Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Israeli missile system for 3 Navy attack crafts to arrive December

From Update Philippines (Sep 11): Israeli missile system for 3 Navy attack crafts to arrive December

Three of the Philippine Navy’s multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) are expected to be fitted with anti-ship missiles once the weapon system is delivered in December from Israel.

Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said the three MPACs are waiting to be fitted with their Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd’s Spike ER (extended range) missile systems which are in anti-ship mode.

“The delivery of the missile system is being worked out because it has to be transported by a military platform, either a military ship or plane. Nevertheless, the Navy is preparing our facility at NASCOM Cavite for the work,” Mercado said in an interview.

He added the Navy is eyeing the use of Philippine Air Force (PAF) Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo plane for the delivery of weapons to the country.

The three MPACs were activated last May 22. A Spike ER is capable of penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a maximum range of five miles.

These MPACs are Mark III models and are considerably more advanced than the six Mark I and IIs currently in the Philippine Navy inventory and constructed by Subic Bay-based Propmech Corporation.

Contract for the three ships is worth PHP270 million sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000. The contract includes mission essential equipment. Mission essential equipment includes day/night electronic navigation systems, communication suites, safety-of-life-at-sea, propulsion system and seamanship and ship-handling gears.

The contract for the weapons system and missiles is worth PHP594,319,550.


PH thanks Australia for support vs terrorists in Marawi

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): PH thanks Australia for support vs terrorists in Marawi


The Philippine government expressed gratitude to Australia for its support to the ongoing efforts to contain Maute terrorists in Marawi City. “We are happy with the assistance that we are getting from Australia, the P-3s (AP-3Cs providing intelligence, surveillance and recon support to Filipino soldiers in Marawi City) and if they can send a small detachment of Australian troops to stay (in) to train our people maybe information gathering (and) analysis, (then we would be very grateful),” Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said following a meeting with Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne last week.

Australian intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance (ISR) assistance to the Philippines started last June 30, with two AP-3Cs providing the support to Filipino troops engaged in clearing out the remaining Maute Group members in Marawi City.

Payne said the Australian government is committed in helping the Philippines defend itself against terrorism.

“We are very committed to supporting (Philippines) in its efforts to defend itself against terrorist threats not only because we support our friends but because it is important for Australia as well, this is a threat to the region that we all need to work together to defeat,” she said.

Fighting in Marawi City started after government forces tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts last May 23.

Maute Group terrorists killed in the ongoing operations are placed at 655 along with 145 government troops. The number of Marawi City residents killed has reached 45 while rescued civilians are at 1,728. Seized weapons from the Maute Group totaled to 680.


Basler Turbo Conversions offers gunship, patrol aircraft to Philippines

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): Basler Turbo Conversions offers gunship, patrol aircraft to Philippines

Basler Turbo Conversions, a Wisconsin, USA based company, is offering two BT-67 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and two BT-67 FLIR Gunship for the Department of National Defense (DND) Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) acquisition program for Philippine Air Force (PAF), Basler’s country representative Rene Abad said.

The LRPA acquisition program has an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) of PHP5,976,000,000.00 for 2 brand new aircraft, however, in July, the bidding for the said project failed.

BT-67 is a remanufactured and modified Douglas DC-3/C-47 fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft.
“This offer can be an affordable and a fast implementation solution to the long running PAF LRPA acquisition saga,” Basler said in a statement. “The Basler BT-67’s affordability and capabilities as a Multi Mission Aircraft will enable the Philippines to buy more of the aircraft, or use the savings to buy other needed defense equipment.”

“Both the BT-67 Maritime Patrol version and the BT-67 FLIR Gunship version can do aerial maritime/ground monitoring and patrol, using the FLIR ball sensors that is common to both,” it said. “The FLIR Gunship carries additional weapons, while the Maritime Patrol version carries additional sensors and electronics.”

Basler added that aircraft being offered are capable of conducting of up to 8 hours of aerial maritime patrol over the country’s exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf.


Duterte visits Grand Mosque retaken from terrorists

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): Duterte visits Grand Mosque retaken from terrorists

Presidential photo

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the embattled Marawi City on September 11. This is the fourth time the President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) visited the city since the battle against terrorists started.

The President went to the Grand Mosque which has been recently retaken by the government troops from the clutches of the terrorists Maute Group after three months of relentless skirmish.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Arthur Tabaquero, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año, Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go joined the President.

Presidential photo

Presidential photo

Duterte also distributed some some supplies to front-line troops.

“Tapusin natin ‘to, tapos bakasyon muna kayo,” he said in his speech at the Battleground Command Post.


Duterte: No more secondhand aircraft from US, everything has to be new

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): Duterte: No more secondhand aircraft from US, everything has to be new

President Rodrigo Duterte said he will no longer buy secondhand helicopters from United States because some of them crashed and he will only source brand new military equipment from up to 2 countries.

“I will no longer buy second hand helicopters from the Americans because the two – the three – one of the two crashed. What’s happening to these Americans,” Duterte told military troops during his visit to Marawi City on September 11. He said the government paid for those aircraft.

“So for me, everything has to be brand new. All the planes and helicopters will have to be brand new. Your guns, I want just one source for it,” he said.

“I’m not going to mention what country it is but it’s just two – two countries,” Duterte said.

“But the Chinese, has it arrived? Oh, I’ve found that. China has been very good to us, so I am grateful to them. In behalf of the – let’s give them a round of applause,” he added. “Let’s thank them because everything that they gave us are of good quality, like the snipers. Was it good? At the very least, let’s all be thankful so that.”


Armed Forces appreciates Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s efforts against Daesh-inspired groups

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): Armed Forces appreciates Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s efforts against Daesh-inspired groups

The Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) is appreciating Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) support in efforts of the government against Daesh-inspired groups.

“We would like to express the appreciation of the Armed Forces to the members of the MILF who have continuously been very strong about their commitment to end the operations of Daesh-inspired groups within and around their areas of operation, particularly in the South Cotabato-Maguindanao area,” AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, Jr. said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang Palace on September 11.

“The BIFF, in particular, has been the forces here supportive of the Daesh and is the subject of these operations. Their commitment in the words of the Chairman [of the MILF Peace Panel], Mr. [Mohagher] Iqbal, has been to work relentlessly to finish the ISIS or the Daesh-inspired group in their area that have been polluting the minds of their fellow Muslims, and bringing them out of the wrong path or showing them the wrong path of the Islamic faith,” Brigadier General Padilla said.

“So they remain committed to this and you are all aware that they have issued a fatwa and their forces are deployed to effect all of this commitment to the Armed Forces and to the Republic,” he added.


British company providing torpedo system of PH navy’s upcoming frigates

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): British company providing torpedo system of PH navy’s upcoming frigates

British company Systems Engineering & Assessment (SEA) announced in a statement released in its website on September 11 that it is supplying the Torpedo Launcher Systems (TLS) of Philippine Navy’s upcoming brand-new frigates to be constructed by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

The British company will provide installation and support services. Delivery of first system to HHI is expected in the later part of 2018.

“The contract will be based on systems similar to those in service with the UK Royal Navy and also being supplied to the navies of Malaysia and Thailand,” SEA said. “It is unique in that it can be configured to fire any NATO standard light weight torpedo, enabling operators to benefit from the flexibility of choosing the best weapon independently and the option of switching during the life of the ship.”

SEA said its TLS comprises port and starboard triple tubes on a rotating base and utilizes composite materials for extended equipment life and low signature.

“The frigate project is now on the planning stage. Discussions are ongoing to agree on equipment and major systems to be installed. After this, construction will start,” Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado told PNA early this month.


LOOK: Protectors of PH sovereignty in West Philippine Sea awarded

From Update Philippines (Sep 12): LOOK: Protectors of PH sovereignty in West Philippine Sea awarded

 WESCOM photo

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) commanding general Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar JR. awarded the protectors of Philippine sovereignty in West Philippine Sea.

“Ginawaran ng parangal ni MGen Galileo Gerard Kintanar JR AFP, Commander ng Western Command ang ating mga magigiting ng kasundaluhan na buong tapang na nagpapatrolya sa mga isla ng Kalayaan, kanina, sa isinagawang Morning Colors sa himpilan ng WESCOM,” WESCOM said on September 11.

WESCOM photo
Troops deployment to military detachments in Kalayaan Island Group on West Philippine Sea usually last for three to four months.


Local NPA rejects offer of Duterte

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 12): Local NPA rejects offer of Duterte    
The Leonardo Panaligan Command (LPC) of the New People's Army rejected the offer of jobs and housing by President Rodrigo Duterte, if they surrender.

In a statement he issued, Ka JB Regalado, LPC spokesperson, dismissed the offer of Duterte as plain and simple deception.

In his visit to the wake of policemen killed in the Guihulngan ambush, Duterte said he will give jobs to NPA members who will surrender, that would include being soldiers after undergoing training, land, and a house. They can also keep their guns as souvenirs, he said.

Regalado maintained that the NPA will not surrender.

He also slammed the “bounty hunting” and the Comprehensive Local Intergration Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Negros, spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, and supported by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.

Regalado also accused the AFP , PNP and the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade of being behind the series of killings of civilians in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

The killings in Guihulngan City, following the ambush of six policemen as claimed by LPC, alarmed progressive organizations in the Diocese of San Carlos, who are now calling for an indepth investigation of the murder incidents.


PNA vows to get ‘saboteurs’

From News 5/InterAksyon (Sep 9): PNA vows to get ‘saboteurs’

PNA bloopers sabotage

The sabotage angle is being suspected behind the spate of editorial and technical bloopers that have rocked the Philippine News Agency.

Undersecretary Joel Egco of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), who was designated only last Friday to supervise the Philippine News Agency (PNA) – reeling in recent weeks from a spate of editorial and technical lapses – on Saturday vowed to unmask and quash a perceived effort to “sabotage” the government’s official news service.

In a post on Facebook, Egco said: “Our suspicion of sabotage is bolstered by the fact that someone with an IP address from Pasay City attempted to access the new dashboard of PNA last night.”

PNA sabotage Twitter posts

See also:  Netizens feast on PNA draft bloopers

PNA has, of late, been rocked by snafus on its web platform. Just this Friday, PNA posts went viral, subjected to netizens’ ridicule, after it appeared that some unedited news stories had been posted on the news agency’s website.
Posted PNA editorial blooper
Editors’ comments were placed on the headline space itself. It was not clear if this was the result of human error or technical problems. Egco had suggested in the course of looking into Friday’s problems that the PNA website had been undergoing maintenance even prior to it being pulled completely offline.

Joel Egco FB post

There is a possibility that these latest incidents involving the PNA web production platform were technical in nature, with or without having been compounded by production carelessness or hacking attacks, thus prompting Mr. Egco’s suspicion of the sabotage angle.

He said on his Facebook post: “I’m getting the report. So, I’m involving the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] and DICT [Department of Information and Communication Technology] in the investigation. I’m saying this because… I’ll find you!

“Make no mistake about it.

“You have caused so much humiliation already at the expense of many honest people. Pray that I’m wrong. And pray hard.

“The PNA website is undergoing maintenance checks for vulnerabilities. It will be UP once everything’s ok. We are working to make it better.

“Trust me.

“Again, I’ll find you, whether from inside or out. And it’s no bullshit.”


Around mid-August, the PNA had to publicly apologize for using as logo illustration the graphic identification mark of the Dole fruit company in place of the logo of DOLE, the Department of Labor and Employment.

PNA acknowledged that it was a careless editorial oversight.

The state news service was also heavily criticized after it ran an editorial from Xinhua, its counterpart in China. That editorial extolled Beijing’s claims over waters to which the Philippines has also staked ownership.

After Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar constituted the PNA Editorial Board four months ago, the editorial errors continued.

In August, Andanar took over PNA to head off the occurrence of further bloopers. He warned PNA staff: Explain yourselves satisfactorily or be assigned to Jolo or Basilan.

Egco was called in to supervise the PNA and was officially appointed on Friday.

In a Facebook post that same day, Mr. Egco shared some insights into the PNA workplace and staffing table, as excerpted below:


– In the beginning, Civil Service eligibility was not required.
– Since 1990, it was mandated that even a division chief at PNA must have a degree and eligibility.
– This restricted the entry of highly-skilled writers and editors who have no CSC eligibility.
– Many editors and reporters from other news entities wanted to join PNA but were restricted by CSC rules.
– There are high positions given to some who do not possess the skills commensurate to the task.
– Some were promoted on the basis of eligibility as a requirement which cannot be bent because it is under CSC rules.
– Some are initially taken in as Job Orders or under contract of services. Most leave eventually due to non-eligibility.
– PNA processes around 100 stories a day. The quota per reporter is three (3) stories a day.
– 100 stories a day for 10 editors? You guess.”


5 Maute fighters 'killed' in firefight after Duterte visit – military

From Rappler (Sep 12): 5 Maute fighters 'killed' in firefight after Duterte visit – military

Two high-powered firearms and a pair of night vision goggles are recovered from the enemies   


The military said 5 Maute fighters were killed in a heavy firefight here after midnight on Tuesday, September 12, just hours after President Rodrigo Duterte visited for a 4th time this war-torn city.

Two high-powered firearms and a pair of night vision goggles were also recovered from the enemies.

"The heavy firefight which ensued about 30 minutes yielded 5 'confirmed' killed on the enemy side with 4 enemy body counts. Two of the bodies were retrieved by the government forces while the other two were left on the site because of dangerous circumstances," Colonel Romeo Brawner, Task Group Ranao deputy commander, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Though there were only 4 enemy body counts physically accounted for, the government used the term "confirmed kills" as verified by military snipers.

Brawner also added: "There were no casualties on the government side."

The firefight involved troops of the Marines Special Operations Group (Marsog) under Task Group Tiger.

The military said the morale of the troops in Marawi was boosted by the visit of Duterte on Tuesday.

"According to the commander of the JTF Marawi, Brigadier General Rolly Bautista, the troops' fighting spirit was further boosted because of the recent strong motivation and encouragement of the commander in chief," said Brawner.

"The President's recent presence in the main battle area has left a mark in our troops in their strong desire to end the crisis in Marawi," he added.

Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera compared Duterte's visit to a father visiting his children to encourage them before a big challenge. The country's top security and defense officials also joined Duterte inside the battle area on Monday.

Herrera said the recovery of the high-powered firearms has a "strategic importance" as the military's assault intensifies.

Herrera said the firearms will also be subjected to inquiry to determine where they came from and how the enemies got a hold of them.

The military said the battle area is about 20 hectares. The military said it has penetrated a major defensive position of the local terrorist groups after taking 23 buildings on Sunday including one that was at least 5 stories high.

The military has also been trying to convince the enemies to surrender or let the women and children out of the battle area.

"We are convincing them through our loudspeakers to allow women and children out of the main battle area. That is one of the efforts we are doing. If fighters do not want to surrender, we are telling them to allow the women and children to escape or to get out of the main battle area," said Brawner.

Brawner said there have been surrender feelers. He did not elaborate.


Photo: Another Marawi Casualty

From MindaNews (Sep 11): Photo: Another Marawi Casualty

President Rodrigo Duterte (2nd from left) pays his last respects to Capt. Rommel Sandoval, whose remains were transported to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City on September 11, 2017. Sandoval, who was the commander of the 11th Scout Ranger Company, was killed while rescuing a wounded soldier in Marawi City. The President visited Marawi for the fourth time on September 11. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


LOOK: President Duterte pays last respects to fallen Scout Ranger

From Update Philippines (Sep 11): LOOK: President Duterte pays last respects to fallen Scout Ranger

Presidential photo

President Rodrigo Duterte today, September 11 paid his last respects to another fallen soldier, Captain Rommel Sandoval, whose remains was about to be transported to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City.

 Captain Sandoval was the Company Commander of the 11th Scout Ranger Company.

He was killed in action, while rescuing a wounded soldier in Marawi City.

Presidential photo

First Scout Ranger Regiment is Philippine Army Special Operations Command unit specializing in anti-guerrilla jungle warfare, raids, ambushes, and sabotage.

Also today, President Rodrigo Duterte made his 4th visit to Marawi City to boost the morale of troops, personally inspect situation, and hand over supplies.


In Marawi, ending a siege is just the beginning

From IRIN (Sep 12): In Marawi, ending a siege is just the beginning

A baby lies on a mat in a warehouse where displaced Marawi residents have sought refuge.

Days after the Philippine military launched an assault on Islamist militants in the southern city of Marawi, the conflict came straight to Jamil Ampaso’s home.
Soldiers burst into his family’s compound one evening in late May. He watched as they gouged a large hole into his backyard.
“My family and I were so terrified, thinking they would massacre us and bury us in the hole,” Ampaso said.
His home was overrun. Outside, his city was under siege: a few kilometres away, toward Marawi’s city centre, the Philippine military was tumbling into a drawn-out campaign to root out Islamist militants.
Ampaso believes the soldiers were looking for weapons that night, that they suspected his family of supporting the militants.
“They found nothing,” Ampaso said. “We are not supporters of the terrorists.”
Now, more than three months into a siege that was supposed to be a lightning-quick operation, the city has emptied. Hundreds have died. Parts of the city’s core have been flattened.
The battle, military commanders insist, is nearly over. But analysts say it has ripped open lasting wounds among a population that was already deeply distrustful of the government. Rebuilding the city will be crucial for stability in Mindanao, where a new breed of extremist groups is increasingly emboldened. But repairing the damage may prove just as difficult as ending the conflict.
‘A brutal siege’
On 23 May, the Philippine army launched an operation aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a member of militant group Abu Sayyaf, believed to be affiliated with the so-called Islamic State. The clashes pulled in fighters from the Maute group, a radical faction that has also pledged allegiance to
Instead of a quick capture, the army found itself in a prolonged urban conflict. President Rodrigo Duterte quickly declared martial law throughout Mindanao, further enflaming tensions. Airstrikes rained down on insurgent positions in Marawi — in some cases, missing their targets.
“It’s a brutal siege with indiscriminate tactics,” said Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations.
The damages have been extensive.
According to an analysis of satellite imagery released in mid-August, the extent of destruction in Marawi more than doubled during a month of clashes. The analysis identified 217 “areas of destruction” covering 45.5 hectares, as of July 26.
“The Philippine armed forces are just not particularly good at either counterinsurgency or fighting in a way that minimises civilian casualties or understanding the terrain,” Kurlantzick said.
The conflict has deepened the mistrust between the government and the city’s predominantly Muslim residents, who find themselves caught between the army and the militants. Many community leaders condemned the insurgents but urged the military to reject airstrikes, according to Haironesah Domado, who works in development and conflict management in Mindanao.
“Communities may have been blaming not only the Maute group, but also the security forces, for the loss of lives and civilians and the destruction of their communities,” she told IRIN.
'We did not destroy Marawi'
Marawi – officially known as the Islamic City of Marawi – is an overwhelmingly Muslim city in an overwhelmingly Catholic country. Long before the current siege, many Muslims in Mindanao already held a deep distrust of the government, fostered by bloody military operations against various iterations of Moro Muslim rebel groups and peace agreements that have fluttered then collapsed.
The current conflict has divided the community, said Domado, whose family has roots in Lanao del Sur province, where Marawi is the capital. She believes there is considerable risk for further violence even after the siege is over. Clan feuding, or rido, could erupt in surrounding communities as suspicions and accusations over loyalties bubble over.
And the instability in Marawi raises the possibility of radicalisation among already disaffected youth. Online messages sent from Marawi suggest militants are already using the military siege as propaganda>
“We did not destroy Marawi City. We did not bomb it to ashes,” read one message, according to research from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. “We conquered the city for the purpose of implementing the laws of Allah… but the response of the crusader army was brutal.”
In this context, rebuilding a shattered city isn’t simply a matter of piecing together bricks and mortar. The government must take steps to calm tensions, build trust, and give the most vulnerable a say in how the city is rebuilt, Domado said.
“They have to at least consider that they are generally dealing with a local population that is distrustful of them,” she said.
When the war is over
Publicly, at least, authorities say they are aware of the sensitivities at play. 
Duterte has said armed forces will not target mosques, even if combatants are inside, while the military has taken steps to publicise images of Muslim soldiers praying at a reclaimed mosque.
In a recent briefing, military officials told reporters they will work with local sultanates and Islamic scholars to counter the spread of extremist ideology.
“When the war in Marawi is over, we’ll be facing another battle,” said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr, who is in charge of military operations in Marawi. “We will be fighting the Islamic State ideology.”
What matters now, however, is what the estimated 360,000 people displaced by the conflict think. And that’s where efforts may already be falling short.
Aid groups say emergency supplies are running low. Evacuees have complained of squalid conditions in some official evacuation centres, where food and water distribution has grown increasingly erratic. The vast majority of evacuees – more than 90 percent – are staying with relatives, where they have far less access to the same supplies that are delivered to evacuation centres, according to the aid groups and interviews with displaced people.
And, when IRIN recently visited, there were no finished houses at a resettlement site, although they have been promised to evacuees whose homes have been destroyed.
 Residents of Marawi, Philippines wait outside a government building.
Marawi residents displaced by the conflict line up outside the provincial capitol building to apply for passes allowing them to return to the city without being detained for questioning.
The longer the conflict drags on, the deeper the damage.
The wounds are still fresh for Jamil Ampaso, the man whose home was raided by soldiers at the start of the siege.
On a recent Monday, he stood in line outside a government building, waiting for an official pass that would let him return to his home outside the main conflict zone.
“I’m really angry about what happened to our city,” Ampaso said.
On the verge of tears, he told IRIN of his empty pockets, and how he no longer has the money to send his 12 children to school.
Ampaso said he has no sympathy for the militants.
But he’s also mad at Duterte for declaring martial law.
And he’s angry with both the militants and the military for destroying his city.
(TOP PHOTO: A baby girl endures the heat in a cramped warehouse in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, in the Philippines. Separated by sheets or clothing, roughly 40 families from Marawi have sought refuge in the warehouse. Bong S. Sarmiento/IRIN)

Philippines says some rebels ready to surrender as troops advance in Marawi

From Reuters (Sep 11): Philippines says some rebels ready to surrender as troops advance in Marawi

Some Islamic State-linked militants besieging the southern Philippines city of Marawi have sent “feelers” they are prepared to surrender after three and a half months of fighting, the military said on Monday.

Philippine forces have used loudspeakers urging militants to give themselves up, telling the estimated 50 to 60 fighters left in the city their lives would be spared if they disarm, change out of their black clothes and walk to a designated location.

“Hopefully, we will have surrenders within the next days,” spokesman Colonel Romeo Brawner told a news conference.

“There are feelers. Definitely, there are feelers,” he added, declining to elaborate.

The surrender offer came after a renewed, if short-lived, effort by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to start back-channel talks with militants, with a former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Ali to have acted as an intermediary.

Duterte on Saturday ruled out the possibility of allowing rebels to flee in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages.

Two troops were killed at the weekend, taking to 147 the number of security forces killed in the Marawi conflict. Some 655 militants and 45 civilians have been killed, according to the army.

Troops were engaged in running battles with the militant alliance, led by Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute of the Maute group, and Isnilon Hapilon, a factional head of the Abu Sayyaf group, and Islamic State’s so-called “emir” in Southeast Asia.

More than 20 structures were captured, many laden with booby traps. Some were commercial high-rise buildings that have been used as sniper positions to thwart government forces.

Brawner described the operations as “a big accomplishment considering the enemy established very strong defensive positions”.

While some areas of Marawi are seeing citizens return and shops and schools re-open, most of the city remains deserted. Its center is a wasteland, pummeled by daily air strikes and ground battles.

The resistance of the militants has frustrated the more than 400,000 residents displaced from the area and raised questions about how relatively few Islamists took control of the lakeside town and held significant parts of it.
Slideshow (6 Images)

“We are receiving a lot of questions: why is it taking too long for the government to recover this area?” said Brawner.

“It is really difficult to do urban fighting.”

The United States has been giving technical and logistics support to the Philippine military and on Monday announced it had deployed a Gray Eagle unmanned surveillance aircraft over Marawi.

Australia has also provided two P3-Orion surveillance planes and last week announced it would send more defense personnel to train Philippine troops.

For a graphic on how main Islamic militant groups in Mindanao evolved, click: here

For a graphic on Islamic militant strongholds in Mindanao, click: here


Military files rebellion complaint vs suspected Abu Sayyaf member

From Rappler (Sep 12): Military files rebellion complaint vs suspected Abu Sayyaf member

24-year-old Millham Saham is also facing a complaint for illegal possession of explosives   

The Department of Justice on Padre Faura, Manila

The Department of Justice on Padre Faura, Manila

The Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-Wesmincom) filed a criminal complaint at the Department of Justice (DOJ) against a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

Milham Saham, 24 years old, was arrested on September 6 by the military last week in Sulu after he was caught transporting explosives and a bomb-making device. The complaint filed by the military is for rebellion and illegal possession of explosives.

Following procedure, Saham underwent inquest proceedings at the DOJ on Monday before Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Clarisa Kuong.

Saham is believed to be a member of the Radullan Sahiron faction of the Abu Sayyaf and was arrested at a military checkpoint in Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul in Sulu. Seized from Saham were improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ammunition nitrate fuel with detonating cord, electrical wires, electrical tapes and a circuit assembly.

Saham is detained at the AFP Custodial Detention Center at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, with preliminary investigation set on September 15.

MILF: Injustice to Moro people breeds extremism

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Sep 10): MILF: Injustice to Moro people breeds extremism

Chairperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel Mohaqer Iqbal (FILE PHOTO/davaotoday.com)

A top leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the standing injustices committed globally and domestically against the Moro people are luring the young Muslims to embrace violent extremism.

“There is a continuing risk of youths being enticed by violent and extremist ideologies and join local ISIS-inspired groups as a result of existing global and domestic injustices,” said Mohaqer Iqbal, chairperson of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel in a statement on Sunday, September 10.
The lack of political settlement to address the clamor of the Moro people for autonomy is one reason which the MILF sees as fuel for discontent among young Muslims.

“The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the implementation of the signed peace agreements are examples of concrete steps that can provide long-term solutions against violent extremism,” Iqbal said.

The BBL was not included among the list of priority bills of Congress last month, athough the government assured that the BBL is still a priority of the government.

The MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces is currently launching tactical operations against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired members of a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao.
Iqbal stressed that violent extremism is unaccepted in Islam. But he clarified that an armed approach is not the only solution to address the problem.

On August 2, Abu Toraife’s Jamaatul Mujahiren Wal-Ansar “declined and opened fire at the emissary sent by the MILF for a peace negotiation” in Barangay Pusaw, Shariff Saidona Mustapha, Maguindanao, Iqbal said.

Toraife’s group is a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

This prompted the MILF to defend its communities against violent extremism.

But Iqbal clarified that there are no joint operations between the BIAF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Marawi and Maguindanao.

“Officially and formally, there is no such thing as joint operation to be conducted by the MILF forces and government forces in Maguindanao,” he said.


US destroying Moro communities through Islamophobia, says scholar

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Sep 12): US destroying Moro communities through Islamophobia, says scholar

‘ISLAMOPHOBIA IS REAL’. University of the Philippines in Manila Professor Roland Simbulan tackles Islamophobia during a forum held in UP Diliman in Quezon City on Sunday, September 10. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)

Kamir, Sarip and Akir are among the Maranaw contingents who joined this year’s Lakbayan of National Minorities.

They asked for anonymity as they narrated the difficulties they had gone through when they passed the strings of checkpoints from various evacuation centers in Saguiaran in and Balo-i in Lanao del Sur province.

“It’s really difficult to go out from our areas now,” said Akir, the youngest of the three, adding that military and police at checkpoints are very particular to the Moros when asking for identities.

He said the military and police in checkpoints would always say: “It’s martial law and we need to check if some of you are terrorists.”

For Akir, such as statements made by state forces are forms of discrimination, instigating fear and a kind of branding against the Moro people that has since caused the lives of innocents and the arrests of some of their families and kin.

Despite the difficulties in travelling, Kamir said they need to proceed with the Lakbayan to tell their stories – narratives that matter to the lives of the people of Marawi.

“There is no other venue where we can tell the Filipino people what is really happening in Marawi and to us, the real victims of this war,” Kamir added.

He said their house in Banggolo area was completely ruined by airstrikes, so as the houses of his relatives and friends.

Livelihoods were lost, the education of their children hampered and the possibility of rebuilding their lives is still bleak despite the promises mouthed by the government, he added.

“The declaration of martial law and the option of the Duterte government to unleash its military might against the Maute group are not the right approaches,” said Sarip.

The results on the ground are so clear, he added, and the burden is too much for the Maranaw people who are now facing uncertainties in their lives.

The three also raised the possibility the people of Marawi will be blocked to go back to their areas and communities.

“In the evacuation centers, stories about the great portion of the area in Marawi are owned by the government, particularly the military now sweep. Some cried upon knowing this. For me, if ever this is true, then I will resist. Marawi belongs to the Maranaw people,” Kamir said.

Islamophobia is real

The experiences of Kamir, Sarip and Akir are typical of the intensified Islamophobia that the US continues to utilize against the Moro people in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.

Jerome Succor Aba, the vice chairperson of Sandugo, a nationwide alliance of Lumad and Moro organizations in the country described “Islamophobia” as the fear of Muslims. He said it is incorporated within the decade-long global war on terror of the US that is also being espoused by the Duterte government.
Sandugo led an education forum on Islamophobia inside the Kampuhan of Lakbayan delegates at the UP Diliman in Quezon City on Sunday, September 10.

Among the speakers at the said forum was Professor Roland Simbulan of the University of the Philippines – Manila who described Islamophobia as a cultural weapon the US employs to poison the concepts of the Filipinos against the Moro people.

Simbulan said Islamophobia has been used by the Philippine colonizers to destroy the Moro people, from the time of the Spaniards and the Americans who continue to use the same in its war on terror.

“The Moro people in Mindanao, including some Lumad communities, resisted against the colonization of the Spaniards and later against the Americans,” Simbulan said.

Islamophobia and the message it brought by describing the Moros as “bad people” also served as a “divide and rule” measure that the Spaniards and now the Americans use to completely defeat the Moro people, he added.

Simbulan also took note of the creation of the Moro Constabulary that was utilized to fight the Moro resistance in Mindanao.

“The activation of this constabulary group also heightened Islamophobia in Mindanao. The US recruited people from the Visayas and Luzon to join the constabulary and fight the Moro people,” he said.

Since then, he added, the Philippines, especially Mindanao, has been regarded by the US as its laboratory on anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism campaigns.

After the infamous 9-11 attack, Simbulan said the US also used the Philippines as its second front on the global war on terrorism.

PLIGHT OF THE MARANAO BAKWIT. Aida Ibrahim of Tindeg Ranao narrates the difficulties of Marawi evacuees in the evacuation centers during a forum held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Sunday, September 10. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)

The US deployed special operations forces in the country, around 600 soldiers Simbulan estimated, who were deployed in the areas of Zamboanga, Jolo, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and other parts of Mindanao.

The US forces also created a sort of “block sites”, Simbulan said, inside the military camps in Mindanao where Moros suspected as terrorists are being investigated, interrogated and worst, tortured.

Prolonged war

The worries presented by Kamir, Sarip and Akir are also the fears and concerns that Aida Ibrahim of Tindeg Ranao and Aba of Sandugo face nowadays.

“First, we thought the war will only last for days or a week. The Mautes are only in small number compared to the forces of the government. But now we realize that it is going into something else,” Ibrahim told the participants into last Sunday’s forum on Islamophobia.

She said more than 400 thousand Maranaw and other residents from Marawi now start to question where the so-called “Marawi Siege” will lead and what will be the future of the people in the coming days.

“This is not simply on the Mautes and terrorism. There is something else growing in this war in Marawi,” Ibrahim said.
She also emphasized how difficult and painful for them to leave their abodes and see their communities completely destroyed by the ground and air assaults by the state forces.

Ibrahim said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is dependent on the US forces who are actively participating the war in Marawi as they provided the ground and air forces the necessary information and intelligence.

 She added that Islamophobia has gone deep in the situation in Marawi which, if not averted, might lead to the complete loss of their place.

Recent developments have also suggested that the situation in Marawi goes beyond the war on terror. She said it is “an assertion of the US interests to the resources in the area.”

Aba added: “(President) Duterte opened to the USAID (US Agency for International Development) and other international aid agencies the Bangon Marawi Rehabilitation Program. These agencies are known for giving aid with strings attached.”

Aba also made a call for an investigation on the presence of US soldiers in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao and on the reported “AFP ownership” of more than half of the areas in Marawi City.

Such report on ownership now adds more fears to the residents of Marawi who for the past months have been languishing inside the various evacuation sites, he pointed out.


Davao mounts own committee to talk with CPP

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Sep 12): Davao mounts own committee to talk with CPP

REVOLUTIONARIES. Members of revolutionary groups under the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wore masks of the late New People’s Army commander in Davao City, Ka Parago to during a lightning rally along Crossing Elpidio Quirino Street, Davao City on Wednesday, March 29. The protest marked the 48th founding anniversary of the NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines’s armed wing. (Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com)

The local government here is forming a local committee that will be in charge of talking peace with the Communists.
The Local Peace Committee or DC-PEACE is a team of representatives from the local government unit and religious sector here, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said in her State of the city Address on Tuesday, September 12.

Duterte-Carpio said the committee seeks “to manage the localized peace talks with the New People’s Army operating within the area of responsibility of Davao City.”

The DC-PEACE members are City Social Service and Development Office Chief Maria Luisa Bermudo, City Legal Officer Elisa Lapina, Punong Barangay Chair Jessielito Areja, and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles.

Joining the committee are two “consultants” two which Duterte did not name.

“We are still vetting for a Chairperson from the private sector and we welcome your suggestions. The life of the committee will only be until November 2018. If there are no significant developments and movement in the localized process, we will pursue other options to attain peace,” she said.

She also asked the New People’s Army to work with them in this effort.

“I am asking our NPA friends to work with us in the local government. After all, we all want to see a better Davao and we surely can attain this if you work beside us,” the local chief executive said.

The mayor has repeatedly announced of her desire to pursue localized peace talks with the revolutionary movement. In April, Duterte-Carpio deferred her plans saying she will wait for developments on the formal talks which concluded its fourth round on that month.

In an telephone interview on Tuesday, Makabayan bloc lawmaker Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Partylist said the localized peace talks may institute mechanisms to talk about the particularities of the issues raised by various sectors.

“Other stakeholders of the peace talks like the peasant groups, urban poor sector may bring up their issues to the local peace committee,” Casilao told Davao Today.

He also said the city government can work on “convincing the national government to continue with the efforts of a national formal peace negotiations.”

However, Casilao said since the problem on landlessness and poverty is national in scope, the local committee would only be limited.

“The root causes of the armed conflict should be addressed in the national scale because the problem of landlessness and economic inequality is a national problem,” he said.