Thursday, October 26, 2017

Who was Omarkhayam Maute?

From Philippine News (Oct 25):  Who was Omarkhayam Maute?

Who was Omarkhayam Maute? Salient facts of Omar Maute’s life are still absent from internet sources. For example, we don’t have his birthday. I can guess that he was in his late 30s or early forties when he died (on October 16, 2017, US time) given that he was a teenager in the 1990s. There is no mention of children he might have had with his Indonesian wife though it’s reasonable to assume he probably did. Reports of his death surfaced in February 2017 and then in August 2017 and then now, announced definitively, hours before I write this.

It drives home the uncomfortable fact that the very open Western resource of internet articles and social media allows these subversive groups to enter and exit our world and use our openness to their own advantage while they enjoy at least some semblance of privacy. One article claimed 63 Facebook accounts sourced to the Maute group. They say he used social media for recruiting. And yet, we don’t even know his birthday.

It also brings home another already obvious fact that is often ignored: while the ruling class of the Philippines is decidedly Western-oriented, Malaysia is our closest neighbor. The Southernmost tip of Balabac Island, part Palawan province, is just over 20 miles north of the Malaysian island of Pulau Balambangan and Sibutu Island in the province of Tawi-Tawi is 8.7 miles east of Sabah, Malaysia. But in order for someone from Manila to fly to Kuala Lumpur, they would have to travel slightly more than 1500 miles, just a touch less than the distance between SFO and Pierre, South Dakota. While Mindanao does have international airports as far south as General Santos City, the capital and its Western-facing leadership are emphatically Manila-centric. In fact, until Duterte was elected, it was largely assumed that Presidents were chosen by the occupants of Southern Luzon.

A slight peer into Omar Maute’s background and it becomes apparent that the lives (and boundaries) of the Philippines do not match the imagination of its leaders. Omar Maute was educated in Egypt at the Al Azhar University in Cairo. He married an Indonesian woman and, based on the limited comments, seemed integrated into her family. In Western-facing Manila, this kind of international reach is only achievable by those who can afford the cost of PAL flights and Western tuition. Meanwhile, there exists a subculture that seems to have blended lives and identity with the Muslim world…to the extent that they are educated and conversant in Middle Eastern languages as was Maute.

If there exists within the Philippines this entirely different cultural pull, Maute and his clan are artifacts of negligent leadership. They are negligent for failing to represent this demographic and they are negligent for not recognizing the dynamic. For at least 50 years, Manila has been happy to pretend that the country does not really count beyond its borders. I witnessed this first hand as I watched (from afar) my uncles bootstrap Cebu’s recovery from Typhoon Ruping in the 1990s. Today, with the death of one of the leaders of the Marawi siege, I finally understand why Duterte was elected. It might have been about drugs, sure. It might have been a repudiation of the status quo and those who benefitted. But it was Mindanawans (and other Southerners) calling for leadership that understands them.

MNLF-Misuari/Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim: Photo: Plenary Session of the Lupah Sug State Revolutionary Committee convened at Camp Khalid, Indanao

Posted to the Facebook page of Moro National Liberation Front Secretary General Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim (Oct 26): Photo: Plenary Session of the Lupah Sug State Revolutionary Committee convened at Camp Khalid, Indanao

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Taken before the Plenary Session of the Parliaments of the Lupah Sug State Revolutionary Committee ( LSSRC ) convened at Camp Khalid, Indanan, October 11, 2017. Seen in the picture : Ustadz Abdulkarim T. MISUARI, MNLF Vice Chairman; Ustadz Murshi D. Ibrahim, MNLF Secretary General, Lt. Gen. Khalid Ajibon, State Chairman, LSSRC, and other MNLF Prominent Leaders and Top BAF Cmdrs. They stood as one in support of the Pres. Rody's Centerpiece Agenda on anti - drug and federalism, as an ultimate solution to the Century - Bangsamoro Political Problem.

MNLF-Misuari/Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim: Seminar on HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER MARTIAL LAW conducted at the Astana', Mt. Dragon, Bacud, Kagay, Indanan, Sulu

Posted to the Facebook page of Moro National Liberation Front Secretary General Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim (Oct 26): Seminar on HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER MARTIAL LAW conducted at the Astana', Mt. Dragon, Bacud, Kagay, Indanan, Sulu

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Taken during the Seminar on HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER MARTIAL LAW conducted at the Astana', Mt. Dragon, Bacud, Kagay, Indanan, Sulu, 24 0ctober 2017.

The rights of human being to life, freedom, liberty and to live in peace are God - given. Therefore they should be respected, honored and protected under all circumstances with all cost.

MILF: Editorial - MILF’s new role in Marawi City

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 25): Editorial - MILF’s new role in Marawi City

The MILF had done what it must take it to do during the full length of the crisis in Marawi City. The MILF had not failed our brothers and sisters in Marawi City. Only many expected us to do more, but those were beyond our limitations, lest we got the lesser thing in exchange for the bigger issue.

Moreover, we are confident that the MILF had done all things properly in accordance with Islam and in full observance of the parameter of the peace process with Government.

Immediately after May 23 when the siege of Marawi City started, the MILF Central Committee was convened in plenary session to discuss and adopt appropriate measures in response to the crisis. Various decision points were made and two of which were to hold a council of ulamas (learned in Islam) and seek their religious view and advice on the most appropriate action the MILF will have to take and adopt and to request for a meeting of leaders of the MILF and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, which indeed took place in Davao City on May 29.

The MILF is a revolutionary Islamic organization. As such, it decides on the basis of what is prescribed by Islam and by the rules of engagement agreed with government with third party facilitation, as set forth in signed agreements. It also observes the policy of consultative and collective leadership. Maybe decisions are slower in coming but once they are made they are very firm.

The MILF is not an individual person who oftentimes decides by force of emotion, tribal considerations, or political expediency of familial affiliations.

Deciding and acting are difficult, compared to just making comments. The “tongues have no bones”, which is the translation of a popular Maguindanao precept. As there are no perfect individuals, so are perfect decisions. One can never please everybody. And there are personalities who are only experts in critiquing.

Leaders of the MILF in the Central Committee were borne out of the hard and harsh conflict in Mindanao that exists until now after more than four decades, and therefore, it is safe to say they have the necessary wisdom to make decisions correctly. Blend this with ulama members of the MILF central leadership will leave little doubt that they make the right decisions, as in the Marawi crisis.

In all indications, the Marawi crisis is over; in fact, the government had already made a formal and official announcement that is it over. Surely, the Maute Group “had lost the war” but did the government win it? Our thesis is, it didn’t win the war, for all obvious reasons.

In these rehabilitation efforts, the MILF is set to continue its modest humanitarian intervention as in past months in creating with government the peace corridors which was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of civilians trapped in the city and for paving the way for pathways for flow of supplies (and evacuees) from Iligan City to Marawi City and Malabang to Marawi City.

As of now, this new role is not yet determined because representatives of the MILF and government to the Technical Working Group (TWG) which was created as result of the meeting between leaders of the MILF and President Duterte have yet to happen soon. This body will meet and is tasked to make recommendations which will be formally discussed and decided by the two peace implementing panels of government and MILF.

MILF: The Enactment of BBL is of national interest: IBS Forum Participants

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 25): The Enactment of BBL is of national interest: IBS Forum Participants

The enactment of the Bangsamoro basic Law (BBL) is of national interest said the majority of the participants of a forum at EM Manur, Cotabato City on October 24-5, 2017.
Their belief came out in the wake of many clarifications raised by some participants.

Speakers and guests of honours of was the MILF Implementing Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal and Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo.

The forum was sponsored by the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) led by Prof. Abhoud Syed M. Linga with the participation of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) headed by Prof. Reydan Lacson.

Dr. Parido R. Pigkaulan and Prof. Sarah A. Radam acted as facilitators.

Many sectors were properly represented in the activity, namely Dr. Alimen W. Sencil, Vice President for Production and Entrepreneurship of the University of Southern Mindanao and Dr. Abdul Lantong of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College representing the academe.

From the judiciary was Judge Datukaka Camsa of the Shari’ah Circuit Court while from the Sultanate were Datu Salem Abdula and Engr. Datu Mlang Madal.

The Media was represented by Ali Anso of DXUP Teleradyo of Upi and Abdullah Abdulmaguid of the Homeland Media Agency (HMA). From the LGUs was Dr. Maugan Mosaid of Pikit, North Cotabato.

The IPs group was represented by Archie Buaya of the T’duray tribe, who is also a staff of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). The religious sector was represented by Ustadz Hisham Nando.

On the MILF side was Anwar Alamada and the political sector was represented by Kasanadil Pigkaulan of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party.

Chairman of MILf PIP and Commissioner Iqbal expounded on the new version of the BBL crafted by the Expanded BTC. He said: the former one was good but the present one is better. This is so because it accommodated the demands of IPs, the MNLF, and all other groups. It guarantees the basic rights. It is secular in character. It secures the vested property rights. It assures participation of the settlers. It is a parliamentary system where the executive and the legislative branches of government work harmoniously as compared to those in the unitary system.

MILF: IMT Head of Mission, CCCH chairmen visit wounded soldiers who encountered Daesh-inspired BIFF

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 25): IMT Head of Mission, CCCH chairmen visit wounded soldiers who encountered Daesh-inspired BIFF

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) Head of Mission (HOM) and the Chairmen of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Government of the Philippines (GPH) visited on Thursday (Oct 20) three wounded soldiers who encountered last week the Daesh-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) in Midsayap, North Cotabato at North Cotabato.

According to the press release recently issued by IMT, Maj Gen Datuk Masrani Paiman, IMT HOM, MILF CCCH Chairman Butch P. Malang and GPH CCCH BGen Earl D. Baliao of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) visited Cpl. Amiroden J. Dimasangca, Pfc. Mark Ronel B. Mahilom, and Pfc. Buenaventura C. Raygon who are currently being treated at the military hospital of the 6th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Camp Siongco, Awang, Cotabato City.

The visit is part of Confidence Building Measures effort among the stakeholders of the GPH-MILF peace mechanism.

As a token of appreciation, Chairman Malang presented fruit baskets to the wounded soldiers and conveying his hope that they will recuperate very soon. He also shared inspiring words to the soldiers.

The IMT is comprised contingents from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan and Norway. It is mandated to monitor the ceasefire truce between the Philippine Government and MILF and the implementation of the socio-economic and civilian protection agreements between the two parties.

The reduction on the number of armed encounters between the forces of the two sides has been attributed on the presence of IMT.

The CCCH is mandated to coordinate and ensure the implementation of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities of 1997 and guidelines on the security aspect of the agreement on peace of 2001 in the conflict affected areas in Mindanao.

Both the IMT and CCCH is part of the GPH-MILF peace process infrastructure,

Maj Gen Datuk Masrani Paiman, Mr. Butch P. Malang and BGen Earl D. Baliao AFP briefed on soldiers’ medical conditions.

MILF CCCH Chairman Butch Malang presented token from MILF to wounded AFP soldiers.

MILF: Japan, Philippines work on 200-km Bangsamoro road network

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 25): Japan, Philippines work on 200-km Bangsamoro road network

Japan and the Philippines is currently working on building and improving a 200 kilometer Bangsamoro road network covering 11 access roads and bridges connecting ARMM and other regions in Mindanao.
In a report published at the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) website, it revealed that Public Works and Highway Secretary Mark Villar had presented during the Third Philippines-Japan Joint Committee Meeting on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation the Bangsamoro Road Network Development Project.

The meeting was held at Tokyo early on the fourth week of September.

Third Philippines-Japan Joint Committee Meeting on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation held early this

Secretary Villar is confident that the 10-B road network would be fully completed by 2022.

The project covers the following road network:

1. Matanog-Barira-Alamada-Libungan Rd.

2. Parang-Balabagan Road

3. Sibutu-Blensong-Nuro Road

4. Nuro-Pinansaran Road

5. Maganoy-Lebak Road

6. Tapian-Lebak Coastal Road

7. Marawi City Ring Road

8. Parang East Diversion Road

9. Manuangan-Parang Road

10. Tunggol 2 Bridge (On Davao-Cotabato Rd.)

11. Pagalungan Bridge (On Davao-Cotabato Rd.)

According to the report, the DPWH secretary noted “Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already funded the feasibility study of the Bangsamoro Road Network Development Project. We have already formed a multi-sectoral steering committee, which will be chaired by Undersecretary Emil Sadain.”

Japan is one of the countries supporting the peace process and the development of the Bangsamoro. In June last year, JICA turned over the final report on Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) 2 or the Medium-to Long-Term Development Plan as support to the peace building efforts and job creation in Mindanao.

CPP/NPA-Western Augusan del Norme: GMC, punished by the NPA; other 3 military actions, launched

NPA-Western Agusan del Norte propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Oct 26): GMC, punished by the NPA; other 3 military actions, launched

CPP-Central Committee: Imbibe the spirit of the Great October Socialist Revolution and carry forward the people’s war to victory

Central Committee, CPP propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Oct 24): Imbibe the spirit of the Great October Socialist Revolution and carry forward the people’s war to victory

Central Committee
Communist Party of the Philippines

24 October 2017

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the proletariat and toiling masses around the world in celebrating the centennial of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The significance of this celebration cannot be overemphasized amid the continuing crisis of the world capitalist system. The worsening exploitation of the proletariat and oppressed peoples points to the continuing validity and urgent necessity of waging socialist revolution.

The world pioneers of the socialist system, the Russian workers and their peasant allies, were imbued with the spirit of revolutionary struggle which today inspires our resistance against imperialism and all forms of exploitation and oppression. The principles and lessons crystallized by the Bolshevik Party under Comrade V.I. Lenin now serve as invaluable guidelines for the Party in leading the two-stage revolution, the new democratic and socialist revolutions, in the Philippines.

By the turn of the 20th century, the world capitalist system had entered the moribund stage of monopoly capitalism or imperialism. The capitalist crisis had unleashed widespread unemployment, destruction of productive forces and inter-imperialist conflict. By the time World War I broke out in 1914, the stage for the socialist revolution had been set.

By successively smashing the feudal monarchy, overthrowing the bourgeois state and establishing a proletarian dictatorship, the Russian working class put itself in a position to carry out deep-going restructuring of society, build socialism in Russia, and serve as the consolidated base of world proletarian revolution.

Guided by the Communist Manifesto and other scientific socialist treatises by Marx and Engels, Lenin, J.V. Stalin and the Bolsheviks led the proletariat and people of the Soviet Union in building socialism. In less than four decades, Russia went through the period of civil war and war communism; the New Economic Policy under which the state managed bourgeois transitional reforms to hasten the recovery of industry from the ravages of the civil war and help the recovery of the peasantry and thus consolidate the worker-peasant alliance; followed by one five-year plan after another which promoted rapid socialist industrialization and agricultural collectivization and modernization from 1928 onwards.

Before World War II started in 1939, Stalin described the Soviet Union to be the most advanced country in the world technically. It had surpassed the leading capitalist countries in the economic, social, scientific and cultural fields, as well as in terms of democracy and people’s freedom. During World War II, the Soviet Union successfully repelled the invasion of Nazi Germany and dealt strategic blows to the global fascist forces leading to its defeat and the end of the war in 1945.

With revolutionary prescience, Lenin declared that imperialism is the eve of socialist revolution. Indeed, the victory of the socialist revolution in Russia ushered in an era of epic struggle between the bourgeoisie representing the old decaying capitalist system and the proletariat and oppressed peoples representing the modern socialist system. The 1917 October Revolution served as the global Iskra, the spark which ignited the socialist conflagration across the world through several decades of national and socialist resistance against imperialist wars and aggression, colonial subjugation and semicolonial rule.

The victory of the October Revolution made the Soviet Union the center of the world proletarian revolution. Lenin called on the proletariat in the capitalist countries in Europe to seize leadership of the spontaneous uprisings that arose from the chaos and crisis of World War I. At the same time, he gave particular importance to promoting the national revolutionary wars in the backward countries. In 1919, he led in the establishment of the Third International or the Communist International (Comintern) which served as a center for cooperation, coordination and leadership. It facilitated the establishment of communist parties in countries where these were not yet formed.

In less than half a century from the October Revolution, the socialist camp expanded and covered one-third of the entire globe. From Europe to the the Americas hundreds of millions of workers and peasants were freed from national and class exploitation and oppression. China, the most populous country, would tandem with the Soviet Union, as bastions of the world proletarian revolution.

The emergence and rise of modern revisionism (the new bourgeoisie ideology hiding behind the curtain of socialist rhetoric) has resulted in great setbacks and capitalist reversals since the late 1950s in the Soviet Union leading to open bourgeois rule in 1991 and since the late 1970s in China resulting in all-out social chauvinism and state monopoly capitalism. These reversals, however, do not negate the victories attained by socialism. In fact, the exploitative and oppressive conditions under which workers and peasants are again subjected to as a result of capitalist restoration, underscore the continuing validity and necessity of waging socialist revolution.

On the occasion of the centennial of the Great October Socialist Revolution, it is essential for the proletariat to grasp the theory of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship to fight modern revisionist ideological degeneration and prevent capitalist restoration. Mao Zedong profoundly understood Marx’s assertion that socialism represented an entire historical epoch of continuing class struggle and developed Lenin’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat to point out the necessity of waging socialist rectification campaigns and cultural revolutions to prevent the bourgeoisie from gaining a foothold within the socialist system and seizing political power from the proletariat.

Armed with this theory, we can fully comprehend the significance of the past century of proletarian revolution and bourgeois counterrevolution and how the proletariat has come a long historical way since the Paris Commune of 1871. With Mao’s theory of continuing revolution, the proletariat’s revolutionary determination will never wane in their resistance against imperialism and all forms of exploitation, oppression, fascism and reactionary rule; their socialist enthusiasm and optimism will always remain high as they achieve greater victories in the future.

Although different in form and intensity, the current protracted global capitalist depression stem basically from the same conditions of capitalist overproduction which impedes capitalist production and expanded reproduction. Such conditions impel the monopoly capitalists to intensify imperialist plunder. For more than 50 years now, the imperialists have imposed a neoliberal policy regime across the world in order to intensify the exploitation of the working class and accumulation of profit.

Since the 1970s, the Filipino people have been subjected to relentless assault of neoliberal policies. This has resulted in worsening economic crisis and backwardness, intensified forms of exploitation and oppression, widespread landlessness, unemployment, contractualization and other forms of “flexible” employment, rising poverty and grave social inequities. The US imperialists continue to exercise hegemony and carry out military and political intervention. It projects its military presence in Philippine waters and anywhere a perceived or contr ived conflict gives occasion.

The Filipino and world proletariat celebrate the centennial of the Great October Socialist Revolution amid grave capitalist crisis. What better way to mark this historic feat than by imbibing its spirit and revolutionary optimism to fuel their determination to advance the proletarian revolution and national liberation struggles amid strategic imperialist decline. The world proletariat anticipates an incoming new era of socialist revival and resurgence.

The Filipino proletariat recalls how they used Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as guide in repudiating modern revisionism and reestablishing the Party in December 26, 1968 on a firm theoretical basis and lead the revolution based on the concrete conditions of Philippine society. The Leninist adage “Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolution” is indubitably demonstrated by how the Party, imbued with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, has led the Filipino people from one victory to another in protracted people’s war. It has carried out rectification movements to repudiate modern revisionism, strengthen its grasp of revolutionary theory and strengthen its determination to lead the revolution.

We remain in the era of imperialism, of moribund capitalism, as propounded by Lenin. It is presently in the grip of a prolonged global depression. Amidst the glut of commodities, the proletariat and people suffer from low wages, hunger and lack of necessities. Key global centers of capitalism are invariably inflicted with economic slowdown, stagnation and recessions amid worsening crisis of overproduction. The multipolar imperialist world is marked by increased military spending, frenzied strategic deployment of military forces around the world and proxy wars. Inter-imperialist contradictions between old and emerging imperialist powers continue to heighten.

The US and other imperialist countries are being led by increasingly jingoist regimes which threaten to unleash wars of widespread destruction. The mad man in Capitol Hill ponders plans for the destruction of the world while his minion, the Malacañang mad bomber, plots to cling to power at all costs in the face of increasing isolation from the Filipino people. They chant expletives to the beat of aerial bombs and rockets, while singing praises to neoliberalism, fascism, racism, genocide, ethnocide and misogyny.

Over the past year, the revolutionary movement has withstood the US-Duterte regime’s all-out war of suppression. The Party has strengthened itself ideologically, politically and organizationally and wields the New People’s Army and the united front as its key weapons in advancing the two stage revolution. The national democratic mass movement and revolutionary armed struggle continue to advance solidly.

Despite massive and relentless military campaigns by battalion- and division-sized operating troops, strafing, artillery and aerial bombardment, the people’s army and revolutionary masses have stood their ground, adjusted to new methods, learned lessons, and strengthened their forces in the process. Commands of the New People’s Army at various levels have responded to the call to launch tactical offensives, rapidly expanded and recovered guerrilla fronts, and increased the membership, formations and fighting capacity of the people’s army.

In waging revolution, the Party and all revolutionary forces are inspired by the current struggles and victories of the Filipino people as well as by those of the October revolutionaries a century ago and the subsequent worldwide revolutionary resistance of the proletariat. All Party cadres and members are determined to further deepen and advance their study of the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and enrich these with lessons from the Philippine revolution.

Hail the Great October Socialist Revolution!
Raise high the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!
Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!
Advance the Filipino people’s national democratic and socialist revolutions!
Death to imperialism! Carry forward the socialist revolution around the world!
Long live proletarian internationalism!

NPA attacks Agusan construction firm

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Oct 27): NPA attacks Agusan construction firm

(Medel V. Hernani /

The New People’s Army attacked a construction firm saying the company’s planned expansion threatened to demolish and dislocate the residents.

On Thursday, October 26 Omar Ibarra, spokesperson of the Western Agusan del Norte – Agusan del Sur Subregional Command, claimed the NPA is responsible for destroying four backhoes, a dump truck and a pay loader owned by GMC in Purok 7, Barangay Bonbon, Butuan City last October 21. Ibarra said the damage is estimated to reach P30 million.

“The attack was a punitive action against the Gil M. Cembrano (GMC) construction company for the destruction it brought to the environment due to the quarry operations,” Ibarra said in a statement.

The communist rebels also staged three military actions only within three days from October 21 to 23 and owned up to killing three government soldiers while sustaining two guerrillas killed.

The Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion and the communist rebels engaged in a firefight afternoon of October 22 in Kilometer 8, Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur where two NPAs were killed. On October 23, the NPA rebels also fired at soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Battalion in Purok 4, Barangay Nongnong, Butuan City.

New AFP chief turns sights on Reds, terrorists

From the Malaya Business Insifght (Oct 27): New AFP chief turns sights on Reds, terrorists

WITH the defeat of the terrorist Maute Group, new AFP chief Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero yesterday vowed to end the remaining terrorist groups and neutralize communist rebels.

In his assumption speech in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Guerrero said he is going to use the entire military to achieve the objective during his incumbency as AFP chief, which is until December 17 or less than two months, unless extended by President Duterte.

“The priorities in the area of peace and security are clear -- finish the remaining terrorist groups, neutralize the communist threat, and support law enforcement agencies in efforts against lawless armed groups,” said Guerrero.

By terrorist groups, Guerrero was referring to the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front. Like the Maute Group, the two groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Defense and military officials earlier this week declared that the Maute Group has been defeated with the end of the Marawi conflict after five months of fighting which left about 960 Maute members dead.

The New People’s Army is the only communist threat.

President Duterte terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA in July as the NPA continued its attacks on government forces even while the formal peace negotiations were ongoing. The CPP even told the NPA to step up attacks against government troops after Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law in May because of the Maute attack on Marawi City.

President Duterte has said he no longer wanted to talk with the communist group. Last month, however, he told the NDFP-CPP-NPA to declare a ceasefire if they want the peace talks to resume.

Guerrero, outgoing commander of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, succeeded Gen. Eduardo Año who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 yesterday.

He also said his gratitude to Duterte for designating him AFP chief “knows no bounds.”

“The best way for me to show to you and to our countrymen my gratitude is to serve my country with selfless dedication and to lead the AFP with purpose. This is my pledge, this is my covenant,” he said in his address.

In an ambush interview, Guerrero said he will try his best to accomplish the goal he has set -- to finish the terrorist and communist insurgency problem in the next couple of months.

“We will try to finish whatever we can, given the period given to us,” he said.

Asked if there is word from the President on whether his term will be extended, Guerrero said, “We should ask him… The extension depends on appointing authority.”

On whether he is open to an extension, he said, “Let us not talk about the extension for now. What is important for me to do now is to focus on my job.”

“In my case, regardless I am extended or not, I am mandated to finish whatever I can in the period given to me… we have timetables and targets that should meet and I intend to meet that.”

If his term is not extended, Guerrero will be the AFP chief with the shortest tenure.

Before him, the AFP chief who had the shortest stint was Gen. Benjamin Defensor who served for less than three months -- from Sept 10, 2002 to Nov. 28, 2002. Defensor assumed the top AFP post two days before his retirement age. Then President Arroyo extended his term by two months and 16 days.

Duterte, at the change of command ceremonies, highlighted some of the AFP’s accomplishments under Año, like the successful end of the Marawi siege.

“The crowning jewel of his impressive career is the battle for the liberation of Marawi, which resulted in the neutralization of almost a thousand IS-inspired insurgents which include high-value targets being hunted around the world,” he said.

In jest, he told Año to report for work today, his first day as a civilian.

Duterte early this year announced Año will be designated secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. He was supposed to retire early -- in June after Duterte announced his new job -- but this did not push through because of the Marawi siege.

Instead of DILG chief, Año will temporary serve either as a special assistant to the president or as an undersecretary, whichever is allowed by law. The law also prohibits a former military officer from assuming the post of DILG secretary within one year from the date of his retirement or resignation.

“He will now supervise the Philippine National Police, together with General (and acting DILG Secretary) Lito Cuy. General Año, you’re always welcome to report. Maybe tomorrow, I will wait for you,” Duterte said.

On Guerrero, Duterte said he expects new AFP chief to build on what Año has started.

He directed Guerrero to supervise the destruction of confiscated firearms “to show that we are also able to meet the challenges of terrorism and violence.”

The President again announced that soldiers can expect a pay hike in January.

Stalled peace deal crucial in Philippines ISIL fight

From Aljazeera (Oct 23): Stalled peace deal crucial in Philippines ISIL fight

Stalled peace deal crucial in Philippines ISIL fight

Abject poverty has driven many people in Mindanao to rebel against the government in Manila [JC Gotinga/Al Jazeera]

ISIL's Southeast Asian oblates may have failed at their first attempt to carve out territory here, but their defeat was by no means final.

With the Philippine government delaying a peace deal that would give a predominantly Muslim southern region more autonomy, experts, rebels and even officials warned of possible attacks from several armed groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told Al Jazeera, "Radical groups emerged whenever there were failures in the peace process. Leaders with radical ideologies exploit the people's frustration at these failures."

The MILF fought decades with the government of the Christian-majority country, first for independence and then for autonomy. It broke away from the original Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1977 when the MNLF settled for autonomy after years of fighting for a separate state.

Now, the MILF is steps away from sealing a deal that will expand the autonomous region and give its government more substantial powers.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte promised to sign the deal into law after his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, failed to do so. However, Duterte's allies in congress have not prioritised passing the measure.

"There is consistent prejudice against the Bangsamoro people," Ebrahim said, referring to the southwestern Mindanao region that is home to several Muslim ethnic groups collectively called "Moro".

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim leads the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as it negotiates a peace deal with the Philippine government [JC Gotinga/Al Jazeera]

Telltale signs

Ebrahim and other Moro leaders said the attack on Marawi should not have come as a surprise; they all made public warnings about the emerging ISIL presence in their region, and pro-ISIL groups had been publishing propaganda about their plans of setting up a caliphate in the Philippines.

Agakhan Sharief, owner of a university in Marawi and a respected religious leader, knew the young men who eventually became the leaders of the pro-ISIL Maute group of fighters who laid siege to the city.

Sharief told Al Jazeera, the Maute brothers attended a rally that he led in the summer of 2015 to protest a setback in the Bangsamoro peace deal following a botched military operation that aroused public suspicion against the MILF.

Sharief said Omar, Abdullah and Madi Maute approached him earlier and asked him to join an armed group they were forming. Sharief refused.

During the rally, Sharief's voice boomed on loudspeakers, warning that a group of young men with dark plans would wreak havoc on the country if the government did not follow through on the Bangsamoro peace deal.

True enough, on May 23 this year, the Maute group of fighters launched the attack on Marawi that would last five months and lead to the deaths of at least 1,000 people.

"Why do some government officials blame the war on us Moros?" Sharief asked. "They should have acted on the information we gave them."

Lessons learned

At the height of the battle to retake the city, Philippine defence chief Delfin Lorenzana admitted he and other security officials "failed to appreciate" intelligence reports on local ISIL-linked groups.

After the military killed Omar Maute and his conspirator Isnilon Hapilon, Lorenzana told a press conference that lessons had been learned from the war in Marawi about the threat posed by pro-ISIL groups.

"We used to ignore those threats. From now on, we will take them very seriously," Lorenzana said.

The Philippine government received help from countries including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia and the United States in winning Marawi back from the attackers.

However, significant help in pushing back pro-ISIL fighters is coming from the government's former enemy: the MILF.

Wahid Tundok commands an elite unit of the MILF. He and his troops recently drove pro-ISIL fighters from a community in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines [JC Gotinga/Al Jazeera]

In a marshland in Maguindanao province, some 200km from Marawi, Commander Wahid Tundok recently led an elite MILF unit in reclaiming territory from a pro-ISIL splinter group.

Their guard was still up when Al Jazeera visited them for an interview. Tundok and his troops constantly patrol a wild and vast area unfamiliar to government forces.

"It takes a Moro to fight a Moro," Tundok said ruefully of battling their kin who submit to ISIL's ideology.

"This is our sacrifice - to fight our own brethren and shed our own blood for the sake of lasting peace," he added.

'Terrorism is everywhere'

Critics believe the Bangsamoro peace deal is crucial in cutting ISIL's influence on armed groups, but it is unclear whether Duterte thinks so.

"Duterte faces the daunting task of pre-empting terror plots by remnants of the ISIL-affiliated movement … and needs to rekindle the deadlocked peace negotiations with the MILF," said Richard Heydarian, political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila.

The president has acknowledged he is aware of what his country is up against.

"Terrorism is everywhere," Duterte told an audience recently, warning them to be ready for possible attacks.

Is Philippines' Marawi free from ISIS influence?

From the USA Today (Oct 26): Is Philippines' Marawi free from ISIS influence?

The Philippine government may have won the battle against "Islamic State"-affiliated militants in Marawi but experts say it may lose the war against violent extremism if the peace process is not revived in the area and the re-building of Marawi is not done according to the wishes of the residents.

The Philippine security forces officially ended their combat operations in the city last Monday. The five-month battle between the country's army and the ISIS-linked Maute militant group was one of the deadliest wars in the Southeast Asian country since World War II.

"The government needs to restart the peace process immediately," Agakhan Sharief, a Muslim leader in Marawi, told Deutsche Welle.

Sharief, who is also a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — the biggest armed group in the region — said the government's failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for a greater Muslim autonomy in southern Philippines contributed to the frustration and radicalization of Omar and Abdullah Maute, the two brothers who led the siege.

The passage of the BBL would have ended decades of armed conflict between the government and separatist groups fighting for autonomy for the Filipino Muslim minority. The conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and has seen a series of collapsed peace deals that led to the formation of militias like Maute.
No military solution

Commenting on the volatile situation in Marawi, Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said in August: "The risks won't end when the military declares victory."

A report released by IPAC states that addressing violent extremism will require "looking beyond military solutions that include brokering peace with other insurgent groups to promote security, development projects that address root problems of scarce opportunities and education and re-building the city of Marawi with respect for the Muslim culture and way of life."

Humanitarian agencies working in Marawi say the military did its best to protect civilians and minimize damage to mosques, but the fighting has reduced much of the city to rubble. Thousands of homes have been completely destroyed and it may take years to rebuild them.
Re-building Marawi

"The real battle – re-building Marawi – starts now," said Jamalodin Mohammad, one of the many Marawi residents forced to flee the city after its siege in May.

Mohammad is not satisfied with the government efforts toward reconstruction and rehabilitation.

"We've been hearing about consultative meetings. But will the real victims be involved in these meetings? If the post-war reconstruction work in Marawi is not done satisfactorily, it will give impetus to Islamist fighters," he added.

Moro group: ‘PH, US govts accountable for rights abuses in Marawi’

From the pro-CPP/NDF/NPA online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Oct 26): Moro group: ‘PH, US govts accountable for rights abuses in Marawi’

FILE PHOTO: Moro delegates of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya at the Sept.15 rally at the US embassy. (Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

Calling the military offensives in Marawi City a “human rights violation in itself” because of the destruction and displacement of Moro communities, a Moro group said both the Philippine and American governments should be held accountable for rights abuses committed “under the US War on Terror.’

The group Suara Bangsamoro called for an independent investigation on reports of human rights violations committed by military troops amid the fighting with the terror group Dawlah Islamiyah, led by the Maute brothers, whom government refers to as “inspired” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

Some 400,000 people, mostly Meranaws, forcibly evacuated from the besieged Islamic City of Marawi and from nearby areas, when government began the military offensive on May 23 in pursuit of the Dawlah Islamiya. President Duterte promptly declared martial law on the same date, putting the whole Mindanao island under military rule up to the present.

“President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to bomb Moro communities that led to death and displacement of Moro people and destruction of our communities is in itself a violation of our human rights, and to use this as a form of collective punishment against the Moro people whom he accused of harboring terrorists,” said Jerome Succor Aba, national chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro.

Suara Bangsamoro’s statement was in response to United States Defense Secretary James Mattis, who praised the Philippine Army on the Marawi operations, stressing that there was no complaint of human rights violation.

“I think the most important thing is here’s an army that had to go in a fight like that, and they had not one human rights allegation against them with any credibility, not one,” Mattis was quoted in a report by, which he said at the sidelines of the ASEAN defense ministerial meeting in Clark, Pampanga.

Once a bustling urban center, Marawi city now lies mostly in ruins after the five-month-long battle, in which government troops carried out airstrikes and artillery bombardment against the Dawlah fighters who reportedly holed up in buildings and masjids.

FILE PHOTO: The road towards Padian port and market in Marawi city (Contributed photo)

Two batches of national interfaith humanitarian missions who went to Lanao del Sur in June and July documented cases of extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture of Marawi residents who were accosted by soldiers amid the fighting. A number of residents also complained to the mission about soldiers who forced their way inside abandoned homes and took household items and other properties.

Meranaw Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, also reported several human rights abuses by the military when she spoke during the July 22 special session of the two Houses of Congress which approved the extension of the Mindanao martial law.

Aba said the US should also be held liable, as the Philippine government has complied with the US War on Terror as “the framework for the large-scale attacks against Moro communities.”

“The use of military airstrike is already a form of genocidal attack against the people. The US government and Duterte’s incessant accusation against the Moro people as harboring terrorists gave a go-signal for the military and the police to openly attack Moro civilians and communities,” said Aba.

The US has denied any participation in the combat operations in Marawi, in accordance with PH-US security agreements which only allow joint trainings and technical support. Duterte had apologized to the Marawi residents for ordering the siege, at the same time, he blamed the Meranaws as he questioned how an armed group has stockpiled weapons and ammunitions in the city, as evident in the prolonged firefight.

Aba, however said, “There should be a deep investigation as to the impact of US military intervention in the Philippines and their presence and military operations in Moro areas including inside Camp Ranao in Marawi City.”

“We believe that the deployment of US soldiers in Moro areas has exacerbated terrorism and terrorist networks in Mindanao. We must take into account the reports of US government as behind the creation of terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda and ISIS,” he said.

Suara Bangsamoro and the group of Marawi evacuees, Tindeg Ranao, has called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, and for holding the military accountable for human rights violations.

Duterte had declared Marawi “liberated” on Oct. 17, following the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Dawlah Islamiya leader Omar Maute in a military assault on Oct. 16. He, however, said martial law in Mindanao will remain.

The military reports the death toll as the following: 847 Dawlah Islamiya members, 163 government troops, and 47 civilians.


FILE PHOTO: Marawi evacuees in a crowded evacuation center in Lanao del Sur in June (Photo courtesy of Kalinaw Mindanao)

Meanwhile, the League of Filipino Students-Northern Mindanao also condemned the US official’s statement as “pure, grave lie.”

“Clearly, he was trying to paint a glossy picture over its atrocious reality,” said Kristine Cabardo, LFS-NMR chairperson.

The youth group also warned of the impending entry of big business and possible encroachment on Moro lands in the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“They have bombed the only Islamic City in the Philippines and slaughtered our people. All for the entry of big corporations and foreign companies eyeing to expand their conglomerates of business and paving the way for a military reservation. The only Islamic City left in the Philippines is being stripped off the hands of its rightful owners – the Meranaos and the people of Mindanao,” Cabardo said.

Duterte's 1st order to new AFP chief: Destroy firearms from Marawi

From Rappler (Oct 26): Duterte's 1st order to new AFP chief: Destroy firearms from Marawi

President Rodrigo Duterte also calls the liberation of Marawi City the 'crowning jewel' of General Eduardo Año's military career

CHANGE OF COMMAND. President Rodrigo Duterte (center), retired General Eduardo Año (left), and new AFP chief Lieutenant General Rey Guerrero (right) salute to the troops during the AFP change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo on October 26, 2017. Malacañang photo

CHANGE OF COMMAND. President Rodrigo Duterte (center), retired General Eduardo Año (left), and new AFP chief Lieutenant General Rey Guerrero (right) salute to the troops during the AFP change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo on October 26, 2017. Malacañang photo

President Rodrigo Duterte's first order to new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lieutenant General Rey Guerrero is the destruction of all firearms from past armed confrontations to ensure they don't reach the wrong hands.

"I will now request the Chief of Staff, General Guerrero, to supervise the destruction of all arms, whether high-powered or hand guns, all of it will be destroyed in some place to show that we are also able to meet the challenges of terrorism and violence," said Duterte on Thursday, October 26.

He was speaking at the AFP change of command ceremony in which Guerrero formally assumed the military's top post upon the retirement of General Eduardo Año.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Duterte was referring to almost 2,000 weapons seized from terror groups and communists in some 800 armed confrontations.

These include the roughly 1,000 weapons from terrorists who laid siege on Marawi City for 5 months. (WATCH: Documentary | Marawi: 153 days of war)

Lorenzana said the order is meant to ensure that firearms do not get "lost" or "misplaced," eventually ending up in the hands of enemies of the state.

"He is referring to the more than, almost 1,000 captured firearms and also those we can recover later on, let's destroy them so they don't go back – because if we keep them, they might get misplaced and get back to the mainstream criminals," said the defense chief.

'Crowning jewel'

During his speech, Duterte was all praises for Año and his "distinguished leadership" of the AFP.

He called the battle for Marawi the "crowning jewel" of Año's military career.

"The crowning jewel of his impressive career is none other than the battle for the liberation of Marawi, which resulted [in] the neutralization of almost a thousand ISIS-inspired insurgents which include high-value targets being [hunted] around the world," said Duterte.

With Guerrero as the new military chief, the President hopes the AFP will "remain at the forefront" of the battle against internal and external threats. (READ: No word yet if new AFP chief will serve beyond 2 months)

He emphasized that, under the new AFP leadership, the Philippines will continue protecting its territory in the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise or Philippine Rise.

"The Philippine Rise belongs to the Republic of the Philippines and it is our territory. And let it be announced today, to the whole world that we are claiming it for our people and country," said Duterte.

In the audience were Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and United States Ambassador Sung Kim.

Duterte's last words in his speech were dedicated to the government troops who died to liberate Marawi City.

"I say a little prayer every night for the soldiers and police," said the President, adding that, every time he reads his briefer with the Marawi government death toll, he is "always on the verge of tears."

Body of Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad seen in video found in Marawi: Report

From the Straits Times (Oct 27): Body of Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad seen in video found in Marawi: Report

The source said the body was identified to be that of Mahmud Ahmad by four hostages.

The source said the body was identified to be that of Mahmud Ahmad by four hostages.PHOTO: THE STAR

The bodies of Malaysian militantMahmud Ahmad and his pregnant wife are believed to be among the 50 found under a collapsed building in Marawi city in the Philippines.
CNN Philippines obtained an exclusive video from a "highly-placed military source" which purportedly showed the remains of the former Universiti Malaya lecturer.

The body, which is among the ruins of a building bombed out by government troops via a targeted airstrike in war-torn Marawi, is clad in light khaki pants, a black undershirt, and a military fatigue jacket.

The body of Mahmud's wife cannot be seen in the video, which runs for about one minute.

The source said the body was identified to be that of Mahmud by four hostages and the wounded aide of militant leader Omar Maute, who was also killed in clashes with Philippine troops.

The video was reportedly shown to the Philippines' Joint Task Force Marawi Commander Major General Danilo Pamonag, who confirmed that one of the bodies seen is believed to beMahmud.

The Philippine troops had also retrieved a handwritten letter, dated Aug 13 and believed to be penned by Mahmud to his wife.

The letter, written mostly in English with a dash of Tagalog, expressed his love and concern for "Humaira" and their child, whom he referred to as "our baby in your tummy".

The letter also showed his worries and wishes for his wife's prayers, with Mahmud stating that he tries "not to cry too much" when faced with the losses of "syuhada (martyrs)". He signed off with "Babycry" and "Doc", along with drawings of a heart and a grinning face.

Mahmud, who was wanted by Malaysia's anti-terrorism authorities for over two years for his links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was reportedly poised to become the new leader of the ISIS faction in Marawi.

He was believed to be the financier for the Marawi attack, and was said to have received more than RM500,000 (S$ 160,851) from ISIS militants and sympathisers.

Reds kill Cotabato policeman in ambush

From the Manila Tines (Oct 26): Reds kill Cotabato policeman in ambush  

Suspected members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) shot dead a policeman on his way to report for duty on Thursday in Tupi, South Cotabato.
Police Officer 2 Charlie Liba was traveling on a motorcycle and heading to the police regional office when two gunmen drove by his side and fired shots at him, killing him on the spot.

The assailants escaped after taking Liba’s gun.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the killing but initial police report suggested it was an NPA hit.

It was unknown how the armed men managed to pass through military and police checkpoints especially that the region is still under martial law.

Also recently, gunmen also killed Corporal Rhuphel Lihay-lihay, who just returned home to Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur province, after battling the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group for five months in Marawi City.

Lihay-lihay, 39, a member of the Philippine Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur, was playing billiard with friends when one of two gunmen shot him several times>
The attackers, also believed to be NPA rebels, fled on a motorcycle after the shooting.
The NPA is actively operating in the province, about 267 kilometers from Zamboanga City.

President Rodrigo Duterte has suspended peace talks with the communist rebels after they refused to sign a ceasefire agreement but communist leaders accused the tough-talking Duterte of reneging on his promise to free over 500 political detainees, mostly NPA leaders, jailed across the country.

Marawi in 360: Inside the War Zone (Part 1)

From Rappler (Oct 26): Marawi in 360: Inside the War Zone (Part 1)

(UPDATED) Part 1: Experience firsthand what has been left by the battles in Marawi, and the challenges faced by the Philippine military through the region's first-ever, virtual-reality war documentary

First of 2 parts

Watch Part 2: Marawi in 360: The Cost of War

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines (UPDATED) – What was the war in Marawi actually like? What did it look like from inside the main battle area? How bad has the destruction been?

Experience firsthand what has been left by the battles in Marawi, and the challenges faced by the Philippine military through the region's first-ever, virtual-reality war documentary. Explore the destroyed buildings, hear the gunshots, and see the streets of Marawi like never before from every angle, in 360 degrees.

This first part of the documentary, Inside the War Zone, was launched in Digicon 2017 by Rappler, in partnership with Group of Five Incorporated and the Internet Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines.

For optimum experience, open the video on the YouTube app, click the glasses icon on the bottom right of the screen, and use VR glasses or a Google Cardboard Viewer. To navigate the scenes in 360, use a mouse or a trackpad on desktop to click and drag to a desired direction. If you're viewing on mobile, you can move your phone around or use your finger to explore.

On May 23, the military entered Marawi City and raided a safe house where Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia, was reportedly spotted. He escaped, but his supporters went out into the streets, waving black Islamic State flags. The terrorists were led by the homegrown Maute Group.

It turned into a full-fledged war between the military and the terrorists.

On October 16, a military assault finally killed and another top terrorist leader, Omar Maute. Exactly 5 months since the war started on October 23, the military announced the official end of fighting in Marawi.

Marawi in 360: The Cost of War (Part 2)

From Rappler (Oct 26): Marawi in 360: The Cost of War (Part 2)

Part 2: Experience firsthand the living conditions of the evacuees. Listen to their pain and their worries. Witness the cost of the war through the first-ever, virtual-reality war documentary on the city and surrounding towns.

Mattis front and centre at ASEAN defence talks

From the Interpreter published by the Lowy Institute (Oct 26): Mattis front and centre at ASEAN defence talks (By Erin Cook)

Defence ministers from across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as counterparts from the US, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand descended on Manila for the 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) earlier this week. The meetings typically focus on pressing issues for the region, particularly security, terrorism and borders, but tend to avoid the speculation and stalemates that make the leaders' summits such ham-fisted affairs.

The attendance of US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis had been billed by regional media as an indicator of US desire to resume its engagement in Southeast Asia following a dip in relations after President Trump took the reins earlier this year – particularly amid the stand-off with North Korea and China's growing influence. ASEAN gives a 'voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect and not on predator economics or on the size of militaries', the Straits Times reported Mattis as saying on the weekend.

A readout issued by the Pentagon noted Mattis' 'appreciation for the broad range of US-ASEAN security cooperation and encouraged increased operational cooperation on common maritime security challenges', and offered 'continued cooperation in maritime domain awareness and information-sharing to address common threats to regional security'.

Mattis met with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman on the sidelines of the summit, the second such meeting in as many months. Sitharaman has similarly been tasked with increasing India's engagement within the regional bloc in an effort to offset China's growing presence throughout Southeast Asia.

Mattis' visit precedes the attendance of President Trump at the ASEAN 50th anniversary celebrations and the ASEAN-US summit in Manila on 12-13 November. But plans to attend the East Asia Summit, beginning the following day and also in Manila, appear to have been cancelled. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend in Trump's place.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials won Singaporean support for joint China-ASEAN naval exercises, to be inaugurated next year as Singapore takes on leadership of the bloc. Singapore, the current 'dialogue relations coordinator' and often a conduit of ASEAN-China relations, will be in the spotlight next year as the chair member seeks to leverage its unique relationship with both China and the US in balancing power games in the region. But if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to the White House last week had some convinced Singapore would err on the side of the US, the naval exercises should be a cold shower. 'We will push it...for the very reason that all ASEAN and China want that. If you exercise, you at least build understanding and trust,' Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters in Manila.

The ADMM occurred just days after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the 'liberation' of Marawi City in southern Mindanao after five months of combat. Leaders have been quick to offer their congratulations to Duterte and the Philippine Armed Forces (even as fighting continues between the military and the Maute Group fighters), with the conflict acting as a focal point for a wider discussion on terrorism and extremism. The ADMM joint statement included resolutions to further engage civil society and academia in combating terrorism, forge stronger ties in information-sharing and work closer within the bloc to address extremism.

The end of the Marawi City siege has put patrols of the Sulu Sea, which stretches between the southwestern islands of the Philippines across to both Indonesian and Malaysian territories in Borneo, back on the radar, with renewed fears of foreign fighters in Mindanao returning home and committing acts of terror throughout the rest of the region.

The trilateral sea patrols were originally prompted by a flurry of kidnappings blamed on Philippine group Abu Sayyaf, but discussions during the summit have seen Singapore and Brunei both likely to join in the future. 'I've spoken to the Minister of Singapore, they will come on board formally. So the trilateral patrols will become four nations. I will have to get further feedback from Brunei because they were also observers from our launch so we're building in a constructive way,' Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein said during the event, as reported by Philippine media.

Terrorism will stay at the top of the agenda when the Philippines hands over the chairmanship to Singapore after next month's final summit, Ng told Singaporean media, saying the siege in Marawi City had been a 'wake-up call' to the rest of ASEAN.

Maute member arrested in Quezon City

GMA News Online (Oct 27): Maute member arrested in Quezon City

Quezon City Police on Thursday morning arrested a Maute-ISIS member who allegedly works at an establishment which serves as a front for the Maute matriarch's business in Novaliches, Quezon City.

According to a report by Allan Gatus on Super Radyo dzBB on Friday, 42-year-old Rasdy Malawani also known as Rasdi Macabangkit/Makabangket, was nabbed in his own home by members of the Quezon City Police District Special Operations Unit, District Intelligence Division, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Naval Intelligence Service Group.

Malawani allegedly manages Salaam Bazaar in Novaliches Plaza Mall as a front for Ominta Romato Maute, also known as Farhana Maute, the mother of brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute.

Farhana Maute is known as a financier of the Maute group.

Police were able to confirm the Maute member's identity through his posts on social media. Authorities were also able to recover a gun from him.

Malawani is set to be presented by police to members of the media on Friday.

DWDD: CHANGE OF COMMAND | New Leadership at 80IB

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 25): CHANGE OF COMMAND  |  New Leadership at 80IB

SITIO GALAXY, Brgy Pinugay, Baras, Rizal (DWDD) – MGen Rhoderick M Parayno, Commander 2ID presided over the Change of Command Ceremony of the 80th Infantry (Steadfast) Battalion at Headqurters 80IB, Sitio Galaxy, Brgy Pinugay, Baras Rizal, yesterday (October 24) 10am.

After completing two (2) years of duty as Commanding Officer of 80IB, Ltc Randolph G Cabangbang relinquished his command to Ltc Melencio W Ragudo. Ltc Cabangbang was awarded with a Command Plaque and Military Merit Medal (Interim) by MGen Parayno for the invaluable services rendered during stint as Commanding Officer.

MGen Parayno, in his message, congratulated both Ltc Cabangbang and Ltc Ragudo. “I am really delighted and honored to preside this event and join the men and women of the 80th Infantry (Steadfast) Battalion in witnessing this leadership transition ceremony.” He also addressed all the stakeholders who were present in the said event. “Makakaasa kayo na ang Philippine Army, particular na ang 2nd Infantry Division, ay laging nakahanda na paglingkuran ang mamamayan at protektahan at panatilihin ang kapayapaan sa ating bansa”. MGen Parayno added. 2DPAO/MCAG

2 NPA informants to get P100,000 each

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Oct 26): 2 NPA informants to get P100,000 each

THE two informants who shared details about the whereabouts of two leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) who were arrested in Negros Occidental last week will receive a reward money of P100,000 money each.
Major General Jon Aying, commander of 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, said Wednesday, October 25, that Aurora Cayon and Louie Antonio Martinez, also known as Louie Castro, both holding key positions in the communist group, were arrested about a week after they arrived in the province.
 He said the authorities were “very lucky” as he cited the efforts of the national intelligence units and its local counterparts and the cooperation of the populace.
“In fact, I have already collected P200,000 for the informants – P100,000 each – and those who worked for the capture of the two national personalities” of the rebel group, Aying said.
 He said the two suspects came to the province because “they believed the leadership in Negros Island is weak.” “Their capacity to mobilize, radicalize, recruit and strengthen their organization is not enough. So these two national personalities were here to provide them guidance, direction, give them tips on some of their experiences on how they are stronger in Mindanao,” Aying said.
However, “our intel(ligence) units are not sleeping,” he added.
Aying said they were already under surveillance when they reached the province. Last Thursday, October 19, the two suspects were arrested by joint police and military operatives in Barangay Dulao, Bago City.
 The two suspects yielded a caliber .45 pistol, a hand grenade, magazines, and ammunition during their arrest.
Cayon is facing charges for robbery with violence or intimidation of person and arson while Martinez is facing murder and multiple attempted murder, and a local court has issued warrants of arrest against them.
On Tuesday, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa presented the suspects to the media in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
 He said Cayon was a staff member of the National Finance Commission of the NPA while Martinez was the national military staff and logistics officer of the rebel group.