Friday, September 8, 2017

Red tag did Mariano in

From The Standard (Sep 8): Red tag did Mariano in

FORMER Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano on Thursday said allegations linking him to the attacks by communist rebels on the facilities of Lapanday Foods Corp. early this year might have convinced the powerful Commission on Appointments to reject his appointment.

In an interview on ANC, Mariano insisted he had no hand in the planning of the attacks as alleged in the resolution forwarded by the Regional Development Council and Regional Peace and Order Council in Davao Region to the CA committee on agrarian reform.

The resolution was signed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año, AFP Eastern Mindanao Command commander Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, and Davao Occidental Governor Claude Bautista, among others.

In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news briefing President Rodrigo Duterte continued to be open in his relationship with the left, but admitted the relationship had been “complicated.”

“If we are going to work together, then there must be some form of agreement. And, apparently, at this stage, it’s a little bit complicated,” he added.

Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano

Despite this, however, Abella claimed the Palace was quite saddened with Mariano’s rejection as Agrarian Reform secretary.

“It’s quite regrettable that, you know, that people of opposing beliefs are not there...because it would really add to the...richness of the dialogue,” he said.

At least 13 members of the appointments body voted against Mariano’s confirmation.

Mariano, nominated by the left-leaning National Democratic Front, is the fourth Cabinet appointee of Duterte to be rejected. The three earlier rejected were Perfecto Yasay, Regina Lopez, and Judy Taguiwalo.

The RDC and RPOC said despite the ongoing peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army still attacked three business establishments and Task Force Davao in April.

According to the resolution, the “hostile acts” resulted in the burning of two trucks of the Macondray Plastic Factory in Panabo City in Davao del Norte, burning of the Lapanday box plant in Barangay Mandug, Davao City, burning of the house and vehicles of the Lorenzo family in Barangay Pangyan, Davao City, and an improvised explosive device attack against TFD that conducted clearing operations in Davao City while on their way to respond to the burning of the Lapanday plant.

The attacks reportedly resulted in the death of a civilian and about P2-billion damage in property.

Asked if the termination of peace talks was a sign of loss of confidence on the part of the President, Mariano said he remained optimistic that both sides would go back to the negotiating table.

He said the CA decision indicated the body’s bias for the interest of landlords and oligarchs accused of continuously resisting agrarian reform.

'It's complicated': Palace on relationship with Reds

From ABS-CBN (Sep 7): 'It's complicated': Palace on relationship with Reds

"It’s complicated.”

This was how Malacañang described the current status of its relationship with the communist movement after two of President Rodrigo Duterte’s leftist appointees to the Cabinet were rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments.
"...[Y]ou know, if we are going to work together, then there must be some form of agreement. And apparently, at this stage, it’s a little bit… ‘complicated.’”

Leftist lawmakers have said they would hold an emergency meeting to reassess their membership with the supermajority at the House of Representatives after the CA, dominated by the President’s allies, rejected Wednesday the appointment of peasant leader Rafael Mariano as Agrarian Reform Secretary.

This followed the bicameral body's rejection of activist Judy Taguiwalo as Social Welfare Secretary last month.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said leftist lawmakers, collectively called the Makabayan bloc, were free to “express their own belief, disbelief or participation, non-participation, support and non-support” for the government.

“It’s going to be their call if they resign or not resign. But it’s quite regrettable that… people of opposing beliefs are not there,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.

Duterte, a self-proclaimed socialist, had tapped left-leaning leaders to hold key positions in government at the start of his term as he pursued peace negotiations with the Left.

But he has been accused of not doing enough to spare his leftist Cabinet appointees from rejection.

The promising resumption of peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines early in Duterte's term turned sour when Duterte ordered its suspension over the string of rebel attacks on state forces.

In putting negotiations on hold, the government panel also cited the Left's call for its armed wing to beef up forces in response to Duterte's martial law declaration over Mindanao amid clashes between government troops and terrorists in Marawi City.

Despite the suspension, Abella said Duterte “continues to be open” to the Left.

“However, there must be an agreement on both sides. You know, when you say Left, that’s a very broad label covering just about everybody, from the Cabinet secretaries, all the way to those who are in the field,” he said.

Marawi as the beginning not end

From the Asia Times (Sep 8): Marawi as the beginning not end (By Bong Sarmiento)

While Philippine military officials claim the battle for the Islamic State-besieged city is nearly closed, the contest for hearts and minds of those affected by the fighting has only begun

 A government soldier stands on guard in front of damaged buildings and houses as troops continue their clearing operations against pro-IS militants who have seized control of large parts of Marawi City, Philippines September 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

A government soldier stands on guard in front of damaged buildings and houses as troops continue their clearing operations against pro-IS militants who have seized control of large parts of Marawi City, Philippines September 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

Over three months since Islamic State-aligned militants laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi, military authorities insist that the end of the death, devastation and destruction is in sight.

But even when the last rebels are dislodged from their urban redoubts, it’s not clear Manila’s fight against IS-inspired militancy will be over anytime soon.

Philippine Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, estimates the city’s battle zone is now confined to a mere 400 to 600 square meter area, in which 40 or so fighters aligned with the local Maute Group are holed up with more than two dozen hostages allegedly being used as human shields.

In a recent briefing for reporters, he claimed that many of the remnant fighters are wounded and running out fast of ammunition and food due to strict security measures imposed on the military-encircled city. The recent retaking of the town’s central mosque and two strategic bridges, the government claims, has significantly reduced the rebels’ earlier room for maneuver and replenishment.

“I’m confident the end is already near,” he said, predicting troops would “normalize” the situation in the besieged city by September or October.

Restoring normality will be no easy task. The fighting continues to displace some 360,000 civilians, mostly ethnic Maranao Muslims, and has laid waste to what was the Philippines’ most religiously significant Muslim majority city on the southern island of Mindanao.

Smoke billows from a burning building in the southern Philippine city of Marawi on September 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

More than 800 people, mostly militants but also troops and civilians, have been killed since the fighting first erupted on May 23. The military estimates it has rescued over 1,700 people that were either taken hostage or trapped by the fighting.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said it will cost around 56 billion pesos (US$1.1 billion) to rebuild the devastated city, as well as provide social welfare and other services to the displaced. The government recently announced it would float 30 billion pesos (US$600 million) worth of government bonds to help finance the reconstruction.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire southern island of Mindanao, long a hotbed of insurgency and rebellion, under martial law hours after the first clashes broke out in Marawi, a decision some saw as administrative overreach. He has since visited the urban warfare zone on three occasions.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gives a pep talk to troops fighting the extremist Maute group in Marawi on August 24, 2017. Photo: Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters

Duterte has repeatedly urged his forces to quickly finish off the internationally supported militants, in hope of stopping the spread of Islamic State ideology outside of Marawi. During his most recent visit on August 24, the populist president even fired a sniper rifle in the direction of the militants in a macho show of support for his troops.

But after three months of heavy ground assaults and aerial bombardments, armed forces continue to miss official deadlines to rout the militants and reassert state control over the city and surrounding areas. Their mission has been undercut by hidden local support for militants the military believes it has recently significantly severed.

Galvez asserted that the IS-aligned militants’ stated vision of creating an Islamic caliphate in Mindanao is actually “getting smaller” as troops constrict the battle zone to a narrow pocket of resistance.

Philippine soldiers on patrol among damaged buildings and houses in Marawi City on September 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

The recent arrests of Cayamora and Farhana Maute, respectively the father and mother of Abdullah and Omar Maute, the leaders of the eponymous Maute Group, has hit the militants.

The military claims the two Maute parents had provided financial and logistical support for the siege, the most devastating in the country’s long history of insurgency. Cayamora died on August 27 in state custody. Both Cayamora and Farhana were included in a martial law ordered arrest list of 310 individuals accused of rebellion for contributing to the assault on Marawi.

Another alleged prominent Maute Group supporter, former Marawi mayor Fajad Salic, was also recently arrested in Mindanao. Former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario, another prominent suspected Maute Group backer, is still at large, as are most of the other 300 suspects on the government’s arrest list.

Even so, the military claims to have broken the Maute Group’s hold on Marawi. On September 4, Galvez claimed that Abdullah Maute had been killed in a government air strike, though the claim has not yet been independently corroborated. He claimed the militants’ morale was “sagging” due to deprivation, injuries and the decapitation of its leaders.

That may or may not be the case. It’s unclear how many of the fighters have peeled away to nearby mountain areas or among internally displaced people camps with an eventual aim to regroup and relaunch their attacks. Galvez acknowledges that even after Marawi is eventually liberated from militant control, armed forces will face an uphill struggle combating Islamic State’s radical ideology.

Pro-Islamic State graffiti on a wall of a back-alley in Marawi City, Philippines June 12, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo

“There is another battle after this battle,” said Galvez. “The battle that we will be fighting is the recruitment. Some Maute supporters are using the Marawi siege as leverage (to drum up local support),” he said, claiming some new recruits have been as young as 14-years old and easily swayed with anti-state messages disseminated over social media.

The prolonged fight at Marawi has at the same time awakened the military, largely trained and prepared for jungle fighting against rebel groups, to its deficiencies in combating modern urban warfare tactics deployed by the foreign-linked Maute Group.

Galvez refers to the Maute Group as a “hybrid terrorist group”, reference to its links with the local Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), an Islamic extremist group that has also declared its loyalty to Islamic State. Filipino troops’ attempt to arrest ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, currently on a US government terrorist list and Islamic State’s designated ‘emir’ in Southeast Asia, sparked the initial fighting in Marawi.

He notes that past fighting with rebel groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), two ethnic Moro groups that have since signed ceasefire agreements with the government, seldom entailed long siege, high casualty fighting.

While certain former MILF members are now fighting with Maute Group, and with others linked through marriage, MILF has repeatedly condemned the group’s scorched earth tactics at Marawi.

Internally displaced people reach for ice cream at an evacuation center outside the city of Marawi on July 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva

Manila will also face a tall order in winning over those worst affected by the Marawi siege. Many of the displaced have expressed anger not only against the Maute Group for its destructive tactics, but also the government for laying waste to their city through perceived indiscriminate bombings and firefights.

Some analysts have viewed the death and devastation as a sort of propaganda victory for Islamic State-linked militants that has put Southeast Asia on the map of global terror organizations. Fighters from neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as from countries in the Middle East, have joined the fight.

In response, the military deployed last week an all-female team, consisting of over 100 soldiers and police officers, to help local government units address the urgent needs of families displaced by the security crisis.

A Filipino soldier stands in a house used as combat position on July 1, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva

The Philippine National Police (PNP), for its part, recently designated a locally respected Islamic religious leader Superintendent Ebra Moxsir Al Haj as Marawi’s new police chief. He previously served as president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, one of the country’s most influential Muslim organizations.

“After the battle in Marawi is over, we need to intensify our counterterrorism measures,” Moxsir recently said. “We should also counter the wrong ideology propagated by the Maute Group,” he added, noting that Islam is a “religion of peace” that “doesn’t tolerate killing or violence.”

But with some 360,000 internally displaced people and little progress made yet on reconstruction, many Marawi residents are destined for long waits in squalid evacuation centers and under-provisioned transitional shelters, pockets of deprivation and desperation where the government and Islamic State will compete to win heavy hearts and minds.

PH military believes 5 other Maute brothers killed

From Rappler (Sep 8): PH military believes 5 other Maute brothers killed

The deaths of the 5 brothers and Abdullah Maute leave Omar as the only Maute brother fighting in Marawi, says the Philippine military

PLANNING THE ATTACK. Screenshot of a video the military recovered from a Maute safe house shows the Maute brothers and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon planning the attack in Marawi City

PLANNING THE ATTACK. Screenshot of a video the military recovered from a Maute safe house shows the Maute brothers and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon planning the attack in Marawi City

The Philippine military said on Friday, September 8, that it has "reason to believe" that 5 other Maute brothers have been killed in Marawi City, leaving only Omar Maute directing the fight.

"They have reason to believe that only one of the Maute brothers remains in the fight and this is Omar. The rest are believed to have been killed," Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in a Malacañang news briefing.

Padilla, who is AFP deputy chief of staff for plans, said that there are a total of 7 Maute brothers who are part of the Maute Group. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

The military reported on Monday, September 4, that Abdullah Maute, commander of the group's military operations, might have been killed.

"To our knowledge, 7 siblings are involved in the group....The others have been killed," said Padilla.

For the military to be absolutely certain about the deaths, the remains of the supposed Maute brothers would have to subjected to DNA testing.

The information of their deaths came from Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez and hostages who were able to escape from the terrorists' hideout.

As of Friday, 653 terrorists have been killed, according to the military. The battle area in Marawi has been reduced to 20 hectares after days of "fierce" close-quarter battle, said Padilla.

Marawi battle zone down to 20 hectares

From Rappler (Sep 8): Marawi battle zone down to 20 hectares

It is about the size of the campus of University of Santo Tomas in Manila, except the battle zone is a commercial area packed with high-rise buildings

The battle zone in Marawi City has been narrowed down to just 20 hectares, said Joint Task Force Marawi spokesman Captain Jo-ann Petinglay in a press briefing on Friday, September 8.

"Our soldiers are still trying to clear a portion of about 20-21 hectares land area in the main battle area," she said.

It is about the size of the campus of University of Santo Tomas in Manila, except the battle zone is a commercial area packed with high-rise buildings. (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military)

As of Day 109 of the war, a total of 843 people have been killed – 145 soldiers, 45 civilians, and 653 terrorists – based on military updates.

The military recorded no additional fatalities since Monday, but 30 soldiers were injured mainly from explosions of improvised explosive devices. (READ: Snipers and IEDs: Deadly combination in Marawi war zone)

Last week, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez said they are "transitioning to the final push," signalling a shift to end the war that has dragged on for over 3 months.

He said the war could be over "before October."

In Manila, Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the military believes 5 of the 6 Maute brothers leading the extremists linked with the Islamic State (ISIS) have been killed.

President Duterte gives wristwatch to Army brigade commander

From Update Philippines (Sep 7): President Duterte gives wristwatch to Army brigade commander

President Rodrigo Duterte gave his wristwatch to Philippine Army 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander Colonel Roberto Ancan at the 11th Founding Anniversary celebration of Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) on September 1 at Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, Davao City.

At around 12:30 am of September 1, 18 rifles in circular drums were seized while two NPA members were trying to bury the rifles. Two other rifles were seized from the two rebels.

Eastern Mindanao Command photo

Colonel Ancan said the seizure was made following a timely and accurate intelligence information provided by civilian informants.

“Our troops first observed what the two were doing,” Ancan said. “When accosted, the visibly surprised suspects tried to escape, but later arrested by soldiers.”

Eastern Mindanao Command photo

Word war resumes

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 7): Word war resumes

Army, NPA hurl accusations in killing of two Lumads

THE MUDSLINGING started following the deaths of an 18-year-old Lumad and a tribal chieftain in separate incidents on Tuesday as both the military and progressive groups blamed one another in the murders.

Sr. Supt. Marcial Mariano Magistrado, provincial director of Davao del Norte Police Provincial Office, identified the 18-year-old victim as Obillo Bay-ao, who was shot in Sitio Dulian, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod.
He said yesterday in the press conference in Royal Mandaya hotel that the victim was declared dead in Davao Regional Medical Center on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Magistrado said the blotter revealed that the victim was on his way back to their house from their farm when he was shot by perpetrators. “We have two persons of interest,” he said, although was still unidentified.
But the group, Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, posted on its Facebook page on Tuesday that Bay-ao was allegedly killed by a member of Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu). The network identified the victim as a grade six pupil of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center.

Rius Valle, spokesperson of SOS Network, said in a statement that the victim is the 47th lumad killed in the region under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. He said this showed that Lumad killings continue even under the current administration.
Valle said Bay-ao was allegedly killed by his cousins, Ben and Joven Salangani. Ben is a member of Cafgu while Joven is a member of paramilitary group Alamara, he added.

“Nothing has been done to arrest and detain the perpetrators,” Valle said.

However, Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, assistant commander of 10th Infantry Division, denied that the boy was killed by one of their own. “We are currently in the process to investigate this further,” Datuin said.
Army condemns murder of Datu

Meanwhile, the 4th Infantry Division condemned the NPA for killing Datu Rostico Sandag Porogoy, tribal chieftain of Santiago, Agusan del Norte in Barangay Comagascas, Cabadbaran City at around 7:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
According to the report, Datu Porogoy was on his way to visit his people in Pangaylan (a manobo community in Santiago) when three gunmen, who were riding a motorcycle and armed with cal .45, shot him twice at his back and one on his right shoulder.

Lt. Col. Glen Aynera, commanding officer of 29th Infantry Battalion said, “The killing of Datu Porogoy is a blatant execution.”

“This is another Lumad killing purposely to sow threat and violence among the peace-loving Lumads and to the Filipino people as a whole,” he added.

Datu Porogoy is the representative of CADT 134. He was a staunch peace advocate in Caraga region and was instrumental in convincing the IP community in denouncing the NPA, the military said.
“The attack on Datu Porogoy is a clear and undeniable proof of the NPA’s human rights atrocities in Lumad communities,” he further said.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen Ronald Villanueva, 4th ID commander, urged Karapatan and other organizations who are calling for the end of Lumad killings to similarly condemn this dastardly act and denounce the NPA’s human rights violations.

“Let not Datu Porogoy’s death be the end of his advocacy for his people, but rather an inspiration to others to pursue peace and development,” Villanueva said. “We sympathize with his family, relatives, friends, love ones, and constituents.”

Photo: Joint Army-MILF Operation

From MindaNews (Sep 6): Photo: Joint Army-MILF Operation

Army and Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces involved in a joint operation against the extremist group Dawla Islamiya Maguindanao carry supplies of ammunition, food and water across a river in Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao on Tuesday (5 September 2016). The joint Army-MILF operation, which was supported by the Air Force’s aerial bombardment and the Army’s artillery fires, resulted in the capture of an extremist base in Barangay Tee. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Army strives to end recruitment of child soldiers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 7): Army strives to end recruitment of child soldiers

The 81st Infantry (Spartan) Battalion of the Philippine Army based here condemned the New People’s Army (NPA) for allegedly recruiting children for combat until now.

A recent statement said that child warriors are being used by the NPA group: PLATUN South Ilocos Sur (SIS) in their armed struggle against government troops.

NPA surrenderers, who were caught during the Army’s encounters with rebels in Salcedo and Sigay towns recently, have revealed that most members of the PLATUN SIS were ages 21 years old and below.

There are some that ages from 16 to 17 years old.

Accordingly, these child warriors were newly recruited by their group through Ideological Political Organizational works and they were used as members of the armed group that operates in the Triple S (Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia and Salcedo) Complex of South Ilocos Sur.

"These circumstances are indicative that the NPA violates the laws that safeguard the rights of children, particularly Republic Act 7610 which punishes 'any person who commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or to be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child's development'," said Major General Angelito De Leon, AFP, commander of 7th Infantry Division.

“It is also a violation to the signed agreement, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), that these rebels are recruiting child warriors or minors to join them in their armed struggle and allowing them to take part in fighting,” De Leon said.

He added, “We will further strengthen our intelligence and civil military operations so that these activities will stop.”

Col. Henry Robinson Jr. (MNSA) PA, 702nd brigade commander, said that the revelation of the former rebels is necessary to communicate to the different sectors that handle the youth, more especially in educational institutions.

Further, Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV INF (GSC) PA, battalion commander of 81st Infantry Battalion said, “With the current revelation, your Army will further enhance the engagements with the youth sector through different activities that will be conducted by the Civil Military Operation operators.”

“Moreover, we are tracking down the identities of these minors so that their respective families will be made aware and vigilant for them to help the government in persuading their kin to leave the armed struggle,” Osias added.

US transfers M40 field protective masks to AFP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 7): US transfers M40 field protective masks to AFP

Officials from the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) delivered 1,000 M40 field protective masks and C2 filter canisters to the Philippine Navy (PN) through the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) on August 30 to 31, 2017.

As the fighting continues in Mindanao, the PN requested these gas masks in order to better prepare the sailors and marines to respond to chemical threats.

This transfer is part of a series of ongoing transfers from the U.S. military to multiple branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through MLSA and the security assistance program.

Through the MLSA, the AFP is able to receive select munitions and equipment from U.S. military stock in an accelerated process reserved for allies and close partners of the United States.

The United States is proud to work closely with the Republic of the Philippines and will continue to support capacity-building counterterrorism efforts and the AFP’s long-term modernization goals.