Sunday, October 1, 2017

4 NPA rebels surrender to military in Palawan

From ABS-CBN (Sep 30): 4 NPA rebels surrender to military in Palawan

Four members of the New People's Army in Palawan surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (WESCOM) this week.

Jeffrey Orit Sampaca, 25, and Henry Poyang Minduk, 18, surrendered Thursday, while Analy Pitogo Ambuan, 19, and a 16-year-old surrendered on Friday with the help of the 16-year-old's father.

They also surrendered firearms, ammunition and homemade bombs.

"We are glad that these 4 communist terrorists have decided to surrender and return to the fold of the law. Their surrender, together with their firearms, IEDs and other war materials, is a serious blow to the ranks of communist terrorism in the province, " said Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr., commander of WESCOM.

The surrenderers are now under military custody for validation and documentation.
The military will also facilitate their application for the local social integration program of the provincial government of Palawan and the Department of the Interior and Local Government's comprehensive local social integration program, where they will be provided with financial aid.

Philippine Army drone footage shows Daesh plundering Marawi

From Arab News (Oct 1): Philippine Army drone footage shows Daesh plundering Marawi

The Philippine military has released aerial footage showing Daesh-backed Maute militants looting houses and other establishments in Marawi, confirming an earlier Arab News story about looting in the strife-torn city.

In the undated video footage, which was shown to media over the weekend, armed men believed to be members of the Maute group can be seen pillaging what appears to be a residential building in city’s main conflict zone.

 The military said this reinforces earlier testimony from rescued hostages that suggested the terrorists are looting the area for valuable items. “We can see items, boxes, sacks being taken from a seemingly residential building,” said Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr., deputy commander of Task Force Ranao.

 He said the exact location of the structures caught on the video being ransacked by the terrorists is now being determined with the help of local officials.

 On July 25, Arab News ran an exclusive story on how the Maute group had amassed weapons and cash amounting to approximately 1.2 billion pesos ($23.7 million).

 This was based on information provided by a high-ranking government official who said the group amassed this wealth from the different banks and houses they looted in Marawi, bagging gold and jewelry, as well as from drug money. The information, according to the source, was confirmed by a military general who is serving in Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom).

 Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said the military has drone footage that shows several sacks of money being loaded into a pickup truck.
In this footage, he said, you can see one of the sacks falling down from the truck and paper bills scattering. The 1.2 billion pesos estimate was made based on the footage.

 At the start of the crisis in Marawi, the military quoted residents — who had been held hostage, but managed to escape from the Maute group — as saying that they were forced to loot houses and government buildings.

 During a press briefing in Marawi last Friday, the military also showed the media recovered coins contained in six sacks. The coins, along with other metals, were reportedly being used as shrapnel by the terrorists in making improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

 One official remarked that this explains why some of the government troops wounded in the ongoing clashes in Marawi had coins in their wounds.

 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed hope that the Marawi conflict would be over by the end of September, but this did not happen as expected.

 The military vowed to fight harder to rescue remaining hostages, neutralize the Maute group, and regain control of Marawi in the shortest possible time to ensure that the rehabilitation of the city continues unhampered.

 Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, said government forces are prepared to hunt down the remaining members of the Maute group.

“We will pursue them to the edges of the earth,” Arevalo said. “We believe that they are going to fight.”

This, he said, is because “there’s a lot of money and jewelry that (the militants) looted and we know that they are still hoping to get out of Marawi.”

AFP chief tells military information officers: Continue to tell the truth

From GMA News Online (Oct 1): AFP chief tells military information officers: Continue to tell the truth

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año called on military information officers to avoid disinformations and continue to "tell the truth."

"I strongly urge our public affairs practitioners to continue to tell the truth. Refuse to be dragged into the trend of disinformation and deliberate sowing of confusion," Año told military information officers during the 6th Public Affairs Office (PAO) Summit held last September 21 to 22.

"I hope that you are all able to appreciate the importance of Public Affairs and recognize its potential to solidify the AFP's present disposition as a highly trusted and widely supported government institution," Año added.

The AFP chief also asked information officers "not to feed the hatred, and instead exhaust efforts to present facts, value respect, and appreciate criticisms in the military's quest for an informed public and an elevated discourse."

The PAO Summit is an annual gathering of spokespersons and public affairs officers assigned to different military units, such as the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy, and the AFP area commands.

AFP Public Affairs Office chief Edgar Arevalo said the summit featured subject-matter experts on social media, cybersecurity, military-media dynamics, and crisis communication among others.

They invited presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar "to guide both budding and veteran public affairs practitioners."

Abella discussed best practices in crisis management while Bolivar talked about updates on latest international issues concerning national defense and security.

Journalist Cynthia Balana discussed issues between the military and the media while Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera tackled the strategies on public information during his stint as Marawi operations spokesman.

Other speakers of the event include Major Gene Orense of the AFP Civil Relations Service and Lieutenant Colonel Roland Ong, a military reservist and Solutions Consultant of FireEye, Inc.

Bulatlat: Lessons from the life of Guiller Cadano, martyred Red warrior, ‘true scholar of the people’

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Sep 30): Lessons from the life of Guiller Cadano, martyred Red warrior, ‘true scholar of the people’

Photo shows Guiller Cadano (L) when he was still in detention in June 2015, and was visited by his father, Amador (Photo by Atty. Maria Sol Taule)

“Ging” and “Guilli” were the nicknames for Guiller Martin Cadano, a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines. Growing up in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, he was a choir member, who appeared malamya or “soft,” and was frequently pushed around by bigger children. He was an only child, and his mother Marita was always with him during choir activities.

“He was a mama’s boy…but he, whom we thought to be lelembot-lembot (weak), became the bravest of us all,” said one of Cadano’s older colleague from the Sta. Cruz parish choir in Bulacan.

Cadano went on to become a “frat man,” a student leader, an organizer among the urban poor, Aytas and peasants, a political detainee, and later, a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

He proudly carried the nom de guerre “Ka Iniong” when he was killed along with eight other Red fighters in an operation by the 84th infantry battalion of the Phil. Army on Sept. 20 in sitio Barat, Burgos village, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija. He was 26.

Cadano’s father, Amador, likened his martyred son to the moth in Jose Rizal’s story, who was warned by the mother moth not to wander too close to the flame. “My son went straight to the flame – to serve the people,” Amador said.

His life may have been too short, like that of the young moth, but he showed how it can be lived to the fullest, as he was part of a selfless cause, and for this, will always be remembered.

On the last night of his wake on Sept. 29, friends and comrades gave “the highest tribute” to Cadano, hailed as a true iskolar ng bayan, a hero of the continuing Philippine revolution and one of the “best sons and daughters of the people.” They praised his self-remolding and determination as lessons to inspire generations of activists who would carry on the democratic people’s war to its fruition.

Cadano was laid to rest today, Sept. 30, in the Valenzuela Public Cemetery.

A choir boy, frat man, leader, voracious eater

Their small home in Valenzuela City made for a cozy space for Cadano’s wake. On top of his casket were items that gave clues to a vibrant life: graduation pictures from grade school to college, photos of a playful boy, two packs of Choc-nut, a half-pack of cigarettes, and a neatly-folded red flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Inside the casket lay Cadano, in white barong with his sablay, UP’s trademark graduation sash.

“Life is a learning process. If you don’t learn, life is meaningless,” Cadano said in a Facebook post. And from the choir boy in Bulacan, he evolved to become an inspiring leader and revolutionary cadre. Speaking at the tribute, his girlfriend, Brilliant Salas, said Cadano continuously educated and developed himself, not for personal interests, but to help change the rotten social system.

(Photo by Jola Diones/Kodao Productions)

As a student in UP Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga or UP Clark, he became a “frat man” and an activist as a member of the Pi Sigma fraternity, one of the few fraternities in UP that carried a progressive tradition. But he became better known as a leader of Anakbayan-Metro Clark and the regional coordinator of Kabataan partylist for Central Luzon.

He graduated cum laude in BS Psychology, but opted to work full-time as a peasant organizer of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL). He organized among farmers in Hacienda Dolores, in Porac, Pampanga, who were resisting the Alviera project led by Ayala Land Inc. which has been gradually taking over their lands.

He was a stranger to the hardship of farm work, yet he plunged straight into it without hesitation.

Roman Polintan, chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luson, recalled how Cadano texted him, and jested about his experience. “Nasa gitnang bukid, nagdadamo, hindi nakikilala alin ang palay, alin ang damo (He was pulling weeds in the middle of a rice field, but he couldn’t tell the rice from the weed),” Polintan laughed.

Cadano jokingly lamented that his batchmates in UP were enjoying cozy jobs, while he labored under the sun without any pay, weeding someone else’s rice field. Polintan recalled that he told Cadano that he should be honored because he served, not the ruling elite, but the working class struggling for a better future. Cadano teared up, realizing the heartfelt truth.

The tall, young man was known to easily cry and get emotional, but mostly carried a sunny countenance, with a bright smiling face. As a child, he was the youngest in the choir, but he was the one who encouraged others, with the lines, “We can do this, don’t be shy.”

Cadano was also known for his voracious appetite, a fact consistently mentioned by those who spoke at the tribute. He ate anything and was never picky. In fact, he was known to eat during meetings, and he would chew as he would talk, yet his words would still be clearly audible, quite a rare skill, said Polintan.

They said his food intake was sulit lang, even more, compared to his “service:” organizing, educating, mobilizing people on the issues they face.

He had no kaartehan, and he could sleep anywhere, eat anything, said a young girl from Balibago, Angeles, already in tears even before she spoke. Her home was one of Cadano’s base, where he was a big brother, a playmate, a teacher who helped out her siblings with their homework.

“More youths will follow in your footsteps, and will carry on what you started,” she said.

The tributes sent by the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (Photo by Jola Diones/Kodao Productions)
Another student leader from UP Clark praised Cadano for his persistence in student organizing, amid apathy in the campus. “Why do you keep at it?” their classmates would jeer, as Cadano would repeatedly invite them to join discussions and activities, in spite getting repeated rejections.

But he knew his persistence will pay off, as now shown by the growing ranks of activists in UP Clark.

“You worked without salary, but the masses have opened their homes to you, and fed you. To them, you are number 1,” she said. Cadano had no “career,” but he led the noblest of all profession, a revolutionary who carried out and stood firm for his principles, she said.

“Because he knew what was needed to be done, he knew this is what will help the country,” she said.

Best sons and daughters of the people

In its statement, the CPP said the loss of the nine Party cadres and fighters is “nine times as heavy as the weight of Caraballo, Sierra Madre and Zambales mountain ranges.” As they mourn their deaths, their lives will even more fuel the flame among revolutionary forces who will surge against the fascist US-Duterte regime, it said.

The eight other NPA fighters killed were: Joel Manangan, 40; Alvin Soria, 35, both from Nueva Ecija; Lani dela Peña-Mirindu, 36, a Dumagat from Aurora; Marco Amatorio, 34, also from Aurora; Vic Nagawang, 31, from Manila; Carlo Laguito, 22, from Bagong Silangan, Quezon City; John Paul Calica, 21, from Pandi, Bulacan; and Emmanuel Canlas, from Capas, Tarlac.

Most of the nine belong to the working class of peasants and workers and have known poverty and injustice. As youths, they rose to wage armed struggle to change the superstructure. Manangan, Mirindu and Amatorio have been with the CPP-NPA since 2001; Soria joined in 2005, while the younger ones took up arms from 2015 to 2017.

Four of the nine came from the ranks of the youth, and were members of Anakbayan: Cadano, Canlas, Nagawang and Calica. In a statement, Anakbayan hailed their heroism, and said they are proof of the ongoing civil war in the country, and how the youths will continue to take up arms and join the revolution, specially to fight rising fascism.

Canlas was “the latest generation of revolutionaries” of Capas, Tarlac, the birthplace of the NPA. He was among the young Communists who organized in communities, and joined the NPA as soon as he reached 18 this year.

Laguito was a former construction worker and employee at the slipper company Kentex, and was a staff of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Nagawang was from Manila who worked in Angeles City, where he became a youth and labor organizer. Calica was a graduate of the Asian Institute of Computer Studies (earlier reported as a graduate of De La Salle University), a member of Anakbayan-Pandi and was part of the “Occupy Bulacan” campaign by the urban poor in Bulacan.

Mirindu, the only female, was inspired by her community’s struggle against landgrabbing in Aurora, and joined the NPA, where she brought her revolutionary, indigenous Dumagat culture.

FRAT MAN. Guiller Cadano’s “brods” from Pi Sigma were among those who sent their tribute to the fallen Red warrior. (Photo by Jola Diones/Kodao Productions)
Even as an NPA, Cadano maximized his choir training and vocal talents. The CPP said each NPA vows to give tribute to the fallen nine by relentlessly working hard each day to fight the oppressive system.

The Cadanos: knowing the son through the parents

Progressive leaders thanked Cadano’s parents, Amador and Marita, who supported their son’s chosen path. They showcased how parents whose children became activists can also be “brought up” by their children to follow suit.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, said she and her colleagues did not actually know Cadano, if not through his father, Amador. When Cadano was arrested in 2014 along with fellow activist Gerald Salonga, his father promptly joined the campaigns pressing for their release. The elder Cadano took a main role in the human rights campaigns in Nueva Ecija, and was also prominent in activities of Hustisya, the group of families of rights abuses.

“One of the best things in the movement is to know about the best sons and daughters of the people thru their parents,” she said. Cadano patiently organized his parents and helped them understand the roots of poverty and the raging armed struggle.

She said after Cadano was released in December 2016, he cried when he saw his father at a press conference, speaking like the true human rights defender that he had become.

Mong Palatino, Bayan-NCR chairperson and former representative of Kabataan Partylist, said the mass movement is grateful to Cadano and his family. Palatino had met with Cadano several times in the electoral campaigns in 2010. He said like other youths, Cadano had no experience in electoral campaigns, but went from house to house, gathering support for Kabataan partylist.

When he and Salonga were arrested, the youths and communities they helped organize came out to condemn their arbitrary arrest, torture and detention, and called for their release. They were acquitted on Dec. 5, 2016 and subsequently released. From there, Cadano decided to wage “the highest form of struggle,” and joined the NPA.

His decision to work as full-time organizer, and later, armed revolutionary, showed how he developed himself and strengthened his commitment.

“He proved that there is a direction to be taken by youths, after school and elections, and it is the path of continuously serving the people,” said Palatino.

Taking reference to Central Luzon’s verdant plains and lush mountain ranges, Polintan compared Cadano and the other martyrs to a palay seed: “The seed disappears, but if sown in fertile soil, it will grow abundantly, producing more golden grains. That is what they planted among the youths and peasants and the Filipino people.”
(Updated Oct. 1, 11:20 am.

Kudarat gov gives cash, livelihood to ex-NPA rebels

From the Manila Times (Sep 30): Kudarat gov gives cash, livelihood to ex-NPA rebels

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu gave financial assistance to former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who surrendered through the Army 33rd Infantry Battalion (33rd IB) based in the province.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, 33rd IB commander, said the rebels, mostly indigenous peoples, from Sen. Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat received financial aid.

Mangudadatu, also chairman the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) Committee, gave the rebel returnees P20,000 each, including livelihood assistance package.

Cabunoc said 32 members of the communist Guerilla Front 73 have surrendered since May 2017.

NPA strikes back with attacks in 3 provinces

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 30): NPA strikes back with attacks in 3 provinces

A few days after the military seized a vital camp and secured the surrender of 10 insurgents, the New People’s Army (NPA) went on the rebound and launched two major assaults on government targets in Sarangani, South Cotabato and Surigao del Sur.

In a press statement Ka Dencio Madrigal, spokesperson of the NPA-Far South Mindanao Region, said NPA rebels were able to disarm village officials and members of the civilian volunteers organization in Kiamba, Sarangani and T’boli, South Cotabato who were active in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.

He said NPA guerillas stormed the village of Maligang in Kiamba, Sarangani last September 27 where they were able to disarm the village chair of his firearms, including Garand rifle, 12-gauge shotgun and .380 caliber pistol.

The NPA also took responsibility for the disarming of a barangay secretary and CVO members in Barangay Tudok, T;boli, South Cotabato last September 27.

The NPA rebels stormed the houses of CVO leader Mario Palau and barangay secretary Imion Inggo who yielded M-16, Garand and carbine rifles.

In Surigao del Sur, a Manobo tribe leader, and a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) were abducted Thursday night by about 20 heavily Communist insurgents in Sitio Hayon, Barangay Libas Sud, San Miguel town, military and police report on Saturday said.

Capt. Francisco P. Garello Jr., Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer of the 36th Infantry (Valor) Battalion (36th IB), identified the abducted victims as Datu Saturnino Gallego of Manobo tribe and CAA Danny Rivas, assigned in Mam-on Patrol Base in Barangay Tubo-tubo, Cagwait, Surigao del Sur.

The 36th CMO officer said the victims were abducted by the members of guerilla-Front Committee 19 of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) under certain “Ka Tuloy.”

Datu Gallego and Rivas were abducted at 10 p.m. on Thursday in their home at Sitio Hayon, Barangay Libas Sud, in San Miguel town of that same province.

Members of their family were shocked when the armed men barged into their house and snatched Datu and Rivas for no apparent reason, Garello said.

Mayor Dibu Tuan said the firearms seized by rebels are not owned by the local government but the victims’ personal service firearms.

He asked the military for the deployment of additional troops in the area.

Lt.Col, Benjamin Leander, 27th Infantry Battalion commander, said manhunt operations were launched against the NPA rebels who were targeting barangay officials of their personal firearms.

He the NPA was into disarming of village officials to compensate the firearms recovered by authorities from arrested NPA rebels and those turned over by rebel surenderees.

“The NPA rebels are now targeting individuals who have personal firearms to replenish the firearms seized by government forces from arrested NPA rebels and surrenderees,” Leander said.

NPA ambuscades: Cop killed, 2 soldiers hurt

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 30): NPA ambuscades: Cop killed, 2 soldiers hurt

New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas struck early yesterday morning, killing a policeman and wounding two soldiers in separate ambuscades in Masbate and Palawan provinces.

DEAD END — Police Officer 2 Mervin Capellan is killed inside this bullet-riddled Mahindra mobile patrol vehicle after an ambush by New People’s Army rebels yesterday morning in Barangay Poblacion, Monreal, Masbate. (Courtesy of Sr. Insp. Malu C. Calubaquib, PRO5)
Speaking at Camp Ola in Legazpi City, Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5) Spokesperson Malu C. Calubaquib said about 20 NPA guerrillas ambushed a police patrol vehicle in Barangay Poblacion, Monreal, Masbate, killing the policeman driving the vehicle.

Senior Inspector Calubaquib identified the fatality as Police Officer 2 Mervin Capellan, assigned to the Monreal Municipal Police Station (MPS).

She said PO2 Capellan was driving the Mahindra Mobile Patrol No. 100 of the Monreal MPS to a carwash shop owned by a certain Dan Gebilaguin in Barangay Poblacion at 6:30 a.m. when it received heavy fire from strategically-positioned rebels.

The policeman died on the spot, while government security forces launched pursuit operations against the perpetrators.

At about the same time in Palawan, soldiers who had just come from a mission in El Nido were waylaid by NPA rebels in San Vicente town, said Chief Insp. Imelda Tolentino, spokesperson of the Police Regional 4-B covering Mindoro island provinces, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (Mimaropa).

The Marine soldiers were only two kilometers away from their camp at the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12 base when they were fired upon in Barangay Itabiak, San Vicente

Tolentino said Technical Sergeant Restituto Selvino and Corporal Christian Rentillo were hit and wounded in the first volley of fire, then the combat troops retaliated and drove away the guerrillas.

NPA raids 2 Army detachments in Impasug-ong town

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Oct 1): NPA raids 2 Army detachments in Impasug-ong town

THE New People's Army (NPA) on Friday, September 28, raided two detachments of the Army's 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) in Barangay Calabugao and Barangay Hagpa, both in Impasug-ong town, Bukidnon province.
In a statement sent by the NPA, it says the rebels belonging to the Eastern Misamis Oriental-Northeastern Bukidnon Sub-regional Command (EMONEB-SRC) attacked two patrol bases of the 8IB in two different locations.
The rebels claimed they were able to recover six high-powered firearms in Calabugao village.
First Lieutenant Erwin Bugarin, civic military operations officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion (IB), confirmed the attacks.
He said the Army detachment in KM (kilometer) 30 had been placed there to give security to the communities and guard the natural resources of the Calabugao plains.
Bugarin said they are still gathering details of the attack, but said the area is already secured and free of armed groups. He said they already sent more troops for reinforcement and to help maintain security the area.
Bugarin described KM 30 as a road used by local government units to deliver services to remote communities, and also, a road used by the rebels to get neighboring towns of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.
The road is still under construction.
"Ang ilang katuyuan diha magtanom balik ug kahadlok sa mga tao but they will not succeed, we will not let our guards down and continue with our mandate to protect the people," he added.
Meanwhile, in another incident, troops of the 26th Infantry Battalion scored 6 high-powered firearms and an improvised explosive device in a clash with the rebels in KM 46, Barangay Binicalan, San Luis town, Agusan del Sur also on Friday, Serptember 28.
A 25-minute firefight ensued after troops responded to a report of NPA presence who are conducting extortion activities in the said barangay.
Lieutenant Colonel Rommel Pagayon, 26IB commanding officer, said troops recovered 3 AK 47 rifles, one M14 rifle, one M16 rifle, one M16 rifle with an attached M203 grenade launcher, one improvised M16 rifle, and one IED, and assorted personal belongings and subversive documents.
"As promised to our people, we will respond immediately if anyone needs help. Thanks to your full trust and untiring support to your Army.
As to the beleaguered NPAs, there are still options if you wish to go back to your normal lives. Aside from all the opportunities such as livelihood programs offered by our government, the AFP is also opening its door to all of you who wanted to serve in the noble profession of arms.
We ask you to reflect and finally come to your decision to abandon the armed struggle," he said. Major General Ronald Villanueva, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), lauded the troops and assures everyone of its commitment to address the threats that are hindrance to peace and development.
"I congratulate my troops who successfully addressed the threat situation in that peaceful community. This I assure everyone that your Army will take all necessary actions that will fully address this more than four decade insurgency situation that hinders our Country's development. Sooner or later if we continue to work together, this insurgency situation will just perish naturally and every plans and programs of our government for our people will all be realized. Everyone will benefit," Villanueva said.

Malaysian terror trio went to Philippines in 2014

From The Star Online (Oct 1): Malaysian terror trio went to Philippines in 2014

EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Three Malay­sians went on a six-day mission to southern Philippines to set up an Islamic State-linked network in 2014 and never returned home.

Two of them – ex-Selayang Muni­cipal Council officer Muham­mad Joraimee Awang Raimee alias Abu Nur and former Universiti Malaya bookshop keeper Mohd Najib Husen alias Abu Anaz – are now said to be dead.

The mission leader, ex-Universiti Malaya professor Dr Mahmud Ahmad, is still alive.

He is high on the terror wanted list following the May 23 Marawi City siege in Mindanao.

On April 2014, the trio flew to Mindanao to arrange for military training and bomb making for Malaysian militants who would later be sent to Syria to join IS.

Joraimee was the spiritual leader of Dr Mahmud’s group which spread militant teachings and encouraged Malaysians to fight in Syria.
They had planned to return to Kuala Lumpur after their mission.

However, they did not fly home when they found out that they were on Bukit Aman’s wanted list.

On May 27, 2014, Joraimee’s employment contract with the Selayang Municipal Council was terminated for failing to show up for work.

He had been working as an administrative officer with the position of division head since April 18, 2011.

In July 2014, their faces were splashed across the front pages of the Malaysian media when police announced that they were among five suspected Malaysian militants linked to IS and Abu Sayyaf terror group.
The other two were Darul Islam Sabah members Mohd Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil, both from Tawau.

The five were closely linked with South-East Asia’s most wanted terrorist Zukifli Hir alias Marwan who was killed in a gunbattle at Mamasapano in Mindanao in September 2015.

Dr Mahmud, Joraimee and Mohd Najib were most of the time embedded with Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf group leader in Basilan.
A year later, they took an oath (baiah) pledging allegiance to IS with Isnilon.

Intelligence sources described Dr Mahmud and Joraimee as “inseparable”, adding that they met with every militant group aligned with the “Black Flag” ideology in sout­hern Philippines.

They facilitated the travel of Malaysian militants to Syria after training in southern Philippines and used Sabah as the backdoor entrance or exit for militants.

On Dec 15, 2015, Mohd Najib, who is a bomb-making expert, was shot dead in a clash with the Philippine military before the Abu Sayyaf could carry out a plan to bomb a new shopping mall in Zamboanga City.

Joraimee and Dr Mahmud joined the Maute group to attack Marawi City. They were key aides of Isnilon who led the attack on Marawi City with the Maute brothers.

Bomb with nails goes off; BIFF hand suspected

From the Philippine Star (Sep 30): Bomb with nails goes off; BIFF hand suspected

An IED was left along a stretch of a highway near the Tambunan Bridge in Barangay Tambunan of Guindulungan, Maguindanao.
A roadside bomb packed with nails prematurely exploded near a bridge in Guindulungan town late Friday, causing panic among local residents.

Responding investigators said there were indications that the improvised explosive device was planted by militants whose central enclave in Barangay Tee in Salibo, Maguindanao was taken over by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Wednesday in an offensive assisted by the Army's 6th Infantry Division.
Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said the IED was left along a stretch of a highway near the Tambunan Bridge in Barangay Tambunan, seat of the Guindulungan municipal government.
"By the looks of it, there was premature explosion. There is strong possibility that the IED was set to explode Saturday morning while public conveyances are passing through," Tello said.

He said no one was hurt in the blast, which caused panic among villagers residing in houses not too distant from the scene of the explosion.

The incident was preceded by Wednesday's fall of the camp in Barangay Tee of the group led by Esmael Abdulmalik following seven weeks of hostilities with pursuing MILF forces in Maguindanao's adjoining Salibo, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns.

Abdulmalik is leader of a third faction in the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that uses the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as revolutionary banner.

"We are expecting more vengeful attacks by this group whose camp in Barangay Tee was reclaimed by the MILF last Wednesday," said Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the Army-led anti-terror Task Force Central.

The enclave established in Barangay Tee by Abdulmalik, a religious extremist, was the largest among six, all occupied now by members of the MILF's Task Force Ittihad.
The task force started its campaign to neutralize the group of Abdulmalik last August 2 for attempting to hoist the ISIS flag on strategic sites in MILF enclaves recognized as "peace zones" by the national government.

Local executives and security officials have recommended an extensive spiritual reorientation of residents in areas jointly reclaimed by the MILF and the 6th ID from the group of Abdulmalik.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said said last Friday he is ready to help in the spiritual rehabilitation of villagers in barangays where Abdulmalik and his men operated after they established a third BIFF faction in November 2016.

"We have moderate, non-violent Islamic theologians around who can help us usher the affected villagers back to the fold of genuine Islam that is all about peace, respect for life and respect for people with different religions," Mangudadatu said.

Abdulmalik, himself a cleric, and many of his followers, mostly Imams, are eloquent in espousing hatred for non-Muslims.

"Their claim of religious persecution is easy to correct and disprove. Nowhere in any part of the country can we find Muslims being banned from going to mosques during Fridays and from airing the adhan (call to prayer) five times a day using a public address system," Mangudadatu said.

Army teams that inspected the last bastion of Abdulmalik's group in Barangay Tee, Salibo that the MILF occupied on Wednesday found there four powerful IEDs, two M-14 rifles, an M-16 rifle and an ISIS flag left by militants as they fled in haste.

Troops also found there graves of militants killed in skirmishes with combined MILF guerillas and soldiers in the past seven weeks.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command also recommended on Friday a special religious program meant to reintroduce into mainstream society the villagers influenced by Abdulmalik's group.

Galvez, however, wants it spearheaded by local government units and peace-advocacy groups supporting Malacañang's diplomatic engagements with southern Moro sectors.

"We will support the effort as a peace-building partner, behind the LGUs for the initiative to become a domestic community-driven campaign versus violent religious extremism," Galvez said.

Galvez and Mangudadatu both lauded the MILF for driving away Abdulmalik and his followers from the barangays where they imposed a justice system villagers detested for being primitive and ruthless.

Bodies from Marawi battle area undergo DNA testing

From ABS-CBN (Oct 1): Bodies from Marawi battle area undergo DNA testing

The Philippine National Police said Sunday that it is doing DNA tests on the bodies recently recovered from Marawi's main battle area to see if leaders of the Maute terrorist group were among them.

The PNP's scene of the crime operatives however said 12 of the 16 recovered remains were charred beyond recognition.

Authorities also said that some of the bodies may be of foreign jihadists who joined the siege of Marawi.

ABS-CBN sources said that some Maute fighters were supposed to surrender Sunday morning, but this did not pan out.

As of posting, gunshots could still be heard in the main battle area of Marawi.

Malaysian militant believed killed

From The Star Online (Oct 1): Malaysian militant believed killed

Strong allegiance: Joraimee when he joined the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Southern Philippines. (Inset) Joraimee before leaving Malaysia for the Philippines.

Strong allegiance: Joraimee when he joined the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Southern Philippines. (Inset) Joraimee before leaving Malaysia for the Philippines.

EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Militant Muham­mad Joraimee Awang Raimee, who is believed to have been killed by Filipino security forces on Thursday, was a former Selayang Municipal Council officer employed on contract. He became the most trusted lieutenant of Universiti Malaya professor-turned-militant Dr Mahmud Ahmad while hiding in the jungle with the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Basilan, southern Philippines.

The 42-year-old Joraimee was believed to be among 15 persons killed in aerial bombing as troops regained control of Bato Mosque, which was used as the Islamic State (IS) command centre in Marawi City, Mindanao.

Intelligence sources in the Philippines and Malaysia said that Joraimee, also known as Abu Nur, was confirmed to be among the dead at the mosque.

They said that Joraimee and other top militants were in the vicinity of the mosque command centre when Philippine troops moved in.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, asked to comment on news that Joraimee had been killed in the Philippines, said: “Yes, this is what I have received so far. Am unable to give more details at this moment.”

Joraimee and Dr Mahmud were among the key planners of the May 23 Marawi attack with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute brothers – Abdullah and Omarkhayam – for the creation of a caliphate in South-East Asia.

Dr Mahmud, the “money man” who financed the Marawi attack, is said to have received more than RM500,000 from IS militants and sympathisers.

Joraimee is the third Malaysian known to have been killed in the Marawi city siege entering its fourth month.

Intelligence sources identified the two Malaysians killed in May as Abdurah­man Asmawi from Kelantan and Dr Kamsa Yahya from Kedah.

On Friday, Philippine regional military chief Lt-Gen Carlito Galvez said that five top militants, inclu­ding Abdullah Maute and two foreigners, were killed at Bato Mosque. He, however, did not identify the foreign militants killed.

Galvez said police had collected DNA samples from the dead militants to ascertain their identities.

He revealed that Isnilon and Omarkhayam were still holed up with the remaining militant in Marawi City.

Intelligence sources said Dr Mahmud and four or five more Malaysian militants were still in the Marawi siege area with Isnilon, who has declared himself as the Emir of the South-East Asia caliphate.

Contacted by The Star, Philippine military officials said they were still trying to ascertain whether Joraimee was among the foreigners killed.

Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based expert on terrorism, told The Star that if true, the death of Joraimee indicated that the army was closing in on the inner circle of the Mautes and Isnilon.

“Joraimee worked closely with Dr Mahmud and may have helped with fundraising and financial transfers,” he added.

BIFF faction executes 4 ‘traitor’ members

From the Manila Times (Sep 30): BIFF faction executes 4 ‘traitor’ members

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Four members of the third faction of Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were reportedly executed for being “traitors” to their group and suspected of passing information to the military.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the Army-led anti-terrorist Task Force Central, confirmed on Thursday having received reports from barangay (village) residents about the execution of the followers of Esmael Abdulmalik on suspicion that they provided the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) information on their exact location that led to the MILF’s takeover of their camp on Wednesday.

“There are very persistent reports coming in from barangay officials and local executives in Maguindanao about that,” Besana said.

Abdulmalik is the leader of a third faction in the outlawed BIFF and uses the black flag of the Islamic State (IS) as their revolutionary banner.

Members of the municipal peace and order councils in several Maguindanao towns said Abdulmalik’s four followers – identified only as Hamodi, Omar, Rasul and Asraf – were shot dead one after the other after learning that they sent text messages to contacts divulging their locations at Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo town.

“The names of those contacts in their mobile phones were not typical Maguindanaon or Muslim names,” a local official said who confirmed the brutal killings of the four bandits.

They were reportedly executed after the fall of their remaining bastion in Barangay Tee following eight hours of a running gun battle with pursuing members of the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad.

The MILF overrun the last enclave of Abdulmalik’s group in Barangay Tee after a series of clashes in the area and in nearby villages in Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns in Maguindanao.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, provincial police director, said he also received reports regarding the execution of Abdulmalik’s followers from different sources, among them senior members of prominent Maguindanaon clans.

Six followers of Abdulmalik were killed in gunfights with the MILF on Wednesday in Barangay Tee, one of them identified as Ansari Alimama, a Maranao from Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Tello said Alimama was a senior member of the Maute terror group.

He also disclosed that Alimama was a henchman of siblings Omar and Abdullah Maute, founder of the IS-inspired Maute group that first emerged in Butig in 2014.

“We have validated from our contacts in Lanao del Sur that this Alimama hailed from Butig,” Tello said.

Meanwhile, Besana said military units in Maguindanao’s adjoining Salibo, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns have fired artillery at the militants fleeing from Barangay Tee.

The MILF launched an offensive against Abdulmalik’s group in August after its failed attempts to hoist the IS flag in guerilla enclaves in Maguindanao that are recognized as “peace zones” by the government.

How an army captain died saving his soldier's life in Marawi

From Rappler (Sep 24): How an army captain died saving his soldier's life in Marawi

Company Commander Rommel Sandoval could not bear seeing any of his men wounded. For this, he paid the ultimate sacrifice.

'DAREDEVIL.' Captain Rommel Sandoval's courage was 'above and beyond the call of duty,' his superiors say. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

'DAREDEVIL.' Captain Rommel Sandoval's courage was 'above and beyond the call of duty,' his superiors say. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

His promise was clear: not a single man under his watch would die in battle.

Over 3 months in, Captain Rommel Sandoval’s promise was very much intact. The 11th Scout Ranger Company, of which he was commander, was the only company that had not lost a soldier in the Marawi siege.

On Sunday, September 10, Day 111 of the war, Sandoval’s men were asked to go on a precarious mission to retake one of the few remaining strongholds of the enemy. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

As the military closed in on the terrorists and continued to push them back towards Lanao Lake, the 5-story Landbank building was crucial for the military to take over. The army had tried to retake it previously, but it was deadly dangerous. On that day however, Sandoval’s men were ready and determined.

Slowly but deliberately, under Sandoval’s watch, they cleared the 5th floor, the 4th, the 3rd, and then the second. The first floor was more difficult. After dropping grenades to scare off any remaining terrorists hiding below, 3 rangers descended to the first floor before realizing it was still too risky.

LAST RESPECTS. President Rodrigo Duterte pays his last respects to Captain Rommel Sandoval, a soldier killed in Marawi City. Malacañang photo

The enemy spotted the 3 rangers as they backed up to return to the second floor. There was an exchange of volume fire. In the gunfire, one of the men, Corporal Jayson Mante, was hit on his hand.

As the other two managed to make it back to the second floor, Mante chose instead to drop to his stomach. He knew his injury would slow him down and that he would expose himself longer if he tried to come back up too.

A concerned Sandoval sent 4 troops to try and recover Mante. At this point, Mante had several other injuries after the enemy continued shooting at the wounded ranger. He lay still on the first floor, waiting for death.

Knowing the military would not leave Mante behind, the enemies watched closely, aiming at any soldier who tried to come down from the second floor to save him. (READ: Troops penetrate Maute defensive position in Marawi)

2nd Lieutenant Arvie Ventura, the platoon leader who had been constantly radioing in updates to Sandoval from the second floor, recalled that Sandoval came down to where he was to assess the situation himself after several failed attempts.

“Suddenly, he disappeared. I didn’t notice he was gone,” Ventura said.

Sandoval had found a hole created by the enemy that led him to another building, another route to save Mante. When he saw that Mante was no longer moving, Sandoval made a decision. He instructed his men to give him cover fire, and ran towards Mante.

“He didn’t hesitate,” Ventura recalled. “When he got there, he checked Corporal Mante’s pulse, and as he tried to pull him to safety, the enemy spotted him. His first hit was on his side.”

Sandoval let out a scream. But it wasn’t a scream of pain or agony, said Ventura, it was an angry scream, a frustrated scream. “He was so angry, I could see it in his face.”

Even after he was hit, Sandoval turned towards the enemy, cocked his gun, aimed, and started firing back. The enemy hit him on his neck, then his cheek.

The hit on his cheek was fatal.

Ventura said Sandoval managed to radio in his final words: “I got hit.”

As the bullets came flying in, Sandoval, in his last moments, was still thinking of his men. He crawled on top of Mante to shield him from getting hit further. When they recovered Sandoval’s body, bullets were lodged on his chest. His body had blocked bullets from going through and hitting Mante.

“He chose to take all the bullets for his troops.”

Hardest missions
Sandoval is the highest-ranking Scout Ranger who died in the ongoing war in Marawi between government troops and IS-linked terrorists. Mante survived. (READ: Admit ISIS presence in Philippines, analyst says)

The war marked its 4th month on Saturday, September 23. At least 887 have died including 151 soldiers, 689 enemies, and 47 civilians.

At Sandoval’s necrological service on Friday, September 15, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani or The Heroes’ Cemetery, the mood was heavy and somber.

A Philippine flag draped his white and gold coffin, flanked by white flowers from President Rodrigo Duterte on one side, and Vice President Leni Robredo on the other. Sandoval wore his crisp Captain uniform, looking every bit a hero.

A slideshow of Sandoval’s photos flashed across the television screen one by one. Sandoval with family and friends eating out. Sandoval playing with his young niece in a pool. Sandoval smiling ear to ear, holding his wife Ani.

HERO. The body of Captain Rommel Sandoval is brought home to Manila a day after his death. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

Sandoval, 38, and a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 2005, had a lot ahead of him. He was soon to be promoted Major after years of excellent service. The war was coming to an end. He was so close to coming home.

The stories and the memories of Sandoval from friends, family and comrades, were stirringly consistent.

He was brave – almost “too brave” said some. His code sign, fittingly, was “Daredevil.” He was quiet, a man of action rather than words. He loved his country and his men deeply. Even at a young age, he defended the weak, standing up to bullies at school, and later, as a soldier, was fiercely loyal to his troops.

“This was not the first time he risked his life for us,” Ventura said.

During their downtime, Ventura said Sandoval – who was a talented artist – chose to do artwork, rather than drink. This was the culture he instilled in his company.

“He cooked for us, and made sure we ate together. That was the way we bonded as a company. He always wanted to see our troops together, as a whole. He didn’t want us to be individualistic,” Ventura said. “He inspired all of us with his actions.”

His superiors too flew back from Marawi to pay their final respects.

Brigadier General Rene Glen Paje, the Commander of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, said Sandoval's name stood out among the Captains, because of the stories and the achievements of his company.

“His great courage went above and beyond the call of duty. He was a leader so devoted to his work. He never gave orders from the rear. He always prioritized the welfare of his men,” Paje said.

“He viewed each of his men as fathers, brothers, sons. He loved and treasured them all like family.”

Lieutenant Colonel Jose Jesus Luntok, Sandoval's immediate superior, and the commander of the 4th Scout Ranger Batallion, was frank: Sandoval was one of his best men.

ARTWORK. Captain Sandoval loved to draw and carve during his free time. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

“I had 6 companies under me. He was the ace of the battalion. All hard objectives, I gave to him. He planned, he led. He was the most dependable, the voice of reason. He had the ability to think through difficult situations,” Luntok said.

But Luntok said what stood out the most for him was the manner in which Sandoval died.

“As a Company Commander, he has so many people to order to rescue Corporal Mante. I believe he did what he did to save all his troops. If he forced them to go down, more would die,” he said. “So he decided to save Mante.”

Luntok paused. “I’ve seen and heard heroic deeds in my years. Many had no choice but to fight because they were cornered. Rommel had a choice.”

The love of his life

That choice he made that day, constantly chipped at the mind of Sandoval’s wife, Ani.

"Did he not think of me when he made that choice? Why did this happen? Dalawa na lang nga kami eh (It's just the two of us.) Why him? He was such a good person."

Those who knew Sandoval said Ani was the love of his life. He said it as much in a love letter, displayed at the wake: "I love you so much. I hope I say it often enough," it read. "You are my everything."

They were together for 14 years, 7 of those married. In her eulogy, Ani described her decade and a half with him as “the best years of my life.”

On the morning he died, Ani said she received a text at 6:47 am. “Good morning B. Trabaho muna (Off to work). We will get the Landbank today.”

And that was it, that was all.

“You wouldn’t be 1% worried if you received that text,” Ani said. She said she had not a single premonition of her husband’s fate. Those were Sandoval’s last words to his wife.

ROMMEL'S WIFE. His wife, Ani Sandoval, was his partner for 14 years. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

Ani said throughout their relationship, she was spared details by her husband. The text that morning, had been the most detailed he ever got in telling her of a mission. “He never let me worry that he was in danger,” she said.

But when she received the call, she said she knew.

“When Lieutenant Colonel Luntok called and he introduced himself as Rommel’s Battalion Commander, I already knew.”

Ani said she prayed and banked on the 1% chance that her husband was anything but dead. “Lord, kahit putulin mo na lahat, buhayin mo lang siya (Lord, take all his limbs. Just please keep him alive),” she said.

Ani described her husband as extraordinarily giving and generous. He was a loving, faithful husband. He found joy in the simplest of things. “He simplified my life.”

LOVE LETTER. One of Captain Sandoval's letters to his wife. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

“As a son, as a brother, he was really selfless. Especially to me,” she said. “I have nothing negative to say about him.”

They had made many plans. He was coming home in October, she said, for their first trip abroad together. They had been looking forward to it for months. She had downloaded all his favorite television series, and waited to watch the latest season of Game of Thrones with him, because she wanted all her firsts to be with him. She was counting the days until he would finally be back.

But it just wasn’t meant to be.

“I reminded myself he was never mine to begin with. He reminded me it was always God, country, and the rest follows,” Ani said.

“I’m giving him back to the Lord. I thank the Lord He gave me a very good man.”


Before Luntok delivered his eulogy, he looked towards Ani, and Sandoval’s sister, Joyce.

“Ani and Joyce, I am sorry. I am sorry I couldn’t bring him back alive.”

The pain in his voice was tangible and raw, like everyone’s who spoke of their time with Sandoval.

“When we lost Rommel, I felt I lost a limb. The night before he died, I looked at him on a sofa, talking to Ani on the phone. I thought then, ‘What would happen to us if we lost Rommel?’ Maybe I had a premonition that night. I just ignored it,” he said.

“I failed to bring home Rommel. He made sure his men could make it home alive. Nothing beats that as a Company Commander.”

LOVE FOR COUNTRY. Captain Sandoval was a member of the PMA Class 2005. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez III, Sandoval’s mentor at the PMA and the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said Rommel “could’ve been one of the best leaders of his time.”

Galvez said the night before the mission to take over Landbank, he couldn’t sleep. “There were more than 26 terrorists. 3-7 was hard enough.”

The next day, he was overwhelmed by grief with the news of his former student’s death. “I make a report every night for President Duterte. That night, when I had to report Sandoval’s death, I couldn’t control my tears.”

He said that whenever he saw Sandoval on the battlefield, Sandoval would give him a salute. He said his order for his former students was to stay alive.

“Sir, your order to stay alive is complied with, sir.” Sandoval told Galvez when he last saw him.

As if relieving him of his order, Galvez bid farewell: “Goodbye Rommel, you may rest in peace.”

COMBAT BOOTS. Captain Sandoval's boots, displayed at the wake. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

Ventura also bid goodbye to their leader in behalf of the rest of his troops. He said he felt lucky to have had worked under Sandoval, and that his concern for his men is what he would remember the most about his Company Commander.

“He never wanted any of us injured. That’s what he always emphasized. I idolized him,” he said. “'Walang iwanan (no leaving anyone behind),' he always said that. We were confident to jump off because we knew he was there.”

Turning toward Sandoval's coffin, Ventura said, “Your troops are so proud of you. Even when you didn’t say it, we knew how much you cared for us.”

Ventura said Sandoval’s dream was for the war to end with none of his troops dead. “We will ensure your dream comes true.”

Aside from Sandoval, the 11th Scout Ranger Company remains to be the only company that has not lost a single soldier to this day, just as he promised.

Hostages, IEDs slow down push to end war in Marawi

From Rappler (Oct 1): Hostages, IEDs slow down push to end war in Marawi
(UPDATED) Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez says they will not rush the troops to avoid unnecessary deaths of hostages and soldiers

(UPDATED)– It's mortar rounds that troops served the Maute Group for breakfast on Sunday morning, October 1. The war rages on, after the military missed its self-imposed deadline to finish the Marawi crisis by end-September. (READ: Lorenzana 'confident' Marawi siege done by end-September)

“We’re asking for leeway,” Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr told reporters here Sunday afternoon.

The military said it has taken most of the Maute strongholds in the battle area. But two factors are slowing down the push to end the war in Marawi – securing the safety of the hostages and enemy's strategic use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Clashes could take two more weeks if the terrorists fight it out until the end, based on estimates on the ground. It could be sooner if more enemy fighters follow the 3 who have surrendered. (READ: Possible surrender of Maute fighters could end war sooner)

Galvez said they will not rush the troops.

"We will try to let our ground forces do the clearing operations without undue pressure at 'yung tinatawag nating (and what we call) unnecessary cost of lives, to include hostages at saka sa mga sundalo natin (and our soldires)," said Galvez.

Hostages and IEDs
Hostages are the priority. “Our main concern is the safety of 43-46 hostages. We are very very much concerned on the safe rescue of the hostages,” Galvez said.

At least 5 hostages have been rescued from Bato Mosque, including Catholic priest Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub. But the remaining hostages have since been moved to another location in the battle area. (READ: Life of a Maute hostage in Marawi)

"We are having a hard time really [because of the] conditions of the hostages, particulary right now that the hostages have been separated," said Galvez.

"Now we are looking at possibility that they are located in 5 different areas," he said.

IEDs also slow down clearing operations because troops need to make sure they do not trip on these, said Colonel Romeo Brawner, Task Group Ranao deputy commander.

IEDs are among the main killers of troops in Marawi.

In Bato Mosque alone, Brawner said troops retrieved 20 IEDs along with high powered firearms and unexploded ordnance.

They also retrieved materials for IEDs such as coins and nails in the mosque, confirming earlier reports that it was where they manufactured the explosives. It took troops at least two weeks to clear the block of Bato Mosque.

2-3 football fields
The fall of Bato Mosque into government hands this week is a "significant gain" for the military, said Galvez.

Galvez said the military operation against suspected Maute Group reinforcement on Balt Island in Lake Lanao, resulting in the confiscation of boats, also showed that the enemies are already “desperate.”

"We would like to tell you that for the past two weeks, we've had a major breakthrough in terms of enemy killed and recovery of firearms and also substantially getting all the significant and strategic areas that the protagonists are holding before," Galvez said.

The battle area has been narrowed to the size of 2-3 football fields, said Galvez. Troops are also now able to retrieve more bodies from cleared areas in the battlefield.

But the terrain remains difficult, especially becasue the buildings towards Lake Lanao are not as predictable as the the tall buidlings that previously served as Maute strongholds.

"Hindi pare-parehas ang building (The buildings are uneven), which is very very difficult also. But I believe that we’re now having the high ground going to the lake. Maganda disposition ng forces (The forces have a good disposition)," said Galvez.

Sayyaf militant captured in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 30): Sayyaf militant captured in Basilan province

Police commandos, backed by army soldiers, have recaptured a notorious Abu Sayyaf militant who escaped from jail in 2009 after he was tracked down in his hideout in Lamitan City in the troubled Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

Security officials said Boy Indama, a follower of Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama, is currently being interrogated following his capture on Thursday. His arrest was not immediately made public because of an operation aimed at capturing other militants and people that protected Indama.

It was not immediately known whether Indama was plotting a terror attack in Basilan, a known stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Two of its members – Omar Askali and Mukaram Sapie – who are both bomb experts were also captured in Zamboanga City on September 23. The duo was said to be plotting to bomb civilian targets in the city, but this was foiled by security forces following their separate arrest.

Security forces seized a fragmentation grenade and two identification cards, including a cell phone from Askali, a trusted aide of Indama who is tagged by authorities as behind the spate of terror attacks and killings in Basilan. While an improvised explosive and a .45-caliber pistol were also confiscated from Sapie in Taluksangay village.

Zamboanga, which was targeted in the past by Abu Sayyaf bombers, is celebrating a Catholic feast in October.

2 Indian Navy ships in PH for goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): 2 Indian Navy ships in PH for goodwill visit

Two of Indian Navy's most modern warships will be making a goodwill visit to the Philippines from October 3 to 6.

Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the Indian naval vessels will be docking at Pier 15, Manila South Harbor.

These ships are the INS Satpura (F-48), a Shivalik-class stealth multi-role frigate commissioned in Aug. 20, 2011, and the INS Kadmati (P-29), an anti-submarine corvette activated in Jan. 7, 2016.

INS Saptura is commanded by Capt. Rahul Shankar while INS Kadmati is skippered by Cmdr. Nithin Cariappa.

Both ships are equipped with a variety of sensors and weapon systems.

Lincuna said the Indian vessels will be escorted to their berths in Manila South Harbor after a customary meeting procedure with BRP Rajah Humabon (FF-11) off Corregidor.

"The goodwill visit aims to enhance and strengthen the mutual relationship between the two nations. It also coincides with the commemoration of the 25th year of India-ASEAN relations being celebrated this year," he added.

Maute death toll now 749

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Maute death toll now 749

The number of Maute group terrorists in the ongoing clearing operations in Marawi City has now climbed to 749.

According to Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander Col. Romeo Brawner, figures are as of 6 a.m. Saturday showed an increase of 13 from Friday's data.

Civilians killed and executed by the lawless elements are still at 47 while rescued residents are at 1,733.

Recovered firearms are now at 714 while number of slain government troops are now at 155 or two higher than Friday's figures.

"Government forces will fight harder to accomplish the following the soonest possible time so that the rehabilitation of Marawi can continue unhampered: Rescue the remaining hostages, neutralize the Maute-ISIS terrorists and regain control of the whole Marawi City," Brawner said.

Fighting in Marawi City broke out after a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon last May 23.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said lives of surrendering Maute terrorists will be spared provided they surrender peacefully.

More NPA rebels to surrender in coming months: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): More NPA rebels to surrender in coming months: AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said it expects more New People’s Army (NPA) members to give up and lay down their arms in the coming months.

The AFP made the statement following the surrender of 52 NPA rebels to government forces in September.

“The surge of NPA surrenders over the past month is a positive result of the AFP’s robust and incessant combined intelligence, combat, and civil-military operations. It is also a product of the active cooperation of our stakeholders, particularly of the support given by the communities and local government units within our areas of operation,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.

“It is apparent through the statement of those who surrendered that their comrades are now experiencing hardships within their organization, and they are willing to avail of the opportunities being offered by the government to former NPA rebels,” he added.

Some seven communist rebels voluntarily surrendered and turned over two AK47 rifles and a Caliber .45 Remington to the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan in ZamboangaSibugay on September 20.

Meanwhile, the surrender of nine other NPA rebels to troops of the 33rd Infantry Battalion in Sultan Kudarat on September 23 yielded six improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

At present, the government offers financial and livelihood aid to rebel returnees under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Meanwhile, a corresponding amount of assistance with additional capital will be given to former rebels who surrender firearms for their livelihood to help them go back to the fold of the law.

Arevalo added that the operations against communist insurgents continue, noting that “the AFP has already neutralized 566 communist terrorists since the termination of peace talks on February 4, 2017.”

Of this number, 378 voluntarily surrendered to military units or to the local government units within northeastern Mindanao, according to Arevalo.

Ongoing combat operations led to the death of 118 NPA fighters, arrest 70 members, recovery of 159 firearms.

Meanwhile, a total of 133 weapons were surrendered or turned over by the rebels to government troops.

“The leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines salutes our brave soldiers on the field who continue to risk their lives in order to stop the violent activities being perpetrated by the communist terrorists New People’s Army against our innocent citizens,” AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Año said.