Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Duterte reorganizes body tasked with Marawi rehabilitation

From Rappler (Nov 2): Duterte reorganizes body tasked with Marawi rehabilitation

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, former task force head, now shares the vice chair position with Public Works Secretary Mark Villar

SHIFT IN FOCUS. As the government shifts to full-blown rehabilitation phase for Marawi, President Duterte reorganizes the task force in charge of it

SHIFT IN FOCUS. As the government shifts to full-blown rehabilitation phase for Marawi, President Duterte reorganizes the task force in charge of it

President Rodrigo Duterte has reorganized the task force responsible for Marawi rehabilitation to reflect his administration's priority to "rebuild and develop" settlement areas affected by the 5-month war in the city.

Through Administrative Order No 9, released by Malacañang on Thursday, November 2, Duterte designated housing czar Eduardo del Rosario, a retired military general, as head of Task Force Bangon Marawi.
It's an amendment of an AO signed in June, creating the task force then headed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. At the time, the Marawi conflict was just around a month old.

Pia RanadaVerified account @piaranada 5 hours ago
amends order on Marawi rehab taskforce, makes housing czar Del Rosario head of rehab efforts.

Duterte decided to reorganize the task force "in order to reflect the government's current priority to rebuild and develop the settlement areas affected by the armed conflict," according to the AO.

The defense chief is now co-vice chairman of the task force, along with Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

The new AO also creates two sub-committees to be supervised by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairperson.

First is the sub-committee on housing, responsible for the construction of temporary and permanent shelters, and the restoration of power, water, and other public utilities. This will be headed by the HUDCC.

Second is the sub-committee on security, peace, and order, to be led by the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Duterte first announced the new role of Del Rosario in Marawi's rehabilitation in a news briefing in Davao City on Tuesday night, October 31, upon his return from a trip to Japan.

How the Marawi siege affected terrorism in Indonesia

From Rappler (Oct 24): How the Marawi siege affected terrorism in Indonesia

'The [Islamic State] narrative for Indonesians was to do hijrah in the Philippines, not commit attacks at home,' states a report by the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium

The Islamic State (ISIS) was so preoccupied with what was happening in Marawi City, that it neglected terror attacks in Indonesia.

A report by the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) on the "Islamic State's Hidden Narrative" found that in terrorists' circles, all eyes were on the Philippines, which affected terrorist activity in neighboring Indonesia.

"The [ISIS] narrative for Indonesians was to do hijrah in the Philippines, not commit attacks at home," stated the report released on Tuesday, October 24.

"Dozens of Indonesians found their way to Marawi as part of a longtime jihadi pipeline that includes Malaysia."

The events in Marawi City significantly overshadowed activity in the rest of the region, so much so that even the terror attacks that were carried out in Indonesia were belatedly claimed by ISIS. (WATCH: Marawi in 360: Inside the war zone)

While there were 3 attacks claimed by ISIS in Indonesia in the summer of 2017, two of those attacks in late June 2017 "were not claimed on Telegram (as usual) on the day of or the day after the attack but more than a week later in Al Hayat Media's Rumiyah 10 magazine, and only in the Indonesian-language version."

"It is likely that for Amaq and [ISIS] central, neglect of Indonesian claims was due to a preoccupation with the Philippines' Marawi siege as the monumental Islamic State East Asia event," the report reads.

Even the most successful ISIS-claimed attack over the summer, where 3 police officers were killed by two suicide bombers on May 24, was not widely covered by international media.

"This was largely buried in terms of international-regional media attention by the siege of Marawi, which started the day before."

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 ISIS flags.

The terrorists were led by the homegrown Maute Group, but also included foreign fighters mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia.

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

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

More success in Marawi

The report also cited other reasons why Indonesia's terror attacks have been less successful.

Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a loose-knit jihadi cell network aligned with ISIS, has failed to stage significant attacks, "not for lack of trying," according to the report, "but they represent amateurs against a seasoned security sector and crack counter-terror police unit Densus 88."

Indonesia's counterterrorism units have been successful in foiling terror plots and wiping out one group of jihadis who held territory in the remote areas of Poso.

This is another reason why terror attacks in Indonesia have been largely targeted towards government forces than civilians.

"All three 2017 claimed attacks can be seen in the context of a late spring-early summer JAD campaign against Indonesian police," the report reads.

"The motivation for this conflict was local grievances: less jihad than vengeance against the aggression and abuse of Densus 88, who has been called out internationally for its brutal tactics."

It also emphasized that "the Islamic State has failed to shed blood in Indonesia because jihadis there do not want to kill their fellow Muslim civilians, many of whom are conservative."

"They therefore choose hard targets such as government buildings and police posts."

But while Indonesian cyber-jihadis did use Telegram channels to promote the war on the Indonesian police, their main promotion was still focused on the Marawi siege and disseminating bomb-making instructions.

This information matches the testimony of Lordvin Acopio, who was taken hostage in Marawi City. Acopio said the Indonesians were mostly bombers while the Malaysians and the Arabs were fighters in the frontline.

Acopio said he met 7 Indonesian foreign fighters while he was held hostage, but Indonesian intelligence has pegged the number of Indonesians who fought in Marawi to be as high as 40.

Huge risk in PH

Overall, the report was somewhat optimistic. It said that while ISIS media claimed 21 attacks in 7 countries in summer 2015, 80 attacks in 21 countries in summer 2016, and 222 attacks in 21 countries in summer 2017 – nearly triple the previous year – this projection of increasing global reach is immediately undercut by a second finding.

"16 of those 21 countries had 3 attack claims or less and only 5 of 21 countries had 6 or more attack claims," it said.

But it did warn that the Philippines could be at risk for more attacks.

"Just 3 countries accounted for 175 of 222 attacks in summer 2017 (nearly 80%): Philippines (99 claims), Afghanistan (43 claims), and Egypt (33 claims). TRAC contends that these places, which receive scant Western attention, represent the narrative of [ISIS] future territory."

Indonesian 'terrorist' nabbed in Marawi detained in Camp Crame

From Rappler (Nov 2): Indonesian 'terrorist' nabbed in Marawi detained in Camp Crame

(UPDATED) 22-year-old Indonesian Muhammad Syahputra is detained in Camp Crame, Quezon City, awaiting charges for his alleged participation in the Marawi siege

CAPTURED. Syahputra is arrested by the police. PNP photo

CAPTURED. Syahputra is arrested by the police. PNP photo

(UPDATED) – Alleged Indonesian terrorist Muhammad Ilham Syahputra will be detained in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

This was announced by Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy spokesperson Superintendent Chai Madrid on Thursday, November 2.

According to Madrid, he was brought the previous night and is undergoing "documentation" at the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters.

Madrid said the Indonesian is awaiting charges for his alleged participation in the Marawi siege and illegal possession of firearms.

The 22-year-old Indonesian was captured just the previous day in Marawi, two weeks after combat operations had ended.

Madrid said at the press briefing that Syahputra was captured in a clearing operation at Barangay Luksa Datu in Marawi at around 7 am on November 1.

Local police earlier said he was caught after barangay officials saw him fleeing. (READ: How the Marawi siege affected terrorism in Indonesia)

Madrid added that they seized one pink electronic tablet, 7 gold bracelets, one fragmentation grenade, one .45 caliber Caspian pistol, bullets, and a passport belonging to a certain Indonesian national named Khoirul Hidayat.

Madrid said they have yet to confirm whether it was a dummy passport used by Syahputra.

Authorities also recovered cash in the following denominations:
10 pieces of 1,000 Philippine peso bills
15 pieces of 500 Philippine peso bills
Two pieces of 100 Philippine peso bills
6 pieces of 10 Qatar riyals
5 pieces of 1 Qatar riyals
4 pieces of 100 United Arab Emirates dirhams
8 pieces of Saudi Arabia riyals

Police said Syahputra was caught after barangay officials saw him fleeing on Wednesday. (READ: How the Marawi siege affected terrorism in Indonesia)

According to Lanao del Sur police chief Senior Superintendent John Guyguyon, Syahputra arrived in the Philippines in 2016 upon the invitation of Islamic State Southeast Asia head Isnilon Hapilon.

Coming from Medan, Indonesia, Guyguyon earlier said that Syahputra was part of the group behind a 2016 suicide attack in Jakarta which left 8 dead.

National priority

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 30): National priority

Davao tops the list in fight vs communist group

THE PHILIPPINE Army said President Rodrigo Duterte’s home region of Davao will be the national priority in the intensified operations against the communists as the region has a strong presence of the rebels.

Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, the army’s commanding general, said seasoned and veteran communist rebels are in Davao because they can easily get money from extorting business companies and plantations.

“We have to convince the businessmen, particularly the plantation owners, not to give in to the demands of the group,” Bautista told reporters in an interview during the send-off ceremony of the 89th Infantry Battalion in the 10th Infantry Division (10ID) headquarters at Camp Manuel Yan Sr. in Mawab, Compostela Valley. “They should not support the group.”

He said the NPA can stage large-scale offensives in the region because they have the resources.

The army chief said fighting the NPAs in Davao is a “challenge.”

President Duterte has repeatedly stated that the fight against the communist group will be his priority after the Marawi Crisis.

Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the newly assumed chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has already ordered his subordinates to go against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)- New People’s Army (NPA), which the military called as the CNN.

“It (the fight against CNN) is the top priority,” Bautista said. “We’re focused on fighting CNN.”

He said the destruction and atrocities committed by the communists should end.

Bautista could not state how many battalions will be sent to Davao to crush the NPAs.

A new battalion has been activated in the region while another battalion returned to Davao after the Marawi crisis.

In a separate interview, Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, 10ID commander, said they are giving the opportunity to the NPAs to surrender and avail the government services.

“If they want to surrender to avail the services, then they can,” Clement said.

Passport of Indon nabbed in Marawi was recovered by troops in April

From MindaNews (Nov 1): Passport of Indon nabbed in Marawi was recovered by troops in April

An Indonesian national believed to be member of the terror group that laid siege on Marawi City was arrested at 7 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Loksadatu by members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT), Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force Ranao said.
Brawner said the Indonesian national, identified as Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, was turned over by the BPAT to the Marawi police.

Syahputra, 22, of Medan, North Sumatra, is one of seven Indonesians on the list of the Philippine military for their alleged participation in the Marawi siege. Syahputra was reported killed in June.

Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, Indonesian national arrested in Marrawi City on 01 November 2017. Syahputra was alleged to have been among seven Indonesian nationals who joined the ISIS-inspired Maute Group during the five-month war from May 23. Posted on Radyo Pilipinas FB page, credited to Eunice Samonte /PTV
Senior Supt. John Guyguyon, Lanao del Sur police chief, said the Syahputra had no passport when arrested but he had ammunitions, a Caliber 45, grenade, money, and improvised explosive devices.

Civilian participation
Syahputra’s passport, however, was among several items recovered by the military during military operations in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur on April 21 to 23.

The operations led to the killing of some 30 Maute members, according to a press statement issued by the Western Mindanao Command. Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Westmincom chief

The press statement also said soldiers recovered an ISIS flag, rifle and fragmentation grenades, assorted bomb-making materials, a passport of an Indonesian national named Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, three motorcycles, two sacks of rice, a video camera, cellular phones and assorted camouflage uniforms.

In a statement, Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, said the arrest by a village defense force “validates the local government units’ position that civilian participation is essential in our collective effort to secure our communities from terrorist elements.”

“Crucial in our security effort to fully restore normalcy in the controlled area is to maintain vigilance by our residents,” Adiong said.

He added the need to “develop and strengthen” the civilian security plan as proposed by the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Lanao del Sur “to inspire further people’s initiative in order to compliment our state forces’ ongoing clearing operation down to the barangay level.”

“Quiet person”

According to, an Indonesian news portal, Syahputra left Medan in 2016 purportedly to work in Bandung, West Java.

A article on June 2 said Syahputra was “a quiet person” who spent his time reading the Qur’an and was often asked to be a muezzin in the mosque nerar his sister’s house. A muezzin calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque.

The report said Ilham worked in Malaysia for two years from 2014, in an airport cargo company. But he communicated with his sister regularly and even sent photographs.

Army officer faces charges for Marawi ‘looting’

From the Gulf News (Nov 1): Army officer faces charges for Marawi ‘looting’

A Philippine Army officer and five enlisted men are facing charges for alleged looting in what appeared to be the first hint of scandal involving the military to rid Marawi City of Daesh-linked terrorists.

GMA News, quoting military sources, however, failed to identify the Army officer and the five soldiers allegedly involved in the looting and how they were caught.

But earlier, the military announced it was enforcing an order for the strict inspection of the pieces of luggage by soldiers allowed to return home after the Marawi siege was declared over.

Also on Tuesday, the military reported that soldiers killed a Maute Group terrorist “straggler,” armed with an M15 rifle at the main battle zone in Marawi.

The killing occurred more than a week after the military officially announced it was terminating its combat operations on Oct.23, or exactly five months after the terrorists who pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists laid siege on the city on May 23.

The siege prompted President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to cut short his state visit to Russia while imposing martial law over the whole of troubled Mindanao which Congress has extended until Dec.30 this year.

Security experts acknowledged the death of two of the terrorist leaders helped hasten to end the siege that devastated the city, killed close to 2,000 people most of them terrorists and forced at least 400,000 residents to leave their homes.

One of those killed was Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, named by the Daesh leaders to be its “emir” with orders to set up a caliphate in Marawi City and make it their main base of operation in Southeast Asia.

The other was Omar Maute who with his brother Abdullah founded the terror group named after them following their return to the Philippines from their studies in Egypt where the imbibed the Daesh teachings, according to the military.

But despite Marawi’s liberation, Duterte and other officials agreed that the threat posed by the terrorists remained.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, the chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, disclosed that Duterte ordered them to finish off the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group by December.

According to Galvez, his command would redeploy the forces in Maguindanao, Sulu and Basilan to sustain its operations against the remaining terrorist cells.

Duterte supports Sara’s peace initiatives with Reds in Davao

From GMA News Online (Nov 1): Duterte supports Sara’s peace initiatives with Reds in Davao

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday expressed support for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte's efforts to have localized peace talks with the communists.

But he also reiterated his call to the New People's Army to surrender and promised them a job would be waiting for them.

"Itong kay Inday na local initiative, I am encouraging her. And to the New People's Army, do not take it so badly. Wala namang pilitan ito eh, iyong gusto lang magpahinga," Duterte said in a media interview in Davao City upon his arrival from a two-day official visit to Japan.

"If you're tired of killing a human being, you can always go back mainstream. Alagaan ko kayo," he added.

In May, even after the government peace panel backed out from the fifth round of talks with the National Democratic Front, Sara reiterated her call for the rebels to lay down their arms if they want to talk peace.

"I'll push things that I think can make the city better and one of them is the local peace talk," she said.

Early last month, Duterte said he would leave it up to the next Philippine leader to pursue talks with the communists.

"You can just imagine, we are fighting the New People’s Army. At this stage, I am not ready to talk to them because it is not good for the country. Eh kung para lang sa bayan, okay ‘yan," he said.

"But the way that it is now, ayaw ko. And maybe it would take some time to… maybe another President to do it. Sabi ko, ‘It’s been 50 years.’ Estudyante ako noon, nakikinig naman ako kay Sison," he added, referring to the founding chairperson of the Communists Party of the Philippines Jose Maria Sison.

Duterte nixed peace talks with the communists after the New People’s Army conducted a series of attacks against government troops.

Karapatan says ‘killing spree’ against rights workers in PH continue

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Oct 31): Karapatan says ‘killing spree’ against rights workers in PH continue

Photo courtesy of Karapatan

A human rights group said Tuesday, October 31, that the Duterte administration continues to intensify its attacks against human rights defenders under the counter-insurgency program “Oplan Kapayapaan.”

“Duterte is a human rights violator, peddling fascist policies that continue the killing, illegal arrests and harassment directed against human rights workers,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in a statement on Tuesday, October 31.

Karapatan has expressed grave concerned with the government’s “Oplan Kapayapaan” and its war on illegal drugs that gave the government forces the license to kill while “ensuring they have the resources, funds, and protection to go forward with their killing spree.”

For instance, a paralegal of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in Gubat, Sorsogon, Bicol was killed by two armed men on the morning of October 25.

The victim was identified as Edwin Pura, 49 who worked as a paralegal staff of NUPL Second Vice President for Luzon, Atty. Ron Ely Espinosa, who himself, recently survived a failed slay try sometime in the last week of August 2017.
Karapatan said that Pura is a former Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and transport group leader in Sorsogon province.

Pura’s companion, Willy Broño, was also shot dead, while another lady victim identified as Grace Merilo was rushed to the hospital, the group added.

Apart from Pura, on October 27, government troops belonging to the military’s 24th Infantry Battalion (IB), 7th Infantry Division (ID) raided the home of peasant leader Eugene Antonio in Mudiit, Dolores, Abra. The government troops served a warrant to search for weapons that allegedly possessed by Antonio but the search yielded nothing, according to Karapatan.

Instead, government forces seized documents of the Mudiit People’s Organization, a local group of which Antonio is an officer. Antonio, also a pastor, has received death threats and has been the subject of red-tagging after the 24th IB accused him of being a supporter of the New People’s Army, the group said.

On the same day in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, Julito Otacan, a field worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), along with five other Banwaon community members, were arrested by elements of the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion.

Otacan, along with Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan, Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, were taken to the Police Station in Rubako, San Luis, Agusan del Sur after soldiers allegedly found grenades, firearms, and other equipment in the residents’ houses.

The five arrested along with Otacan are all members of the Banwaon Peoples’ Organization, Tagdumahan, a group consistently targeted “because of their struggles and campaigns against logging and mining concessions infringing on the Banwaon’s ancestral domain.”

On October 28, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget and vice-chairperson Xavier Akin, along with staff of the Center for Development Programs (CDPC) were flagged down by elements of the PNP twice while on their way to Baguio – the first incident in Tirad Pass while the group was traversing the Santiago-Quirino road and the second instance in Lidlida, Ilocos Sur.

Karapatan said they were held without charges, with the police failing to provide any valid explanation for detaining the group. Bolinget, Akin, and CDPC staff were eventually allowed to pass an hour after they were accosted.

“By allowing his counterinsurgency program to continuously wreck havoc among the ranks of rights defenders, Duterte should ultimately be held responsible for these ongoing and intensifying attacks,” Palabay said.

She added: “Oplan Kapayapaan, which explicity and systematically legitimizes violations against human rights defenders using the catch-all rhetoric of them being enemies of the State.”

CPP-NPA now a weak group, gov’t intelligence officials claim

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 31): CPP-NPA now a weak group, gov’t intelligence officials claim

The police and military intelligence community on Tuesday claimed that the remaining strength of the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), was already weak, and had already turned to banditry to survive.

In a declassified assessment report obtained by The Manila Bulletin from police and military intelligence sources, it was disclosed that the remaining guerrilla fronts of the CPP-NPA northeastern north-central and northern Mindanao Regional Committees were already dwindling in numbers, as more are returning to the fold of the law due to hardship in the mountains.

“Some of them already turned into banditry while other remaining guerrilla fronts also engaged in their force extortion activities,” said a police intelligence officer who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to issue any statement to media.

He said the basis of their assessment was the capture of six NPA rebels in San Luis, Agusan del Sur last week, where several high-powered weapons and bomb-making materials were seized from them including an NPA flag.

With the combined efforts of the police and Army, the six NPAs were arrested through search warrants issued by a local court in Agusan del Sur province and their fate was revealed during the initial tactical interrogation, the police intelligence officer added.

“I can say that (CPP-NPA is weak) because of the documents seized during recent separate gunbattles in San Luis, Agusan del Sur and in upper far-flung areas in Butuan City,” another Army intelligence officer who also requested anonymity when asked by The Manila Bulletin on Tuesday.

He said that based on the testimonies of some surrenderers in Bukidnon, and in some parts in Caraga region, the strength of the NPA fighting force was already decreasing due to hardship of trying to survive in the mountains.

Last week, a ranking military officer in the region suggested to create or add two more Army combat maneuvering battalions to be deployed in Agusan and Surigao provinces to help the existing fighting force of the AFP and PNP in the region to completely crush the remaining insurgents.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines Join Forces with Interpol in Counter-Terror Effort

From BenarNews (Oct 31): Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines Join Forces with Interpol in Counter-Terror Effort


Police officials from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and Interpol pose for photographers during the media launch of Operation Maharlika, in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia, Oct. 31, 2017.

Police forces from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei will work with Interpol to catch foreign militants trying to infiltrate their common borders, when they launch a two-week joint operation Wednesday, officials said.

The nations will use a database of 75 million people, including suspected terrorists, provided by the France-based International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

“Asia, like every region in the world, has been and continues to be a target of terrorists,” Harald Arm, Interpol’s director of operational support and analysis, told reporters Tuesday during a media event in Sandakan, Malaysia, kicking off Operation Maharlika.

“Maharlika” means “free man” in ancient Filipino.

All four nations share territory on Borneo island, which lies close to the southern Philippines where fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS) were locked in a five-month battle with government forces in the city of Marawi until last week. More than 1,200 people were killed since fighting broke out on May 23.

“Operations such as Maharlika are one of the ways in which Interpol works for member countries to help them secure their borders and prevent the movement of terrorists and materials that could be used in attacks,” he said.

The operation would be crucial in streamlining efforts among member countries, Arm added.

“Interpol database contains 75 million records and, in 2016, some 3 billion checks were made,” Arm said. “Today, Interpol database is being checked 200 times per second.”

He said access to the Interpol database would allow the participating nations to obtain information on terrorism activities in the region.

More than 1,200 people were killed in the fighting in Marawi. The battle broke out when Philippine forces moved to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who was also the declared chief of the IS branch in Southeast Asia.

He and his fighters were backed by foreign militants, including citizens of Malaysia and Indonesia, the Philippine military said. Hapilon was killed during the last days of fighting, as was Mahmud Ahmad, a top Malaysian militant leader and former university professor.

The fighting, which included daily bombing runs by the military, devastated the scenic lakeside city of 200,000 people.

Gadgetry and databases
During Maharlika, the four national police forces will carry out operations within their respective territories with training and equipment support from Interpol, said Zulkifli Abdullah, who directs the Malaysian police’s Internal Security and Public Order division.

The effort aims to prevent foreign militants from moving within the region, he said.

Interpol will provide equipment that contains data on individuals, allowing law-enforcement officials to check a person’s criminal record on the spot, he said.

“We will know whether the person is wanted in the country or elsewhere,” Zulkifli said.

The operation, Zulkifli said, is to cover airports, sea and land borders. Results are to be discussed during a meeting of government representatives at the end of the year.

“We can’t talk in specifics about how the operation is going to work. We can’t disclose our operation,” Zulkifli told reporters.

Zulkifli said the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) would be the main focus of the operation in Malaysia.

“If the operation is successful, we will review it and may continue it in the future. If there’s a cross-border entry of foreign terrorists, we will share the information in real time,” he added.

Earlier this month, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines launched the Trilateral Air Patrol (TAP), to bolster a similar maritime effort that aims to rid their shared borders of threats from IS-linked extremists.

“No country is safe from the clutches of Islamic State. But today we have sent a signal that if you touch any one of us, we will face you head-on together,” Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters during the TAP’s launch in Subang, Malaysia.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu (left) joins hands with his counterparts from Malaysia, Hishammuddin Hussein, and the Philippines, Delfin Lorenzana, for a group photo after the launch of joint air patrols at Subang military airbase in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Oct. 12, 2017. (AP)

Trump Has 'Warm Rapport' With Philippines' Duterte: Official

From the US News & World Report (Oct 31): Trump Has 'Warm Rapport' With Philippines' Duterte: Official


File photo: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during Change of Command ceremonies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump has developed a friendly relationship with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, despite Duterte's often profanity-laden tirades against the United States.

"I think there's a warm rapport there and he's very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with President Duterte," the U.S. official told reporters during a background briefing on Trump's Nov. 3-14 trip to Asia.

The two leaders have become friendly during telephone conversations and exchanges of letters, the official said.

Trump will travel to Asia amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. He will be in Manila on the last leg of his trip, which includes visits to Japan, South Korea, China, and Vietnam, to attend the ASEAN leaders’ summit.

Duterte has attacked the United States verbally, chiding Washington for treating the Philippines "like a dog," despite the two nations’ longstanding relationship.

The Philippines’ leader announced his "separation" from the United States during a visit to Beijing a year ago, declaring he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve a South China Sea dispute through talks.

Duterte is accused by international human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, which his government denies.

The Philippine leader was infuriated by expressions of concern by members of former President Barack Obama’s administration about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

But Trump, in a phone call to Duterte in May, praised the Philippine leader for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” despite human rights groups’ condemnation of Duterte’s drug crackdown, in which thousands of people have been killed.

Duterte back, bares talks with Abe on territorial dispute with China

From the Manila Times (Nov 1): Duterte back, bares talks with Abe on territorial dispute with China

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte assured Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that China has committed not to conduct reclamation or expansion activities on disputed territories with the Philippines and ruled out violence as an option for settling the conflict.
“China has put it on record that near the Pag-asa island and the Scarborough…China has committed to us [that they will]not to build anything there. I hope that they would honor that commitment. I really hope and pray,”
said Duterte in a news conference upon his arrival in Manila on Tuesday night.

“Yes, [I am holding on to that commitment], because if I commit, as President of a sovereign state, what comes out of my mouth is what it is. Anything less than commitment, you will lose the respect of others and the rest who are giving us assistance,” said Duterte when asked about the details of his discussion with Abe on the freedom of navigation on international waters.

Japan and China are disputing ownership over the uninhabited Senkaku islands.

The Philippines won its case against China in July 2016 when the Hague-based United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) junked the communist state’s nine-dash line claim of the entire South China Sea, and declared that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank were all within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The July 2016 PCA ruling, in effect,granted the Philippines fishing rights over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).

The President, who has sought to pacify China by not enforcing the PCA ruling, said he was not entertaining the possibility that Beijing would not honor its commitment but added:

“It is not for me to say [what will happen if China does not honor its commitment]. That question [on whether they will fulfill their word]should be answered by them. After all, I am not poaching anything. What I have said is that these [islands]are mine,” said Duterte.

Duterte said the freedom of navigation was a concern not only for the Philippines but for many countries namely Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia which were also claiming sovereignty in islands located within South China Sea but not necessarily within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which Manila has called the West Philippine Sea.

“Other countries are also claiming islands [in the South China Sea]because each country has an [exclusive]economic zone [under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas]. There are overlapping claims, and we can always resolve it by just talking,” Duterte said.

“I cannot imagine myself being involved in a violent solution or almost a suicide action. There is no space for violence as an option, we should continue to talk,” Duterte said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) composed of the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brunei and Indonesia has a non-binding Declaration of Conduct (DOC) with China on the South China Sea that was signed in 2002.

The DOC provides that parties should “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”

At the conclusion of the Asean Regional Forum hosted by Manila in August, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano virtually backed Beijing’s position that there should be no legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea. He said that it would be practical to maintain the status quo because Asean and China would have to agree on who would impose the penalties in the event that the signatories violate the provisions of a binding COC.

Duterte was in Japan for a two-day working visit where he and Abe discussed strengthening bilateral relations. It was his second trip to that country since becoming President in 2016 and has since formed a personal bond with Abe who has considered him “family.”

The President came home with $6 billion worth of prospective investments from at least 18 private companies and P9 billion more from the Japanese government that would include an upgrade of the Philippines’ transport system.