Sunday, August 27, 2017

3 NPA rebels slain in Pangasinan clash

From the Manila Times (Aug 26): 3 NPA rebels slain in Pangasinan clash  

SAN NICOLAS, Pangasinan: At least three alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed in an encounter with police operatives along the boundary of Barangay Malico and Santa Maria this town on late Friday afternoon.

Pangasinan Police Provincial Director, Senior Supt. Ronald Oliver-Lee, told The Manila Times that the encounter erupted while joint operatives of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, Provincial Intelligence Branch, Provincial Public Safety Company and Regional Intelligence Unit were conducting combat and clearing operations along Camp 3 and Camp 4 of Barangay Santa Maria at about 6:30 p.m. were fired upon by a group of rebels.

He said before the encounter, barangay leaders and residents in the area reported the presence of armed men at about 5 p.m. and the government troops were immediately deployed.

The advance team of policemen was met by a volley of gunfire from the group of about 30 NPA rebels triggering a fierce firefight that lasted for more than two hours.

Reinforcement troops from the Marines and Army arrived at about 8:30 p.m. to help the policemen in pursuing the rebels.

Three of the NPA rebels were killed while an undetermined number was wounded and believed carried away by the retreating group.

Recovered at the crime scene were a rifle grenade launcher, explosive device, trip wires, ignition switch, a sub-machine gun, assorted ammunition for M16 and M14 rifles, two cell phones and other documents.

Philippines: The ISIS Hub of Southeast Asia?

From ASEAN Today (Aug 27): Philippines: The ISIS Hub of Southeast Asia? (By Oliver Ward)

Decreased US military support and favourable conditions for extremist cells to operate are bringing ISIS insurgents to the Philippines.

As ISIS loses ground in its heartland of Iraq and Syria, its fighters are shifting their attention to the Southeast Asian theatre. Islamic extremists are flocking to the Philippines. Its southern islands have become a hot bed for terrorist cells and radical ideas.

The Philippines is becoming the next focal point for ISIS

At least 60 groups in Southeast Asia have sworn their allegiance to the ISIS caliphate established in Iraq and Syria, and the Philippines is the geographical fulcrum of many of these cells’ activities.

A video from 2016 from the propaganda wing of ISIS called on supporters who could not make the trip to Syria to head to the Philippines instead, promoting the country as a go-to destination for extremists. No other countries in the region are receiving the same level of promotion as the Philippines. In other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, ISIS directly recruits from the local population.

Moreover, the central command of ISIS in Syria has funnelled tens of thousands of dollars to fighters in the Philippines in the last 12 months. Recent issues of Rumiyah, the monthly ISIS propaganda publication, have praised insurgents fighting the Filipino Army in the region, giving them valuable press promotion within extremist circles.

By specifically highlighting the Philippines in this way, ISIS is establishing the nation as a focal point for foreign extremists. It is not merely local recruitment that we see in other parts of the world. Philippines Solicitor General Jose Calida described the situation as an “invasion by foreign terrorists”.

The invasion has begun

The Philippines’ Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has indicated that there are likely as many as 1,200 ISIS fighters already operating in the Philippines. In comparison, 100-200 people in Malaysia have suspected links to the ISIS. With Indonesians, Pakistanis, a Saudi, a Chechen, an Indian, a Moroccan and a Turk among the dead in Marawi, it is evident that there are plenty of foreign insurgents operating in the Philippines.

The arrival of foreign fighters to Filipino shores is not a new phenomenon. Militants have been entering the country from as early as 2014. In June 2014, the Philippines arrested five Uyghur militants with ties to local armed groups in Manila. Zulkifli bin Har, a Malaysian fighter was also killed in January of 2015 in a firefight with the Philippines Army’s Special Action Force in Mindanao.

Researchers from the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore revealed the ease by which a foreign insurgent could get to the Philippines. They discovered that for as little as RM500 (US$117) a prospective IS militant could buy passage from Malaysia to the Philippines and receive a complimentary weapon.

Why has this happened?

The conditions in Mindanao make it ideally suited for the establishment of militant groups and terrorist cells. The inequality and rural poverty present across the island, combined with porous borders for the smooth inflow of weapons and fighters make the region attractive to extremists. Weak law enforcement also makes the southern Philippines the perfect location as a hub to control operations throughout Southeast Asia.

The ISIS is not the first terrorist group that has attempted to gain a foothold in the Philippines. During the 1990s, al-Qaeda had the same idea. They established a stronghold within the Philippines, using Manila as their planning base. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his al-Qaeda counterpart, Ramzi Yousef used the Philippines as a base from which to plan their 1994-95 plot to blow up planes over the Pacific. Although the Filipino authorities thwarted their plot, the same men would later go one to contribute to the planning of the 9/11 attacks.

If it goes unchecked, we can expect more attacks across Southeast Asia

The Philippines government needs to stem the influx of foreign ISIS members. If they fail to do so, cases of ISIS sponsored terrorism will only increase across the region. Earlier this year, a militant associated with ISIS launched a suicide attack in Jakarta. The attacker had been collaborating and with terrorist cells in the Philippines. In the past, terrorist cells competed to secure funding, but today there is cooperation between cells instead.

As ISIS suffer more defeats in the Middle East, Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister, K. Shanmugam expressed concerns that many battle-hardened fighters would return to the Philippines and increase operations in collaborations with groups across Southeast Asia. Rohan Gunaratna, a counterterrorism analyst, echoed his concerns, stating “our forecast for 2017 is that the threat in this region will grow because of the creation of an IS nucleus in the southern Philippines.”

What measures can be taken to curb the flow of ISIS insurgents to the country?

In recent years, the Philippines counterterrorism strategy has depended on the United States. The US military has provided much of the funding, particularly in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) started in 2002, and more than 600 US military personnel arrived in the Philippines with the task of assisting Filipino forces in their fight against Islamic extremism.

Reduced US involvement in the Philippines partly accounts for the increase in terrorist activity. While the US still provides equipment and weaponry, there is much less interest from the US in committing personnel to the region.

In 2015 the JSOTF-P was deactivated. The US also reduced the number of its active advisors from 320 to just 12 and the NADR (Non-Proliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs) funding for the US for Filipino counter insurgency operations shrank.

In the face of receding US support, Duterte has begun to explore other avenues. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano called on Malaysia and Indonesia to increase cooperation efforts to curb ISIS movements in the region. Increasing collaboration is the right move. The Philippines may find that cooperation with regional allies is more beneficial than US aid.

ISIS’s network across the SEA evidently transcends national boundaries. Therefore, the only way to combat it is to develop an anti-terrorism force that supersedes national boundaries. So far the three countries have not gotten much further than sharing intelligence information and reducing access to ISIS material online. However, the cooperation will need to go much deeper to ensure success against the spread the ISIS propaganda machine. To stop the movement and collaboration of ISIS members across Southeast Asia, nations themselves need to collaborate. Nations can exchange intelligence information, coordinate maritime patrols and step up their cyber policing to stop online recruitment.

The ASEAN community as a whole would be better served to assist the Philippines and make funding available as a matter of priority. Indonesia and Philippines have explored the possibility of joint maritime patrols in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas to put measures in place to stop the illicit movement of arms and people between the two countries, but funding issues have severely limited the success of the patrols.

The scourge of ISIS is a regional problem, not a national one. Attacks do not happen in isolation and incidents like Marawi should serve as a wakeup call to other heads of state in the region, this can and will occur in other ASEAN countries unless the community comes together to tackle the problem dynamically. The stronger the network becomes and the deeper the roots spread, the tougher it will be to dig out.

Gov’t forces seize sack of war materials from NPAs

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 26): Gov’t forces seize sack of war materials from NPAs

Government forces seized from three captured New People’s Army (NPA) rebels a sack-load of high-powered firearms and other war materials in Barangay Licoan, Simulao town, Bukidnon province, said Capt. Norman Tagros, Civil Military Operation (CMO) officer of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, on Saturday.

The Bukidnon police and Army soldiers belonging to the First Special Forces Battalion were conducting law enforcement operation at Licoan village and three nearby villages when the suspects were sighted carrying a sack loaded with firearms and ammunitions on Wednesday, the 403rd CMO officer said, in a statement.

Identities of the captured NPAs were temporarily withheld as tactical interrogation was still ongoing, he said.

The suspects are believed to be members of the guerrilla-Front Committee 68 of the CPP-NPA North-Central Mindanao Regional Committee operating in Mount Kalatungan and Mount Kitanglad in Bukidnon province, he said.

The 403rd CMO officer said the suspects were arrested while patrolling government troops chanced upon them in a small house in Barangay Licoan. They were carrying a sack loaded with war materials.

Seized from the suspect’s possession were an M14 rifle, caliber .22 rifle, an Armalite rifle, two steel magazines of 7.62mm, 45 rounds of caliber 7.62mm cartridges, two steel magazines of 5.56mm, 40 rounds of caliber 5.56mm cartridges, two hand grenades, seven rounds of 12 gauge cartridges, nine rounds of caliber .38 cartridges, five fired cartridges of caliber .38, two cellular phones, assorted live ammunitions for hand guns and subversive documents, according to Tagros.

The suspects will face charges for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosive charges, he said

After tactical investigation, the suspects will be turned over to Bukidnon Police Provincial Office for the filing of case and the disposition of the seized war materials, he added.

Police, soldiers pray in Marawi mosque retaken from Mautes

From the Philippine Star (Aug 27): Police, soldiers pray in Marawi mosque retaken from Mautes

Policemen and soldiers prayed together on Friday at the Masjid Saad Huzam Almusairi in Marawi City after forcing Maute occupants out a week before. Courtesy of Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay/Westmincom 
LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines — Marawi residents were fascinated witnessing Muslim soldiers and police officers perform a Friday prayer rite in one of the mosques that Maute terrorists occupied for weeks.
The voices of 23 worshipers reverberated loudly through the Masjid Saad Huzam Almusairi in Lilod, Marawi City when they prayed in Arabic while their Christian companions were positioned outside to protect them.
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said on Sunday that the first ever Jumaah worship rite at the Masjid Saad since May 23 inspired them more to continue working for the restoration of normalcy in Marawi City.
Adiong is spokesman of the provincial crisis management committee under the office of the governor in Lanao del Sur, whose capital is Marawi City.
What was fascinating for residents were the stories purporting that Christian police officers and soldiers helped clean the worship site and secure its surroundings after its Maute occupants left the week before.
“That again was a tacit indication that the conflict here is not a conflict among Muslims and Christians. It is these two groups that are working together to restore law and order in Marawi City,” Adiong said.
Moderate Muslims from Marawi City now confined in evacuation sites told reporters they were elated with Friday’s Jumaah worship rite in Masjid Saad.
Maranao datu Norodin Alonto Lucman, son of the late Lanao del Sur Rep. Rashid Lucman, said on Sunday that it is forbidden for Muslims to use mosques as launching sites for activities harmful to Muslims and non-Muslims.
He said mosques, in fact, can be offered as sanctuaries for people affected by crisis or calamity, regardless of their religion or race.
Lucman studied Islam and Arab cultures in Saudi Arabia where his family sought asylum in the 1970s to escape from political persecution by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
He said there is nothing wrong with Christian police and soldiers helping secure the Masjid Saad just for congregational prayers there to resume.
Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, director of Police Regional Office-ARMM, said the Friday Jumaah rite at Masjid Saad was led by Lanao del Sur’s provincial police director, Superintendent Ebra Moxsir, a moderate Islamic theologian.
“We are glad that the mosque had been reopened,” Sindac said.
Combined Maute terrorists and Abu Sayyaf gunmen occupied more than a dozen mosques in Marawi City when they laid siege to strategic spots there on May 23, sparking hostilities that have since dragged on.
There have been harrowing stories by evacuees on how Maute terrorists tortured male captives and raped women hostages inside mosques.
Evacuee Fatimah Bantugan, a mother of three, said on Sunday that she is happy to learn from other evacuees in relief sites in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur that Masjid Saad had been cleared from occupation by Maute terrorists.
“For me it is a hallowed ground. I grew up performing Friday noontime prayers there. It was hurting to see our fellow Maranaos, the members of the Maute, abuse the sanctity of that mosque,” she said in Filipino.
Public school teachers from Marawi City now operating temporary learning sites in safe areas for displaced school children said they did not believe that Masjid Saad had been reopened until they saw on Facebook the photos of police and soldiers praying there.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said he is thankful to the soldiers and police involved in the takeover of Masjid Saad from Maute gunmen.
“It was a concerted effort of Muslim and Christian personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the ARMM police,” Galvez said.
He said Muslim soldiers in Marawi City are excused from security duties on Fridays so they can participate in worship rites led by military Muslim preachers.
“I am also thankful to the Muslim and Christian soldiers and policemen who placed their lives on the line to clear that mosque from terrorists,” Galvez said.

Army soldier accused of shooting 3 people in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 27): Army soldier accused of shooting 3 people in Zamboanga City

Police arrested an army soldier who was accused of shooting 3 people near an air force base in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, officials said on Sunday.

Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, a regional police spokeswoman, said the 40-year Sergeant Bensaudi Idjal, has been detained for the Saturday shooting of businesswoman Sahaba Abdulla, 32; her nephew Ahmad Wahab, 21; and Radzman Hassan, 37, in the village of Santa Maria near Edwin Andrews Air Base. The victims were rushed to hospital.

Policemen recovered 9 bullet shells fired from a .45-caliber pistol from the crime scene.

The suspect, a member of Philippine Army assigned with Civil Military Operation Group, was arrested inside the Camp General Arturo T. Enrile in Malagutay village after policemen coordinated with Idjal’s superior, Captain Arnel Lobusta, according to Galvez.

Despite her wounds, Abdulla told police investigators that Idjal was a relative of her husband, Alyaser Abdulla, a soldier killed in fighting with local ISIS militants in Marawi City.

“The possible motive of the incident is the benefit claims (of Abdulla) considering the victim is the second wife of the slain soldier,” Galvez said, adding, the victims and Idjal live in the same village.

Idjal did not give any statement on the accusation against him.

MILF: Editorial - ‘Daring escape’

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Aug 26): Editorial - ‘Daring escape’

There is a disturbing report that “dozens” of ISIS-linked militants, alongside about 30 hostages, believed to be including a Catholic priest, have escaped. This means they have abandoned the city of Marawi.

Indeed, a daring escape, reminiscent of the movie “The Great Escape”! The movie is a true story of Allied prisoners plotting to break out of Nazi detention camp.

Marawi City is virtually encircled and the Lake is sealed from all sides. Why did the escape happen? Other people’s guesses can be as bad or good as ours. Frankly, there are more mysteries than explanations in this happening in Marawi City.

However, we received a fresh report early today (August 26) that a major fighting occurred in the city last night, clearly contradicting the first report. If the second report is true, then the militants were merely engaged in a ruse.

The Marawi Crisis has already entered its fourth month, and the end is yet to happen. In the past, the military had given several timetables to finish off the job, but none one happened so far. The Maute group simply continued to pitch in the city and engaged the military, mostly in sniping.

A revisit of this crisis, therefore, is very important. We can draw many lessons from it, both good and bad.

The truth is, for whatever reason or reasons, three months of bloody combat with government, using all firepower in its arsenal, is too long as per our experience. Nobody can amply explain the Maute Group’s staying power or the inability of military to terminate the crisis.

The Maute group is a very small force, compared to the MILF. Its strength lies in the use of full guerrilla warfare, which seems is not the case. They preferred a more stationary combat, defying conventional rules of warfare that a weaker force can only effectively fight a stronger force by resorting to highly mobile tactics.

Of course, whether later or sooner, the Maute group will be uprooted from the city. They will be drained off physically and their resources dry up. If this does not happen, the answer might be found elsewhere.

Clearly, the Maute group does not enjoy popular support for now. But the civilians are caught between two evils, the Maute group’s terrorism and the massive destruction caused by artillery bombardment and aerial bombing. Add the heightening perception of the people that the government is going to drive them away, because the city is sitting on mostly military reservations. Add also the perceived lukewarm attitude of the government and the Lower House of Congress in fast-tracking the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

All these can add to the list of legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people that government has to address. Failure to do so by government will perpetuate the conflict in Mindanao.

Seriously speaking, many of the youths who joined the radical groups in Mindanao have openly admitted that frustrations were one of the reasons why they have gone their way. When people especially the young, who are idealistic, energetic, and adventurous, are fed up, they will look for anything which can allow them to download or vent their anger. For now, they cannot sufficiently find it with the MNLF or MILF, because these fronts have entered into peace agreements with government, and are committed to see the full implementation of these agreements. Consequently, these youths have to look elsewhere where they can identify themselves and provide them the necessary launching pod.

MILF: MILF Chairman Ebrahim pays tribute to the late Malaysian Facilitator Dato Tengku Ab Ghafar

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Aug 27): MILF Chairman Ebrahim pays tribute to the late Malaysian Facilitator Dato Tengku Ab Ghafar

In a tribute to the late Malaysian Facilitator Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed, Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee acknowledged the contribution of the late Tengku Ab Ghafar who was instrumental in the revival of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF after of a long impasse due to the 2000 all-out war.

Speaking during the book launch of “Beyond the Peace Tables: Reflections on the GPH-MILF Peace Process, authored by the late facilitator on August 19 at Camp Darapanan, Chairman Ebrahim disclosed that Dato’ Tenku Ab Ghafar headed the official delegation of emissaries sent by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad to the MILF leadership then under the late Chairman of MILF Sheik Salamat Hashim sometime in 2000 during the reign of ousted President Joseph Estrada.

When Estrada was overthrown in a people power, President Gloria Macapaga-Arroyo, now Pampanga Representative succeeded him in 2003, Murad recalled bitterness of her government despite her all-out peace policy.

Prodded by her military advisors, Arroyo then ordered government soldiers to attacked Buliok Peace Complex, a community in Pagalungan, Maguindanao during Eid’l Adha prayer.

Forced to defend themselves, MILF Forces fought back and the hostilities escalated that led to displacement of hundreds of thousands of Moro people who fled to safer places.

The MILF Guerillas who are highly trained in guerilla warfare forced Arroyo to adopt a diplomatic approach and requested Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad to convince the MILF leadership to go back to the negotiating table.

Chairman Ebrahim said that paved the way for the sending of three-man delegation led by Dato Tengku Ab Ghafar by Prime Minister Mohammad to contact the MILF.

Chairman Ebrahim also narrated the contributions of Dato’ Tengku’s team who met the late MILF Chairman Salamat, and other senior members of Central Committee in Buliok.

“The MILF leadership was able to encourage by Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar to accept the request of the two heads of states to return to the negotiation on the following conditions:

  • A. That there shall be a third-party facilitator either the Organization of Islamic Conference, now Cooperation (OIC) or any of its members’ states;
  • B. All prior agreements of the parties from the start of the negotiation in 1997 shall be honored, respected and implemented;
  • C. All meetings of the Peace Panels shall be held outside the country;
  • D. The ceasefire agreement shall be strengthened and implemented; and
  • E. Cases filed against the leaders of the MILF shall be dropped.”
Chairman Ebrahim also narrated in his tribute to Dato Tengku Ab Ghafar that after a series of communications and acceptance of the conditions set by the MILF by the Philippine government, series of meetings were held in Malaysia which were actively participated in by Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar.

“The first meeting of the Peace Panels was held in Tripoli, Libya known as the 2001 Tripoli Agreement of Peace facilitated by Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar,” said Murad.

Among the major accomplishments signed by the two parties during the time of Dato’ Tengku Abdul Ghafar were the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“But even if Dato’ Tengku Ab Gkafar has passed away, he would continue to inspire us not only for his valuable contributions to the Peace Process but the publication of his book will give us more wisdom and will remain to be the handy, compact repository of thoughts amidst the onslaughts of information one can easily access nowadays from various media outlet,” the MILF Chieftain said.

Chairman Ebrahim also said further, “Undeniably over the course of the 17 years of negotiations, we have nurtured not only professional relationship with Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar whose advise we always value, respect and cherish.”

“We shall truly miss Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar. He would be forever remembered by the Bangsamoro and the Filipinos for successfully steering the 17-year old negotiations into a concrete peace agreement between the MILF and the GPH,” he said.

“With this book, it is a though, he is still around to share our struggle for the realization of our legitimate aspirations. May Allah showers His Mercy on the late Datu Tengku Abdul Ghafar as well as upon his family; May Allah reward him for all his good deeds”, Murad conveyed in a solemn gathering held in MILF administrative camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat Maguindanao on May 19, 2017.

The program was attended by the family of Dato’ Tengku Ab Ghafar and the newly designated Malaysian Facilitator and Special Advisor to the GPH-MILF Peace Process Dato Kamarudin Bin Mustafa, his past colleagues in the peace process former GPH Chief Negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and OPAPP Secretary Tersita “Ging” Deles.

Also present in the launching were USec. Nabil Tan, MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, prominent members of the MILF Central Committee, Dr. Emma Leslie of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, and other members of International Communities, NGOs and CSOs leaders’, and members of Media.

MILF: Iqbal exhorts HoR to stick with the version of Bangsamoro Law crafted by BTC

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Aug 26): Iqbal exhorts HoR to stick with the version of Bangsamoro Law crafted by BTC

Mohaqher Iqbal, the Chief Peace Negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), exhorted the House to stick with the version of the BBL as submitted by the BTC that, he said, was “reflective of the true aspiration of the Bangsamoro people, News5 Interaksyon said in its online post on August 22, 2017.
In a message at the launch of the book “Beyond Peace Tables: Reflections on the GPH-MILF Peace Process” authored by the late Dato Tengku Abdul Ghafar, who was Malaysian Third Party facilitator for the GPH-MILF Peace Process for many years on August 19 at Camp Darapanan, Iqbal said, “For the sake of just and lasting peace and development, we urge our honorable legislators to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted by the BTC”.

Iqbal also asked Congress on Tuesday to “work around the flexibility of law” in tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is aimed at ending decades of rebellion and achieve lasting peace in the Mindanao region.

He added: “Any other proposed bill, like or similar or lesser than RA 9054 that created the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), runs counter to the agreements of the parties and, more seriously, will only prolong the sufferings and agonies of the people”, News5 Interaksyon said in its online report.

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our esteemed legislators who are present today to look at the Bangsamoro problem as a political and not a purely legal issue,” he said, elaborating that some Philippine Constitution luminaries see the charter as a political document.

“So, the interpretation is not strictly legal but political,” he said.

“The bottom line is, as Congress goes through this legislative process concerning the proposed BBL of the BTC, we ask that our honorable legislators go by what will achieve justice, and what will achieve the purpose of justice. This means having to work around the flexibility of law,” he said. (Source: News5 Interaksyon)

Reshuffle in key PH military posts as Año's retirement looms

From Rappler (Aug 27): Reshuffle in key PH military posts as Año's retirement looms

AFP chief General Eduardo Año, Air Force chief Lieutenant General Edgar Fallorina, and Army acting chief Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda are all retiring in two to 3 months   

CHANGE OF COMMAND. Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr assumes as commanding officer of the Western Command. All photos from the PH military

CHANGE OF COMMAND. Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr assumes as commanding officer of the Western Command. All photos from the PH military

Retirements triggered movements of key officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), marking the beginning of leadership reshuffle as the retirements of AFP chief General Eduardo Año and other high-ranking generals loom over the military.

Two major commands and the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) are among those that welcomed new chiefs two to 3 months before the scheduled retirements
New guard of the West PH Sea

Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr is the new commander of the Western Command (Wescom), the unit responsible over Palawan and the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). He assumed the post after the retirement of Lieutenant General Raul del Rosario on August 11.

Kintanar also assumed the post as concerns are raised over China's renewed agressiveness in the disputed seas. Its fleet are discovered too close to Pag-asa (Thitu) island, one of the biggest naturally occuring islands in the area that is occupied by the Philippines.

Kintanar received advanced training in the US and Australia. He took a Squadron Officer course in Alabama USA and later pursued his Defense and Strategic Studies Course at the Australian Defense College in Canberra and Deakin University.

Solcom, ISAFP, 4th ID

Major General Benjamin Madrigal assumes as commander of the South Luzon Command (Solcom)
Major General Benjamin Madrigal Jr is the new commander of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), the unit tasked to make sure the communist rebels are not able to regain its former strongholds in the area.

Solcom was recently placed on alert as clashes with the rebels resumed following collapse of peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) representing them in the negotiators.

Madrigal was the former commander of the 4th Infantry Division (ID) based in Cagayan De Oro, one of the cities the military are closely watching as war rages against local terror groups linked with the international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS).

Madrigal has a Masters Degree in Management Studies from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

NEW SPY CHIEF. Brigadier General Macairog Alberto assumes as chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP

The 4th ID is now led by Major General Ronald Villanueva, who is returning to his former area of operation. He served as the division's chief of staff from 2012 to 2014 after serving various intelligence posts there.

Villanueva relinquished his post as chief spy of the Philippine military to Brigadier General Macairog Alberto, who was plucked from the 1001st Infantry Brigade of the 10th Infantry “Agila” Division.

Father of Maute brothers dies due to health reasons – BJMP

From Rappler (Aug 27): Father of Maute brothers dies due to health reasons – BJMP

(3rd UPDATE) The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology says the Maute patriarch died after his blood pressure shot up and he had difficulty breathing

PATRIARCH. Cayamora Maute after his arrest on June 6, 2017 in Davao City.

PATRIARCH. Cayamora Maute after his arrest on June 6, 2017 in Davao City.

(3rd UPDATE) – Cayamora Maute, the father of the notorious Marawi-based Maute brothers, died on Sunday, August 27, according to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
Senior Inspector Xavier Solda, BJMP spokesman, told Rappler that the 64-year-old Maute was rushed to the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital past 3 pm on Sunday, already in critical condition. He was declared dead on arrival.

Before he was rushed to the hospital, Maute had difficulty breathing and felt weak at around 4:30 am, according to the BJMP. He was given antibiotics at 10:20 am, then complained again of difficulty in breathing at around 12:30 pm, prompting the jail nurse to conduct nebulization twice.

"Initially, sabi ng warden tumaas ang blood pressure tapos nahirapan huminga, bumagal ang pulso. Upon the assessment and recommendation of our medical team, sinugod sa pinakamalapit na ospital. He died past 3 pm," Solda told Rappler in a phone interview.

(Initially, the warden said his blood pressure shot up and he had difficulty breathing, his pulse slowed down. Upon the assessment and recommendation of our medical team, we rushed him to the nearest hospital. He died past 3 pm.)

The BJMP and the augmentation team from the Philippine National Police (PNP) were there at the hospital, according to Solda.

Solda also said the Maute patriarch already had hepatitis, diabetes, pneumonia, and hypertension even before he was detained, based on the medical examination conducted when he arrived at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City last June 8.

"Last August 9, he [was] complaining of body weakening and manas (swollen limbs). He was in full monitoring and medication – antibiotics and diuretics – for a week until he regained his strength and his vital signs were normalized.

 August 13, he was diagnosed with hypertension type 2, diabetes type 2 uncontrolled, gastroenteritis, and ascites," Solda added in a separate statement sent to media.

Following Maute's death, his body was brought back to the BJMP complex "for short viewing of his immediate family," said Solda. His relatives then left with his remains at 7:15 pm.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año said the military has yet to receive a formal report on Maute's death, and only learned about it from media reports.

"This is an unfortunate incident for his family; but more so to the victims of terrorism in Marawi and their relatives who are awaiting justice and expecting that Mr Cayamora would answer/atone for his involvement in the Marawi rebellion," Año also said.

The Maute patriarch was accused of providing funding and logistical support for the terror-linked activities of his sons. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

He was arrested in Davao City on June 6 along with 4 other individuals who are said to be members of the Maute family. (READ: Mautes' father, 4 others arrested in Davao City)

The Maute Group attacked Marawi City, Lanao del Sur last May 23, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao for 60 days. The martial law declaration has since been extended until December 31. (READ: How a military raid triggered Marawi attacks)

Philippines: NPA collects P1.2B in extortion activities

From Anadolu Agency (Aug 26): Philippines: NPA collects P1.2B in extortion activities

Defense chief calls businesses not to give into their demands

The Philippine defense chief said the communist rebel group is collecting as much as P1.2 billion in revolutionary taxes every year from various mining areas in Mindanao.
The collection of revolutionary taxes by the New People's Army are extortion activities that have long been hurting the business sector in the country, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenza underscored.
Lorenzana's statement comes in the southern city of Davao following reports and complaints from business groups in Mindanao on the extortion activities of the NPAs.
"Don't give in to their demands. They rely on extortion to survive. If the sources of their funds run dry, their activity will also decrease and eventually end their movement,” Davao Today quoted Lorenzana as saying on Friday.
The government peace panel restarted talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed NPA and political wing the National Democratic Front in 2016, three years after talks were shelved during the Aquino administration.
But in May, President Rodrigo Duterte ended the peace talks with the communists, blaming the NPA rebels' of continued attacks against security forces.
Duterte has repeatedly said peace negotiations between the government and the communists would only resume if they stop their extortion activities.

Video shows ISIS destroying Catholic church, threatening Rome

From Angelus News (Aug 25): Video shows ISIS destroying Catholic church, threatening Rome

A new video has been released showing ISIS militants in the Philippines threatening to come to Rome as they desecrate a Catholic church. Filmed in the Philippine city of Marawi, the video shows militants shooting and setting fires within a church, as they destroy a crucifix and statues of Mary and St. Joseph.

One jihadist tears up photos of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI while saying, “Remember this, you kuffar [non-Muslims] – we will be in Rome, we will be in Rome, inshallah [god willing].” Over the footage, another narrator can be heard saying “after all their efforts, it would be the religion of the cross that would be broken. The crusaders’ enmity toward the Muslims only served to embolden a generation of youth.”

The video, distributed by the pro-ISIS media organization, Al Hayat, also contains graphic footage of fighting in the besieged Philippine city, including dead Philippine soldiers and militants shooting AK-47s as a narrator encourages Muslims in East Asia to come to the city “to perform jihad.”

Since May 23, militants of the Maute group, which formed in 2012 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015, have been fighting against government forces for control of the city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao. Violence began after a failed army and police raid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a local Islamist leader. The initial attack launched by Maute burned several buildings, including the Catholic cathedral and the bishop’s residence.

The majority of the city’s 200,000 people – mostly Muslim – have fled since its occupation. At least 400 people have been killed in the fighting as of mid-July, though numbers haven't been updated since. On Aug. 24, government forces recaptured the city's Grand Mosque, where it had been believed that as many as 40 civilian hostages were being held by militants, though no militants or hostages were found. Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a briefing that the retaking of the Grand Mosque, located in the central area of Marawi, was “a significant development,” despite recovering no hostages.
The government has said some of the militants fighting in Marawi appear to be from abroad, including countries like Russia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. However, Officials say there are also indications that other slain militants have come from the Middle East. The fighting has fueled fears that the Islamic State is attempting to set up a regional base in Southeast Asia.

Oust-Duterte move ‘imaginary’ – 4th ID chief

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 25): Oust-Duterte move ‘imaginary’ – 4th ID chief

The newly-installed 4th Infantry Division commander of the Philippine Army has branded as “imaginary” the clamor of an alleged group composed of military and police personnel to oust President Duterte.

It’s imaginary. We have worked for so long about professionalizing our Armed Forces, and these people are just, maybe, imagining what they can,” Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva said.

Villanueva was chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). He replaced Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., who was assigned as chief of the Southern Luzon Command.

A group that called itself the Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM), in a statement, has called for the ouster of President Duterte.

“We, officers and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, hereby make a compact to constitute ourselves as the Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM) and to condemn and hold Rodrigo R. Duterte accountable for gross crimes in betrayal of public trust and in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people,” PADEM said in a statement.

Court resets arraignment of lady PNP officer linked to Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 25): Court resets arraignment of lady PNP officer linked to Abu Sayyaf

Supt. Maria Cristina Nobleza and Reneer Dongon. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/LEO UDTOHAN – INQUIRER VISAYAS

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) here has reset the arraignment of a police officer who had links with the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.

Judge Jorge Cabalit, of RTC Branch 48 in Tagbilaran City, rescheduled the arraignment of Supt. Maria Cristina Nobleza for the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges.

No date had yet been set for Nobleza’s schedule on when she would enter her plea before the court.

Sarah Soriano-Hermida, one of Nobleza’s lawyers, said the arraignment was postponed since the court had yet to resolve their motion that sought to dismiss the charges against the police officer.

“Our ground is—the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the accused Nobleza because the arrest was made illegally,” said Hermida.

The judge gave the prosecution 10 days to comment on the motion while the defense would be given another 10 days to answer.

Nobleza, who was wearing a hijab, a veil traditionally worn by Muslim women, arrived the sala of Judge Cabalit around 9 a.m.

Considered a “high risk” detainee, she was heavily escorted by policemen that caused a traffic jam along the city’s B. Inting Street.

She refused to talk to reporters.

Nobleza left the court at 10:15 a.m. and was brought to Bohol District Jail in Tagbilaran City where she stayed while waiting for her flight back to Manila at 3:50 p.m.

Hermida said Nobleza has been suffering from eye problem, headaches and blurred vision.

“We requested a check-up for her eyes sa Crame but we were told to file a written motion for that request. She is due for a check up since her vision has been blurry,” said Hermida.

Nobleza and her husband, Reenor Lou Dongon, were arrested after they refused to stop at a police check point set up by government troops who were hunting down after members of the Abu Sayyaf group in Clarin town, Bohol last April.

The police later learned that the couple were trying to rescue the bandit group members.

A C-4 explosive, a detonating cord, a blasting cap and a blasting cap kit were found inside Nobleza’s luggage that was left in the apartment rented by the couple in Panglao town.

Last June 6, Nobleza and Dongon pleaded not guilty to the separate case of obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree 1829 pending before Judge Erwin Magallano Ucat at RTC Tubigon.