Saturday, October 21, 2017

AFP welcomes surrender of terrorists' relatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): AFP welcomes surrender of terrorists' relatives

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday welcomed the move of some relatives of terrorists Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute to lay down their arms and surrender to the government.

“We are happy to note that there is some sense entering into the minds of all these relatives who bear arms and who have been part of the network. And as the days go by, let this be (the) good message to all these armed individuals and armed elements,” AFP spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., said during the regular Mindanao Hour press briefing in MalacaƱang.

“Maging magandang mensahe po sana itong mga nangyayari sa Marawi na talagang determinado ang Armed Forces at ang ating pamahalaan na i-address lahat ng mga armadong grupo upang talagang manatiling safe ang ating mga kanayunan at ang ating mga siyudad,” he added.

The AFP spokesperson also asked the public’s cooperation to work hand-in-hand with the government in addressing the issue of loose firearms.

“Hangga’t hindi po naibabalik at naisu-surrender lahat ng mga loose firearms, ‘yung mga armas na hindi dapat nasa kamay ng mga tao na wala namang lisensya at hindi naman dapat naghahawak ng armas, dapat makuha po natin lahat ‘yan nang sa ganun, masabi nating ganap na maayos ang ating mga komunidad,” he said.

The AFP official meanwhile confirmed the death of Malaysian terrorist Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, who helped finance the Marawi siege, and said that the AFP is in the process of recovering the terrorist’s body.

He said Mahmud’s death was verified through a first-person account of a hostage who knew Mahmud and saw the events unfolding.

“He died during the assault of our troops the other day -- or the other night, where 12 other rebels died. And we are (in) the process of recovering the body of Dr. Mahmud,” Padilla said.

He also announced the successful rescue of 10 more hostages.

“With the number of hostages that have been rescued in the last 24 hours, we look forward to getting the rest of the hostages and [to] addressing the armed threat that still exists,” Padilla assured.

“We are giving it our best and we’re doing all that we can so that we can end these hostilities in this part of Marawi,” he added.

Following President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi, Padilla said the AFP would now be shifting its forces to other areas for their required training and scheduled battalion activities.

“They will also be going back to Luzon for a much-needed break and for their long-delayed training in Fort Magsaysay and in other camps of the Philippine Army to enhance their skills and prepare them for their next mission,” Padilla said.

He clarified, however, that there are still units deployed in the war-torn city to continuously ensure the security of the people during the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase.

“Most of this will be dependent also in the key sector or areas in Marawi that they are holding. If these are relatively safe, then we will free up our units to depart,” Padilla said.

Padilla then sought the patience and understanding of the Marawi residents who are planning to return to their homes.

He said evacuees are still not allowed to enter the inner parts of the city until the AFP’s clearing operations are completed.

The AFP official stressed the need to clear all areas of all possible hazards like improvised explosive devices (IEDs), booby traps, and other unexploded ordnances, before allowing residents to return.

“Kinakailangan hanapin po natin lahat ng naiwang mga bomba na hindi pumutok, mga patibong na iniwan na hindi po namin nakita, at mga bagay na maaaring makasakit sa inyo,” Padilla stressed.

“Kaya hinihingi po namin ang pasensya at pag-unawa ng lahat. ‘Pag oras na po na kami’y ganap na sigurado na hindi na po talaga ito magiging balakid, kami po’y magbibigay ng senyales at makikipag-ugnayan sa local government upang pahintulutan na po ito,” he added.

For his part, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Kristoffer Purisima said a massive cleanup drive dubbed as “Brigada Marawi” is continuously being conducted in affected areas.

The initiative, which was launched on Oct.4, is led by the local government of Marawi, with the assistance of the AFP.

“As of yesterday, Oct. 19, 22 barangays benefitted from the cleanup drive and more sectors and stakeholders are joining the Marawi City local government unit, where they aim to restore the cleanliness and sanitation in the city,” Purisima cited.

Purisima also gave updates on the Post-Conflict Needs Assessment (PCNA) of affected areas. He said the inter-agency PCNA teams already assessed 10 barangays to date, with 16 more barangays yet to be visited.

Martial law still in effect in Mindanao
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella reiterated the President’s statement that martial law in Mindanao would not be lifted until the last terrorist had been taken out.

The Cabinet official said the death of the ringleaders of the Marawi rebellion, including Omar Maute, Isnilon Hapilon, and Mahmud Ahmad, do not automatically result in the lifting of martial law.

“There are remnants, including networks supporting the Maute -- the Maute cause within Mindanao. The President is duty-bound not to compromise public safety,” Abella stressed.

On the other hand, Abella explained that President Duterte would still confer with the members of his Cabinet Security, the Justice and Peace Cluster in particular, to come up with a decision on the matter.

He said the President would discuss the necessary action to be taken with the Secretary of National Defense, who is the designated martial law administrator, and the AFP Chief of Staff, who is the designated martial law implementor.

No sacred government exec
Following President Duterte’s announcement that he sacked an undersecretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) due to allegations of corruption, Abella, in the same press briefing, said this development shows no government official is sacred under Duterte’s administration.

“The President’s action highlights that no government official is sacred under this administration,” Abella said.

“Let this be a reminder to all public officers that we are all here, not for ourselves but for the greater good,” he added.

Gov't troops remain on guard in Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Gov't troops remain on guard in Marawi

Following President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi, MalacaƱang on Saturday assured the Filipino public that the government would continue to be on guard against any remaining terrorist in the area.

In a statement aired over Radio Pilipinas, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella stressed that the start of the military pullout in Marawi does not signal the end of fighting between government troops and stragglers of the Maute terrorist group.

“While enemy force has greatly diminished, we will continue to be alert and assure the residents of the city that we will not compromise its security with the presence of some units of the Armed Forces,” Abella said.

The Palace official guaranteed that the government would not drop its guard for possible threats coming from the remaining network of the ISIS-inspired terror group, which may still be operating while the rehabilitation of Marawi is ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Palace also announced that authorities have put closure on the death of Michael Siaron, a suspected drug personality whose photo created a buzz after it was compared to the Pieta image.

Abella said ballistics examination from a recovered firearm revealed that Siaron was killed by a member of a syndicate also involved in the illegal drug trade.

According to Abella, this report verifies the government’s claim from the start that many drug-related killings in the country were actually perpetrated by those involved in drug operations, as drug traffickers and pushers try to eliminate each other.

“The relentless attribution of such killings to police operations was both premature and unfair to law-abiding enforcement officers who risk life and limb to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs in our society,” the official noted.

“Government assures the public and the families of victims of deaths under investigation that authorities will pursue cases until the truly guilty are brought before the bar of justice,” he added.

Russian Defense Minister in Manila on Oct. 23

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Russian Defense Minister in Manila on Oct. 23

Russian Federation Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev on Saturday confirmed that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is set to visit Manila on Oct. 23 to discuss the supply of Russian military equipment to the Philippines.

Khovaev said Minister Shoigu will hand over the Russian military donation to the Philippines such as small arms, military weapons, and other equipment, including army trucks.

Discussions on establishing a legal framework for the transfer of military supplies and equipment are ongoing, but Khovaev said he does not see any problem that may hamper the document's creation.

"I don't see real difficulties, of course there are some issues to resolve, I have only one problem, the lack of knowledge about each other," Khovaev told reporters aboard Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev.

 "We expect a few contracts on the supply of Russian military equipment to the Philippines to be signed during the upcoming visit of the Russian Defense Minister Shoigi. It will be the first ever visit of the minister to this country, it's a historic event," he added.

A detachment of the  Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, consisting of the large anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev and large tanker Voris Butoma, arrived at the port of Manila on Oct. 20 ahead of Minister Shoigu's trip.

During a press conference with Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, Deputy Commander of Flotilla of the Russian Pacific Fleet and the Detachment Flag Officer, Khovaev confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte will also tour the destroyer on Oct. 26, the departure date of the detachment.

The third Russian port visit to Manila this year comes following President Duterte's move to forge better bilateral relationship with Russia.


Citing the need to "intensify" the people-to-people context of Manila and Moscow's ties, Khovaev asked Filipinos to dismiss misconceptions against Russia.

He stressed that the cooperation Moscow is offering Manila has "no hidden agenda" attached to it.

"The Philippines and Russia are on the right track. I am confirming once again that the Russian Federation is open to consider all bilateral cooperation on military and technical field, we fully support your fight against terrorism, we are ready to extend help to the country," he said.

 "If we extend our help to you, we are doing that with sincere wishes, we have no hidden agenda," he added.

The Russian envoy also noted that any cooperation on any field “will have no political conditionalities.”

“That’s a fundamental principle of our military policy, our military cooperation with all interested foreign partners,” he said.

“I have already stressed that our country is ready to help the Philippines in your legitimate fight against terrorism. I would like to take this opportunity also to congratulate all of you on the liberation of the city of Marawi in Mindanao,” he added.

Marawi residents plan on filing class suit against government

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Oct 20): Marawi residents plan on filing class suit against government

Photo courtesy of Tindeg Ranao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A group of Marawi residents are planning to file a class suit against the government for the destruction of the city’s properties and the deaths of civilians due to the conflict between state forces and local terrorists.

Two support groups of the Marawi crisis victims said in a joint statement that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte should be made accountable for the devastation brought by the fighting between the government troops and members of the Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The war in Marawi has displaced thousands of civilians who fled during the first few days of the conflict.

During the siege, residents have witnessed various forms of abuses being committed not just by the extremists but also by the state agents.

These reports will be the basis of the class suit that the victims will be filing, said Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of the Suara Bangsamoro.

“There were numerous cases of human rights violations,” said Aba in an interview Thursday afternoon.

In a separate interview, Aida Ibrahim of Tindeg Ranao, many of the evacuees have already signed affidavits documenting the abuses they had experienced by government troops.

She said during the second round of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM), some of the civilians have recounted the violations allegedly committed by soldiers.

Ibrahim said more evacuees are willing to execute affidavits to bolster the filing of the class suit.

Aba said the reports collated from the NIHM will be also be used as documentary evidence.

Both Ibrahim and Aba have yet to give the exact date of the filing as more documents are still being prepared.

In a joint statement, both Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro are calling for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao as residents in Marawi have expressed their desire to return to their homes after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte declared the besieged city as “liberated.”

The President’s declaration came following the deaths of terrorist leaders, Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group’s Omarkhayam Maute.

Both groups and other belligerent factions in Mindanao have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

In a joint statement released to the media Oct. 19, Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro are demanding for the government to finally terminate the martial rule in the island, to stop the military the offensives and the pull-out of state forces in Marawi after Duterte made the pronouncement.

Suara Bangsamoro said it finds Duterte’s announcement of a “liberated” Marawi ironic because in place of “terrorists,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines aided by foreign troops including the US troops “are still in control of Marawi City because of the continuing Martial Law declaration and due to their role as architects of Marawi City’s rehabilitation.”

At the same time, evacuees who want return to Marawi “are afraid of military reprisal should they decide to file cases or hold responsible the government for the destruction of their communities and their more than four months-long displacement due to intensive military airstrike which became the response to suppress the Dawlah Islamiya [Maute Group],” Tindeg Ranao said.

The Moro groups have maintained that the government should be held accountable for the death and displacement of Marawi resident and the destruction of their community due to the aerial assaults carried out the by military.

They said the decisions and actions of the current administration undermine efforts for resolving conflict in Moro areas and push more Moro people to fight against fascist policies.

“[We] hope that calls for independent investigation to reports of human rights violations committed by the military to evacuees will not be glossed over as the government [announced] victory over the terrorist group,” they said.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Crisis Management Committee, in a statement said that with the declaration of the President, Marawi and its people can now “focus on rebuilding, rehabilitating not only the physical infrastructures but more importantly, the social fabric of our community in the hope that we can truly have a peaceful, developed and a caring society in Marawi and its neighboring communities.”

Adiong said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute provides Marawi “an opportunity not only to win the war against violent extremism, but also the rare privilege of winning the peace by addressing the root causes of the conflict in Mindanao.”