated, high resolution, fast moving, and on message. Like any centrally-produced IS media, it is slick and meant to inspire young men to pick up arms. It accentuates their successes, and seeks to empower and inspire others to join the cause, to get revenge, and glorify their religion.
With the Islamic State's serious territorial losses in Syria and Iraq, the amount of centrally-produced media has dropped considerably. But nevertheless, experts believe the Islamic State's hallmark media prowess will continue to be a salient feature of the movement as it moves into the virtual caliphate.

But that they would take time to focus on a conflict in a marginal region to the Islamic State, not even yet declared a "wiliyat" – or province of the caliphate – is interesting in itself. Arguably, the Islamic State media chieftains are looking for any success to highlight, as their caliphate crumbles. And arguably it portends a new strategy of a more decentralized patchwork of pro-Islamic state movements rather than a centralized state.
But they have another reason to celebrate the siege of Marawi: from both a strategic and propaganda perspective, it was a highly successful operation.


The siege took meticulous planning, the stockpiling of months’ worth of ammunition and equipment, and humiliated the Philippine armed forces (AFP) – a central theme of the video. Fewer than 500 militants have prevented the AFP from retaking the city for over three months, despite their air assets, artillery, intelligence support from the United States, and far more resources and manpower. Yes, urban warfare is hard and the AFP has never trained for it, but the siege still demonstrated significant weaknesses in AFP planning and operations.

The militants, a combined force of some Abu Sayyaf under Isnilon Hapilon, who retreated from Basilan, and the men under the leadership of the Maute Brothers, did more than discredit the AFP. They forced President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law, deepening societal cleavages. More importantly, it led Duterte to double down on a military-dominated strategy, something that rarely if ever succeeds against insurgents. Whether through collateral damage, increased human rights abuses, or the inability to complete their mission so that tens of thousands of IDPs can safely return home, Duterte's reckless strategy will drive many into the ranks of the militants.

And just as importantly, the militants have clearly been able to win over some defectors from the mainstream Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whose peace process has been on indefinite hold since January 2015. Frustration amongst rank and file is growing, and despite President Duterte's public commitment to the peace process, there are reasons to be very skeptical that he will deliver, or that Congress will pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law or an acceptable version of it. As such, frustrations within the ranks will mount. The MILF is unable to stem the exodus of members who are joining pro-IS militants, and must now compete for young recruits.

Tactical loss, strategic victory
As the Marawi video makes clear, IS is where the action is. The MILF leadership is looking very old and discredited to a new generation of frustrated and angry Moro youth. The video seeks to convey that only they are actively defending the interests of the Moro "to remove the air of humiliation that lingered over the region as a result of the government's concerted efforts to subjugate the Muslims, expel them from the land and sever the bonds of wiliyat that united their hearts and kept them together." And while the MILF has recently clashed with other IS-pledged militants, its base commander, Abdullah Macapagar, whose forces adjoin Marawi, has been far more accommodating towards them.

And of course, Marawi is now a beacon for militants from across Southeast Asia and further afield. One of the three mujahidin to speak on camera calls on co-religionists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand, and Singapore to "join the caravan": "Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah." These appeals are important and will motivate individuals now unable or unwilling to travel to Iraq and Syria, who are looking for a struggle with regional saliency.

And what the Marawi militants have, that no jihadist in Southeast Asia has, is territory. Since the defeat of the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur in Sulawesi, no militant group or cell in Malaysia or Indonesia actually controls physical space. You can't be a wiliyat without territory. So establishing that "Darul Islam" you can emanate out from is essential. Beyond IS declaring Hapilon the "Emir" of forces in Southeast Asia, his real legitimacy stems from territorial control and military successes.

The Marawi siege is winding down. The number of militants who have remained is dwindling, as is their stock of ammunition. Though the government claims to have killed many of the militants, the leadership remains intact, and many were able to "perform hijrah" and slip back into safe mountainous territory where they will regroup and plan their next wave of attacks.
Ultimately the militants will withdraw from Marawi, a tactical loss, but, the video makes very clear, a strategic victory. The video shows highly motivated militants, committed to their cause, and in good spirits. Those shown wounded and killed were glorified for their martyrdom. And no doubt, more will be inspired to offer themselves to the cause. As the video warns, this is a "generational conflict against the kuffir"; they are in this for the long haul.

Duterte Fires Sniper Rifle At Jihadis In Marawi After Capture of Grand Mosque

From Newsweek (Aug 25): Duterte Fires Sniper Rifle At Jihadis In Marawi After Capture of Grand Mosque

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte put on a public act of force in Marawi on Thursday, firing a sniper rifle toward jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) after his soldiers recaptured the southern city's grand mosque.

Wearing a military uniform, the Philippine leader traveled to the front lines of the battle against the Maute group, which overran the city of 200,000 in May. He stopped at a military patrol base, taking up arms to show unity with his troops.

“I need to be with you to show my solidarity,” Duterte was quoted as saying by army officials.

A government statement said that Duterte “tried a sniper rifle and fired twice toward the direction of the terrorists.” He spent two hours with military commanders in the center of Marawi in what was his third visit to the embattled city. He was unable to travel to the city until July, when he made his first trip. He blamed the delay on bad weather.

In three months of fighting, hundreds of people—mostly militants—have been killed. Evidence has surfaced indicating that the militants besieging the city are not simply acting on the inspiration of ISIS: The group’s central command in Syria has been funneling funds to southeast Asian militants to help the offensive.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds a weapon as he visits troops fighting the extremist Maute group in Marawi, Philippines, on August 24. Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters

Duterte's trip to the front lines and use of a weapon appeared to aim at strengthening his image as a strongman leader, one who deals with Islamist insurgency and drug crime with brutal force.

Since coming to power in May 2016, Duterte has embarked on a deadly campaign against drug gangs, empowering vigilantes to kill thousands of drug addicts and those suspected of peddling narcotics. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” he said in June 2016.

Philippine militants with the Maute group and some from the Abu Sayyaf group sweeping into Marawi, on the southern island of Mindanao, prompted fears that ISIS had gained a significant stronghold in southeast Asia.

The battle for Marawi represents the most significant capture of Asian territory by an ISIS-linked group, and the most notable since ISIS seized the Libyan central coastal city of Sirte in mid-2015.

The Abu Sayyaf group, known for taking hostages to raise funds to create a de facto Islamic state in the southern Philippines, has pledged allegiance to ISIS and beheaded several Western nationals, including two Canadian men and a German man, in the past year.

The group’s notorious leader, Isnilon Hapilon, is leading the campaign to take control of the city after a failed army raid to capture him in May. He is believed to be in hiding in the city, amid its dense urban sprawl of mosques, houses and buildings, some connected by tunnels.

Both the U.S. and Australia have provided assistance to the Philippine military to help it push back the jihadist insurgency.

Task force: No humanitarian crisis in Marawi City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 26): Task force: No humanitarian crisis in Marawi City

There is no humanitarian crisis in Marawi City because the government is working to address the needs of residents displaced by the fighting, according to Task Force Bangon Marawi spokesperson Kristoffer Purisima.

Purisima disputed the contention of French aid groups that warned of a humanitarian crisis in Mindanao, saying basic needs were not covered.

Mindanao has been placed under martial law because of the conflict in Marawi, with government troops locked in battle with extremist groups claiming allegiance to the Islamic State.

“We do not think it’s a humanitarian crisis because we’re addressing the situation that’s happening,” Purisima said in a press briefing.

“We know what’s happening on the ground and we’re addressing all the needs of our IDPs, whether they be in our evacuation centers or home-based,” he added.

‘Delicate’ situation

The government is aware that the situation is “delicate,” he said.

It is expected that the displaced residents would have a lot of needs that have to be fulfilled, he said.

“We always have representatives on the ground to go around,” he added.

The postconflict needs assessment is being done, and this will be used to craft a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery program, he said.

“If we are not doing anything on the ground, maybe it can be said that there’s a crisis. But I differ on that because I know that we’re doing everything we can on the ground,” he added.

Poultry distribution

Meanwhile, Purisima said the task force would study proposals to distribute poultry products to evacuees in Marawi, as their prices had dropped because of the avian flu outbreak in Luzon.

“I’m very sure that the Department of Health is on point to this and they’re studying this,” he said.

“We will study this, because of course, the welfare of our evacuees, our IDPs are at stake,” he added.

Troops capture Maute’s 'command center' in Marawi

From Sun Star-Zamboanga (Aug 25): Troops capture Maute’s 'command center' in Marawi

THE Islamic Center in Marawi City, which the Isis-inspired Maute terror group used as their “command and control” post, fell into the hands of the military on Thursday, the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) reported.
Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, Wesmincom information officer, said President Rodrigo Duterte has congratulated the troops for successfully retaking the Islamic Center.
Petinglay said the President visited the troops on Thursday in the main battle area after they took control of the Islamic Center.
 It was the Duterte’s third visit in the besieged city since the fighting started on May 23.
The fighting broke out when the Maute group members went berserk and occupied several establishments after the troops raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who pledged allegiance to Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
“I would like to reiterate this, I will never abandon you as long as you are doing the right thing,” Duterte told the troops.
“Our troops are overjoyed of the President’s visit,” Wesmincom commander Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
“His message was clear that as long as we work in the bounds of law, he will never leave us. His visit once again brought renewed vigor and inspiration to the troops. Surely, they will be more motivated to accomplish their job of liberating Marawi from terror.”


Davao City wants to regulate use of drones

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Aug 24): Davao City wants to regulate use of drones

Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) chief, Benito De Leon says they are planning to create an ordinance that shall regulate the use of drones in the city and to provide more specific guidelines to drone operators, Thursday, August 24. (Robby Joy D. Salveron/
With the rising number of drone-users in the city, a local security chief urged that the use of the remote-controlled aircraft equipment should be monitored.

Drones are gadgets considered as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) having camera and sensors usually used for aerial surveying or mapping, monitoring, search and rescue, cargo carrier, and video and photography.
However, Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) head, retired General Benito De Leon said these remote-controlled gadgets should be regulated because of the possible danger it could cause.

“These (drones) should be appropriately cleared by our security officials. As an advice to the public, this is a security surveillance that may compromise the safety and security of communities,” De Leon said in a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the City Hall.

De Leon stressed that drones in other countries are “used to deliver bombs to certain targets.”

Countries such as United States, United Kingdom, China, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan and Iraq are just some of the places who have declared that they are utilizing “weaponized drones” in military operations.

Reports from Colombia and United Kingdom also show cases where crime gangs and drug traffickers have been operating drones to smuggle drugs and firearms.

In Marawi City, authorities confirmed that the ISIS-linked Maute group have been using drones to escape the military offensive operations.

Currently, through the memorandum circular no. 21 of 2014, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) regulates the operation of UAVs in the country. The memorandum states that operators are required to register their UAV equipment to the CAAP and secure a certification to operate.
In June, two students were apprehended for flying a drone near President Rodrigo Duterte’s residence here without permit.

De Leon said drone-users in the city should seek and secure a clearance from CAAP and PSSCC for them not to be apprehended. He said the city currently lacks specific guidelines in terms of operating drones.

“We will have to put out more specific guidelines in the use of drones. What is important is that the use should be limited especially in public places,” De Leon said.

The general said they are now planning to create an ordinance that shall regulate the use of drones.

“But in as much as many are using it, to lessen confusion, we have to get out certain guidelines in this and if needed be we’ll ask the assistance of the Sanggunian,” De Leon said.

Philippines Buys Six Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft

From News Beat Social (Aug 24): Philippines Buys Six Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft

The Philippines is buying six unmanned aircrafts to provide surveillance and reconnaissance imagery.

The Philippines has signed a $7.4 million contract with Boeing Insitu and the United States Naval Air Systems Command.

The aircraft, called a ScanEagle UAV, is 5.1 feet long and has a 5.6-foot wingspan and weighs as much as 48 pounds.

The ScanEagle can carry a visible light camera and a medium-wave infrared imager.

It can also fly on gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or kerosine at altitudes as high as 19,500 feet.

The unmanned aircraft will likely be used to monitor terrorist groups, like the Maute group which has seized Marawi City.

The Philippines has also been looking to increase patrols in the waters surrounding the islands to combat piracy and drug trafficking.

Production should be complete by 2019.