Friday, November 10, 2017

2 Abu Sayyaf men captured in clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): 2 Abu Sayyaf men captured in clash

Government troops have captured two alleged Abu Sayyaf bandits as fresh fighting erupted in the hinterlands of Sulu, military officials said Friday.

Captured were Nadsfar Abdulla and Delson Kansiong, both followers of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Idang Susukan.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said they were captured following an hour-long firefight that broke out at around 1:50 a.m. Friday in Barangay Lagasan Higad, Parang town.

Sobejana said the troops from the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion led by Lt. Col. Jessie Montoya were on combat patrol when they chanced upon a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits, thus, the firefight.

Sobejana said the troops recovered from the possessions of the two captured bandits an R4 rifle and an M-14 rifle.

He said they were placed under debriefing at the headquarters of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion while coordination is being made with the police for proper legal procedures.

He said there was no reported casualty on the government forces while it is undetermined on the side of the enemies.

“The operating troops continue to scour the area to pin down the beleaguered bandits and prevent them from extricating the area,” Sobejana said.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the capture of Abdulla and Kansiong has brought to 85 Abu Sayyaf bandits arrested by Westmincom troops since January, this year.

Galvez said that of the figure, 12 were captured in Basilan, 50 in Sulu, seven in Tawi-Tawi, and 16 in Zamboanga City.

“We remain decisive in our campaign to crush the Abu Sayyaf Group and end its nefarious activities to bring internal security in Western Mindanao,” Galvez said as he congratulated the soldiers of the Joint Task Force Sulu for the success.

“I know this accomplishment will motivate them to work harder to defeat the terror group,” he added.

Cop, infant killed in Bukidnon ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Cop, infant killed in Bukidnon ambush

An armed group believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) waylaid a police vehicle resulting to the death of a police officer and four-month-old baby in a town in Bukidnon late Thursday afternoon, authorities said Friday.

A report from the Philippine National Police-10 (PNP-10) identified those killed as a SPO3 Arnel Carillo, of the Bumbaran municipal police, and a still unidentified infant. Wounded were three police officers and two civilians.

The wounded policemen were identified as Insp. Joven Acuesta, chief of the Bumbaran municipal police in Lanao del Sur, and two other police officers, identified as SPO1 Pacifico Cabudoy and PO1 Nathaniel Ibal.

The wounded civilians were Ali Citi, 53, who was hit on her left breast, and Ali Aminsalam, 37, who sustained a gunshot wound on her right arm. They were onboard a a Toyota Fortuner which was not part of the police convoy, authorities said.

The infant, who was hit on the forehead, was with Citi and Aminsalam in the vehicle when the incident happened at around 5:30 p.m. in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag town, Bukidnon. Police said the vehicle carried seven passengers, who were also wounded.

A report from the Bukidnon provincial police said the SUV was on its way to Wao town in Lanao del Sur from this city.

The PNP-10 tagged the NPA as the ones responsible for the attack but the communist rebels have yet to issue a statement as of this writing.

In an interview, one of the victims, who requested anonymity due to security reasons, said they were caught by surprise.

“We were shocked. We did not expect there were bandits firing at us,” the victim said.

The victim said the shooting started when the Bumbaran police car overtook them.

“They (attackers) thought we were with the police,” she said.

Senior Supt. Benedicto Pintor, Bukidnon provincial police director, believes the perpetrators to be NPA members operating in the area.

Troops seize high-powered firearms after clash with NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Troops seize high-powered firearms after clash with NPA

Troops from the 50th Infantry Battalion (50IB) of the Philippine Army scored another victory against the New People's Army (NPA) following a two-hour encounter in Balbalan, Kalinga province, the 5th Infantry Division public affairs office chief reported on Friday, November 10.

Captain Jefferson Somera said the government soldiers seized five high-powered firearms from the rebels after the gun battle that happened around 3 p.m. on Wednesday in Barangay Mabaca in Balbalan town.

He reported that no casualty was recorded on the side of the government troops composed of personnel of the 50IB. He, however, said they believed the NPAs suffered about five casualties based on the blood stains on the ground and the recovered firearms.

Following the encounter and after the rebels scampered from the scene, the government troops were able to recover three M16 rifles, one M653 rifle and one M14 rifle which were left at the site.

The government troops have launched a pursuit operation to track down the rebels.

Somera relayed the report of 50IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Martin Daiz Jr. that he dispatched his troops to verify the information provided by civilians about the presence of armed groups doing extortion activities, threatening and causing panic among the residents.

The 50IB of the Philippine Army has jurisdiction over the whole of Kalinga province.

Somera added that 5ID commander Major General Paul Talay Atal has relayed his commendation to the operating troops of the 50IB for the successful security operations in the area.

He said, “I commend the whole 50IB for their recent accomplishment. This effort once again proved your superiority against the enemy.”

Somera noted that Atal also said “while the NPA are intensifying their terroristic acts against the peace-loving people of Kalinga and the Cordillera, we will always be ready to protect them, and we will not fail them.”

Likewise, he said that the government is continuing its Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), encouraging members of the left-leaning organization to return to the fold of the law and live peaceful lives.

The CLIP is the government’s assistance program for former NPAs, allowing them to live peacefully with their families.
Somera said that the government remains sincere in settling differences the peaceful way. “There is no substitute for peace,” he stressed.

‘Hopelessness drives violent extremism’

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 10): ‘Hopelessness drives violent extremism’

What attracts people to embrace violent extremism and radicalism?

Dr. Saffrullah M. Dipatuan, chairman of Bangsamoro Development Agency, cited many reasons including injustice, poverty, graft and corruption, and the poor delivery of basic services.

But Dipatuan stressed that radicalism and violent extremism in the Philippines were being “driven by hopelessness,” adding that the government failed to address these long-standing societal problems

Dipatuan, who spoke at the Planning Workshop on Community-based Prevention of Violent Extremism organized by the BDA here last Tuesday, said the emergence of terrorism and violent extremism was being promoted by radical groups in the name of Islam.

Dipatuan explained Marawi City was chosen by the Maute group as a place where it could launch the siege because a rural setting would have been ineffective.

“Marawi is the only urban city in Lanao Del Sur that makes it a perfect site for the attack,” Dipatuan said.

Even government forces admitted facing a challenge in fighting terrorists in the five-month long urban war.

“Marawi City is home to more than 200,000 people with more than 90 percent of the residents Muslims belonging to the Maranaw or Maranao tribe, the second most populous of the 13 ethnic Muslim tribes in the Philippines,” Dipatuan said.

He also said extremists considered the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a “major hindrance” in establishing a caliphate in this part of the region.

“This is because any group creating violence and chaos after the establishment of the Bangsamoro government will face a formidable alliance of the Philippine military and police, on one hand, and the combined forces of the MILF and MNLF, on the other,” he said. MNLF is the Moro National Liberation Front which is also negotiating for peace with the government.

The BDA, which was created in 2002 as the development arm of the MILF, said understanding the issue of violent extremism requires understanding the realities of religious, social, political,

“The complexity requires constant and deep analysis without ever being able to come to a final conclusion. This complexity should not lead us into paralysis as we need to act now before it will be too late,” it said in an article posted on

To address the issue on extremism, Dipatuan urged the government to be serious in addressing the injustices experienced by the Moro people. He also said passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will address the “hopelessness and frustration” of the people.

Dipatuan said: “It will be a national disaster if the government misses this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is set to hold the Bangsamoro Assembly to push for the passage of BBL on November 26 to 27.

Alleged Maute recruiter says she was tricked into sending messages

From the Philippine Star (Nov 10): Alleged Maute recruiter says she was tricked into sending messages

Wearing a burqa, Karen Aizha Hamidon, the widow of the leader of a militant band allegedly sympathetic to the Islamic State group, is presented to reporters during a news conference at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Authorities said she recruited foreign fighters to the country and spread extremist propaganda. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Suspected terrorist recruiter Karen Hamidon claims that she was only duped into committing the crimes she is being accused of.
Hamidon on Friday executed her counter-affidavit on the rebellion raps in relation to cybercrime law filed against her by the National Bureau of Investigation-Counter Terrorism Division.

The 36-year old Hamidon denied she intended to recruit fighters to join the Maute terror group, which has claimed allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

She said she was "cajoled and seduced" by a certain J A to post the messages in a chatroom inviting people to join the fighting in Mindanao.
READ: Alleged Maute recruiter seeks time, lawyer to face rebellion case

She said that she met a certain "J A" on Facebook in September.

They later joined a group called "Salungat ng Taghut" on messaging application Telegram.

"J A managed to gain my trust and had become my confidant and persuaded me to do things which is against my will," Hamidon said.

She said that J A told her he would send her "wifi" and SIM cards by courier, but the courier turned out to be an arresting team.

Hamidon argued, through counsel, that "she was instructed and told to post messages in Telegram by J A against the will of the respondent which negates felonious intent."

"I vehemently deny the charges against me because there was an instigation on my part which is illegal. The acts allegedly committed were not done voluntarily and against my will and caprice," Hamidon added.

In an interview with reporters, Hamidon also insisted that she cannot start or join a rebellion as she is just a call center agent.
The NBI arrested her in her residence at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig in October.

According to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, "Hamidon has been a person of interest to authorities since she gained international notoriety in the middle of 2016, when she successfully recruited several Indian nationals to come to the Philippines and join the radical Islamic extremist groups in Mindanao."

READ: Militant's widow recruited foreign fighters for Marawi siege - Aguirre

NBI agent Joshua Raymundo earlier said that India has asked the Philippines' aid in investigating Hamidon for allegedly encouraging several Indian nationals to join Islamic State group in 2016.

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, after Friday's hearing, deemed the case submitted for resolution.

Although Marawi City was declared liberated on October 23, mopping up and clearing operations continue in the capital of Lanao del Sur province.

Troops rescue 3 Vietnamese sailors

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Troops rescue 3 Vietnamese sailors

Government forces have rescued three Vietnamese sailors and retrieved the remains of another who were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf bandits more than eight months ago in the Sulu Sea, military officials said Saturday.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, said the Vietnamese sailors were rescued in a special operation at around 7:45 a.m. Friday near Kang Tipayan Island, Langunyan, Tawi-Tawi.

Medina identified those rescued as Buy Xuan Vien, Bui Trung Duc, and Nguten Quang Huy.

Medina said the troops also recovered the remains of Nguyin Huu Trong, who died in captivity.
He said they were transported to Zamboanga City for proper disposition and medical treatment.

“Through the operations conducted by our Marines and Navy, we successfully recovered the Vietnamese hostages off Tawi-Tawi. We will intensify our offensives to pressure the bandits to yield,” said Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon Jr., Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander.

The rescued hostages were among the 17 crewmen of M/V Giang Hai 5 the Abu Sayyaf bandits had hijacked on February 19, this year, near Pearl Bank, Pangutaran, Sulu.

Government troops rescued 10 of the 17 crewmen while the bandits killed two of them when they tried to escape and took the remaining five to the mainland Sulu.

t. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, has commended the troops of the NFWM and Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi for the successful rescue of the hostages.

Galvez said rescue operations aimed to rescue all the hostages have continued, citing there are still 15 hostages in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Seven of the 15 are foreigners and nine are Filipinos.

Marawi rehab assessment completed by year-end

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Marawi rehab assessment completed by year-end

Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chairperson and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Secretary Eduardo del Rosario on Friday said the task force hopes to complete post-conflict needs assessment (PCNA) for the entire Marawi City before the end of December.

In a Palace briefing, Del Rosario said the Task Force is hoping the military can clear the main battle area of stragglers, unexploded ordnance, and possible booby traps by the end of November so that they can complete the PCNA before the end of the year.

At present, the PCNA for Clusters 1–10, comprising 49 barangays (villages) have already been completed.

The PCNA for Clusters 11-20, comprising 47 barangays, where the fiercest battles were fought, remains suspended as military personnel conducts clearing operations.

“Hopefully, by third week or last week of November, it (clearing) will be done already so that we can start with the PCNA at the soonest possible time. Once it is done by, let’s say, the first week of December, it (PCNA) can be completed in two weeks,” Del Rosario said.

He said it would then take another week to finish a full written account of the estimates for the remaining 47 barangays.

“Then they will devote one week for the write-ups so that they will combine the 49 and plus the 47 barangays, then we can come up with the workable figure, an amount that would be needed to rehabilitate Marawi City,” Del Rosario said.

“Once we have determined the total damages and opportunity loss then we will factor in now the rehabilitation cost of the damages and the opportunity loss. And that's the time that we can compute and make plans for the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Plan of Marawi,” he said.

He said the National Economic and Development Authority will lead the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Plan of Marawi, in coordination with other agencies, local government units, non-government organizations and civil society organizations.

In the meantime, Del Rosario said they intend to distribute transitional shelters to around 500 to 600 families before Christmas as part of government interventions to displaced families in Marawi City.

These are located in Barangay Sagonsongan where the government is building a total of 1,175 temporary housing units.

Each shelter has an area of 22 square meters with a toilet and bath.

The housing project, located about two kilometers from the provincial capitol, comes complete with concrete roads with drainage, electricity and potable water.

The San Miguel Foundation has also pledged to build 5,000 permanent housing units for returning evacuees.

Meanwhile, families residing in nine of the 49 barangays earlier cleared by the military were already permitted to return to their homes.

Del Rosario said there would be a gradual phasing for the return of evacuees in the remaining 40 barangays in proper coordination with the concerned LGUs and clearance for the military.

Each returning family was provided with food assistance good for 17 days, consisting of one sack of rice, 50 cans of assorted canned goods and a PHP 5,000 financial assistance.

“The focus of early interventions are the delivery of food, water, electricity, housing, livelihood, health services and hospital facilities that were destroyed, the classrooms, place of worship, wet and dry market and road networks,” De Rosario said.

Duterte thanks Putin for Russia's timely assistance in Marawi siege

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Duterte thanks Putin for Russia's timely assistance in Marawi siege

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, November 10, held a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) here.

“I would like to convey to you the gratitude of the Filipino people for your timely assistance, especially the trucks and the arms that you sent,” President Duterte said.

Duterte said the arms that came from Russia were very accurate and was able to help neutralize snipers of the ISIS-inspired Maute group.

“Your timely assistance to my country helped us replenish the old arms and the spent bores that were fired repeatedly and we have a new stock,” he said.

“In a way, you helped us turn the tide and to shorten the war there because of your assistance. So again, I thank you very much, the Russian people, and you, Mr. President. We will remember you for all time,” the President added.

President Duterte also expressed his enthusiasm to see the Russian leader, noting that his trip to Moscow last May was cut short because of the siege in Marawi.

President Duterte also told the Russian leader that he is planning to build a strong Armed Forces and a strong police during his term.

For his part, President Putin lauded President Duterte for quelling the rebellion in Marawi.

“I do remember how you had to cut short your visit to Russia due to terrorist attack in your country,” Putin said.

“Now, I do remember your final words. You told me while you were leaving Russia, you told me that you had to go back and install law and order to attack terrorists that’s why I’d like to say that you managed to do just that,” Putin said.

Putin said terrorism is a common challenge for both Russia and the Philippines, noting that Russia is prepared to further develop defense relations between Russia and the Philippines.

“I would like to say that terrorism is one of our common problem and common challenge and following our agreement, we are ready to keep developing our relations, including in the military area and the tactical area,” he said.

He also said that Russia wants to see an improvement in the economic relations between the two countries.

“I have no doubt, special attention should be paid to our economic ties,” Putin said.

Accompanying President Duterte were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, and DFA Acting Assistant Secretary Amelita Aquino.

DND beefs up disaster response capabilities: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 11): DND beefs up disaster response capabilities: Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that aside from defending the country from external and internal security threats, his department is also focusing on improving its humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities.

"To strengthen our humanitarian assistance and disaster response, the Office of Civil Defense, headed by Undersecretary (Ricardo) Jalad, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) have conducted a harmonized contingency planning for a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, and continues to organize quarterly national simultaneous earthquake drills as preparedness measure in the event of a strong earthquake that will affect Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon," Lorenzana said in a speech earlier this week.

He said the NDRRMC has also developed a training course for community responders to capacitate them with immediate and initial capabilities they would need during emergencies and disasters in their locality.

"Likewise, a new operations center was established and is now interconnected with the regional disaster risk reduction and management centers, thus leading to faster and efficient decision making and timely information dissemination," Lorenzana said.

An average of 20 typhoons and other natural calamities, such as flooding and earthquakes, strike the Philippines every year.

Troop morale boosted by benefits program: DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 11): Troop morale boosted by benefits program: DND chief

The Department of National Defense (DND) is doing its best to boost the morale of soldiers and their families through its Comprehensive Social Benefits Program (CSBP), Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

"To increase the morale of our soldiers, we support the roll out of the CSBP for those who are wounded in action and for the families of our troops who perished in battles," Lorenzana said earlier this week.

Active soldiers and their loved ones are also provided with benefits, such as housing, pay raise, educational support for their children, among others, he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent order to release PHP500 million for the treatment and rehabilitation of military personnel wounded in the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from Maute group terrorists has boosted troop morale.

More than 1,000 troops from the Philippine Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force were estimated to have been wounded while 165 were killed in the battle that began May 23 and ended on October 23.

All roads to Marawi main battle area cleared: AFP

From the Philippine Canadian Inquirer (Nov 10): All roads to Marawi main battle area cleared: AFP

The military has cleared all roads leading to Marawi City’s main battle area (MBA) where fighting raged for five months against Maute group.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation efforts are ongoing in the war-torn city.

“Our construction engineers from the Army, Air Force, and Navy have been working day in and day out to ensure that 100 percent of the primary roads and bridges in the MBA of Marawi are passable and cleared of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” he said.

More than 500 military engineers are currently deployed in Marawi City as part of the Joint Engineer Task Group (JETG) led by Brig. Gen. Arnold Fernandez.

The task group is supporting the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation operations being led by Task Force Bangon Marawi.

As of this report, the JETG has completed the ground preparation of portions of temporary resettlement area in Sagon-songan while clearing operations continue in the MBA.

“Aside from engineer manpower, we have utilized our construction vehicles and equipment to clear-off rubbles and debris as well as in the demolition of buildings in the city’s MBA. We are yet to identify possible dump sites locations for the unexploded ordnance and IEDs,” Arevalo said.

Equipment used in the ground development operations are dozers, pay loaders, backhoe loaders, skid steers, road graders, and excavator.

The JETG is also tasked to support the restoration of essential services such as water and electricity to selected government centers, and places of worships.

Among the establishments that need repair and rehabilitation are St. Mary’s Church, Grand Mosque, and Bato Mosque.

“The AFP lauds our combat engineers who, in the first weeks of the Marawi Crisis have been present in the main battle area to support our operating units. As we transition to the rehabilitation phase, their services will significantly be needed in order to successfully get Marawi back on its feet,” AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said.

“Rest assured that our troops will remain steadfast in its support operations towards the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City,” he added.

Philippine, Australian navies launch joint security exercise

From the Philippine Star (Nov 10): Philippine, Australian navies launch joint security exercise

A Philippine Navy band plays to welcome the Royal Australian Navy HMAS Adelaide, an amphibious assault ship and landing helicopter dock, as it docks in the South Harbor for a five-day port call, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. The visit of the HMAS Adelaide, along with another Australian Navy ship, the HMAS Darwin, a guided missile frigate, is aimed at strengthening relations between the two navies as well as provide maritime security and stability in the region. AP/Bullit Marquez, file
The Philippine Navy and Royal Australian Navy launched a joint maritime exercise on Friday to boost security along the country's southern borders. 
The Australian navy's HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Maitland arrived in Zamboanga City port Friday morning straight from Papua New Guinea.
The Larrakia and Maitland, skippered by RAN Commander Mitchell Edwards and RAN Lieutenant Jonathon Little respectively, are Armidale-class patrol boats that are deployed to perform a wide variety of missions and tasks.
The two RAN warships, with a crew complement of 21 each, were welcomed by Rear Admiral Rene Medina of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely and Australian Defense Attache Bradly Ian White, and Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar with some local council members.
Gorely said the joint maritime security operation is part of enhanced defense cooperation between the two countries.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne agreed on closer defence cooperation during her visit to the Philippines last month.
Gorely said Payne’s visit, which was the second in recent months, underscores the importance of the defense relationship between the two countries.
“Australia and the Philippines has a shared responsibility in combating the threat post by global terrorism,” Gorely said.
Australian AP3C Orion surveillance planes supported the Armed Forces of the Philippines against terrorist groups in Marawi City. Although the crises was declared over in October, mopping up and clearing operations continue.
Rear Admiral Medina said the first leg of the actual maritime patrol will be held near the Pearl Bank off Tawi-Tawi, an area where pirates affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf group operate.
The second leg will be held between Zamboanga and the Moro Gulf.
Patrol ships BRP Dioscoro Papa and BRP General Mariano Alvarez, landing platform dock BRP Davao del Sur, and patrol craft BRP Emilio Liwanag will be deployed for the exercise.
Medina said the joint maritime exercise is an offshoot of a passing exercise between the HMAS Parramatta and BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the Sulu Sea in September.

‘Stop NPA, breakaway group killings’

From the Manila Times (Nov 9): ‘Stop NPA, breakaway group killings’

The North Negros Human Rights Advocates (NNHRA) called for a stop to a series of killings purportedly resulting from differences between the New People’s Army (NPA) and its breakaway group in Salvador Benedicto town, Negros Occidental.

Eight have died in clashes between the two groups since July, according to the NNHRA.

It urged outside or government intervention “before it gets worse,” fearing that the civilians will become victims in a crossfire.

Boyet Amaca, NNHRA member, attributed the killings to the rivalry between the communist NPA rebels and the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA).

The conflict led to the killing of Charlie Boliboli, an alleged RPA commander, in July.

It also resulted in the ambush of a farmer and two of his companions who were suspected NPA rebels in August.

Amaca said Boliboli’s death was also connected to the killing of Councilor Eden Bacordo of Salvador Benedicto and his bodyguard in October.

He added that Bacordo’s father, Vicente, village chief of Barangay Silang, and former Salvador Benedicto Mayor Nehemias dela Cruz who were reportedly high-ranking officials of the NPA but became political rivals.

Amaca said members of the Negros Federation of Sugarcane Workers were also accused of being NPA rebels.

“The people of Salvador Benedicto are living in fear,” he added.

The NNHRA called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the killings.

Philippine Soldiers Die in Clash with Pro-IS Militants in Basilan

From BenarNews (Nov 9): Philippine Soldiers Die in Clash with Pro-IS Militants in Basilan


Philippine security forces patrol a street by the Grand Mosque in Mapandi, a district in the southern city of Marawi, Nov. 9, 2017.

Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET on 2017-11-09

At least six soldiers were killed and four others wounded during a firefight with pro-Islamic State (IS) Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the southern Philippines, military officials said Thursday.

The four-hour clash ensued near Sumisip, a remote town on Basilan island, when the Army’s 18th Battalion launched a “strike operation” against an Abu Sayyaf group on Wednesday afternoon, regional military spokeswoman Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said.

The militants were later reinforced by other armed men in the area, who engaged the soldiers in intense fighting near the island’s main highway, she said.

“Operating troops were met with heavy fire by lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf bandits,” said Col. Juvymax Uy, the local military task force commander.

An undetermined number of enemy fighters were killed, according to regional military chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez.

“We are sad to report the deaths of six of your soldiers during the encounter yesterday in Basilan,” Galvez said in a statement.

The clash in Basilan marked the single deadliest incident for the Philippine military since the government in late October declared an end to a five-month battle against IS-backed militants in the southern city of Marawi, during which 165 troops and policemen were killed.

Galvez said combat operations and intelligence gathering against the bandits in Basilan would be intensified “to defeat the remaining terrorists.”

“Rest assured that this will not stop us from crushing the enemies of the state,” he warned.

Basilan, a majority-Muslim island province with more than 460,000 residents, is about 514 km (321 miles) southwest of Marawi city.

Engaged in banditry

Upon assuming his post last month, Armed forces chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero vowed to finish off the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), two militant groups that had pledged allegiance to IS.

Both groups operate in Mindanao, the country’s largest island in the south, but are mostly into banditry and kidnappings. Some of their factions, though, are known to form the bedrock of the IS command on the island.

On Thursday, the military said it had also launched airstrikes against BIFF positions in North Cotabato province, about 236 km (147 miles) south of Marawi. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Marawi battle began when security forces tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, leader of an Abu Sayyaf faction and the recognized “emir” of IS in Southeast Asia, on May 23.

Philippine authorities were stunned to discover that Hapilon was backed by local militants with the Maute gang and IS fighters from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including Malaysians and Indonesians, who learned how to thrive in impoverished Muslim areas of Mindanao.

Since the official end of the battle on Oct. 23, troops have already pulled out of Marawi in large numbers, but a small contingent is searching for and rounding up so-called “stragglers” among the militants who have fired back. The fighting there during the past two weeks has been intense, even as civilians have begun trickling into the ruined city to rebuild their homes.

It could not be immediately determined if the Basilan militants were also involved in the Marawi fighting.

Bodies recovered

On Thursday, police said that up to 75 corpses had been recovered from the rubble of Marawi’s main battle area during the past three days.

Among them were women and children, although it was not immediately clear whether they were relatives of rebel fighters or civilians, Senior Supt. Mary Leocyl Mag-abo said.

Forensics experts have been trying to identify the bodies, which were said to be badly decomposed, said Danny Captain, owner of a local funeral home that helped authorities retrieve the corpses.

Bomb-disposal teams, meanwhile, were scouring areas in Marawi on Thursday to clear booby traps left behind by fleeing militants.

About 30 fighters were believed to be hiding in the ruins as of Thursday, officials said.

Malaysian Air force officers fly a surveillance mission over the Sulu Sea, near Basilan Island in the southern Philippines, during the first day of a Trilateral Air Patrol initiative also involving Indonesia and the Philippines, Nov. 8, 2017. [Courtesy Royal Malaysian Air Force]

First flight in air patrols takes off

The fighting on Basilan Island occurred the same day that the first flight took off from Malaysia as part of a new trilateral initiative with the Philippines and Indonesia to conduct joint aerial patrols over the Sulu Sea, which separates the southern Philippine islands from Borneo island.

A Royal Malaysian Air Force C-130 plane carried out the first of the patrols – in which the three countries are to take turns every month – as it departed from Tawau airport in Sabah, Malaysia on Wednesday, officials said.

“This joint patrol will improve the security situation in the waters of Sulu Sea and curb any terrorist elements including piracy and kidnapping,” Capt. P. Pulendran, director of the Malaysia Maritime Administration Center (MCC), told BenarNews.

The flight was carrying a least one officer from the Philippine Air Force, Lt. Col. Acmad Omar, who received a briefing from the pilot, Maj. Zulhilmi Zainudin.

“Air force officers from Indonesia were unable to participate … because of some inevitable factors but the air patrol operation was carried out in border areas of the three countries," Pulendran said, without elaborating.

Any information gathered during the surveillance operations would be channeled to the MCC as well as the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) and the Joint Regional Command Center in Malaysia, officials said.

Is Sabahan Amin Baco new IS regional emir?

From the Free Malaysia Today (Nov 10): Is Sabahan Amin Baco new IS regional emir?
The militant is reported by Philippine police to be still alive but the military thinks he is dead.

PETALING JAYA: Analysts are divided over the possibility of Malaysian militant Mohd Amin Baco being the new leader of the Islamic State (IS) terror group in Southeast Asia.

Philippine police chief Ronald de la Rosa on Monday said, based on information from a captured Indonesian terrorist last week, the Sabahan was alive and leading the pro-Islamic State stragglers in the war-torn southern Philippine city of Marawi.

The police chief also said the seasoned militant had been made the IS emir for the region.

However, the Philippine military believe Amin has been killed and have launched a search for his body.

An analyst with Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) said it made sense that Amin was the new leader.

“He is the last of the inner circle of the early Marawi planners and had joined (slain IS emir for Southeast Asia) Isnilon Hapilon in 2014,” Michael Quinones told FMT.

He said the leader of IS East Asia would have to be a Marawi siege leader.

This is instead of choosing Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Furuji Indama in Basilan or Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters leader Esmael Abdulmalik in the Ligusan marshland.

Veryan Khan, editorial director of TRAC, agreed with Quinones’ opinion on the possibility of Amin becoming the new IS leader for expediency in the field.

“More likely, those still left in the militant group in Marawi claimed him as the new leader,” she said.

“Amin will be a clear contender for an actual designation by IS Central if he survives.”

Another analyst had a different opinion on the prospect of Amin leading the terror group in the region.

Sydney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac), said Amin might have been made the leader of the militants in Marawi but this did not make him the Southeast Asia emir of IS.

She said Amin might have temporarily assumed leadership of the stragglers in Marawi, “but you can’t extrapolate from that and say that somebody is emir”.

“I’m not sure on what basis the police chief made that statement. I don’t think we have any evidence to support that.”

More than 900 militants, 145 security personnel and 47 civilians were killed in the five-month standoff in Marawi which began on May 23.

Amin is a native of Tawau and a member of the outlawed movement Darul Islam Sabah — a faction that emerged after Indonesia’s Darul Islam split from Jemaah Islamiah in 1993.

The group is said to have facilitated the passage of terrorists and firearms between the two countries.

In 1999, Amin was among the men from the Tawau cell of the Darul Islam Sabah sent to Ambon, Indonesia, where he used the alias “Hassan”.

He underwent training in Mangkutana in South Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2000 before transferring to Pendolo where “jihadis from several organisations had camps”, an Ipac report said.

In Malaysia, Amin was listed among the most wanted in 2010. He left Malaysia to join the Abu Sayyaf group, whose pro-IS faction was led by Isnilon.

He married into a family in Jolo, Sulu, in southern Philippines. His father-in-law is Hatib Sawadjaan, one of the sub-commanders of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullon Sahiron, Ipac said.

Six soldiers killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf terrorists

From Philippine Lifestyle News (Nov 9): Six soldiers killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf terrorists

Abu Sayyaf
The Abu Sayyaf group are a relatively small but extremely violent group allied with the so-called Islamic State

Six soldiers were killed and four wounded in a clash with Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Basilan Island it was announced today.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr, Western Mindanao Command chief, reported the deadly clash near Sumisip town that took place yesterday (Wednesday, November 8).

“We are sad to report the death of six of your soldiers during the encounter yesterday in Basilan,” he said in a press statement.

He expressed his sadness at the deaths and also vowed that combat operations against Abu Sayyaf “will be intensified with our intelligence operations and sustained campaign”.

Soldiers of the 18th Infantry Battalion moved against the terrorists under Siar Alhamsirol and Parong Tedi at about 12.40pm yesterday.

The terrorists were soon reinforcement by other “lawless elements” said Colonel Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan.

“As they edged towards the circumferential road, operating troops were met with heavy fire by lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathisers of the Abu Sayyaf bandits,” he said.

The gun battle lasted for about four hours. It is not known how many Abu Sayyaf members and other militants were killed.

By about 2pm, the Air Force arrived to provided close air support while troops of the 64th and 68th Infantry Battalions also arrived in the battle area.

The remains of the fallen soldiers have been transported to Zamboanga City.

The wounded soldiers were evacuated to the headquarters of the 64th Infantry Battalion and received medical treatment at the Camp Navarro General Hospital and a private hospital.

Not just Abu Sayyaf…

Meanwhile, in Nueva Vizcaya, one soldier was killed was killed and 10 injured in an encounter with Communist rebels this morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Tiongson, Philippine Army spokesperson, said that at about 8.30am, members of the 84th Infantry Battalion clashed with an undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) members in Dupax del Sur.

Lieutenant Colonel George Bergonia, 84IB acting commander, immediately sent reinforcements to support the troops.

The fighting ended at about 11.30am, and a body of an unidentified rebel was recovered during clearing operations.

Rebel killed, 9 soldiers hurt in Nueva Vizcaya clash

From the Philippine Canadian Inquirer (Nov 9): Rebel killed, 9 soldiers hurt in Nueva Vizcaya clash

A suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed while nine government troopers were wounded in an encounter in Barangay Sanguit, Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya on Thursday.

The identities of the soldiers and the dead rebel have yet to be disclosed.

Sketchy reports from the Army’s 7th Infantry Division here showed that the troops from 841 Infantry Batallion under Lt. Col. George Bergonia encountered an undetermined number of NPA members in the area.

The soldiers were in the area in response to information provided  by “the people in the community” on the presence and activities of the rebel group.

Army soldier, 2 CAA members killed by NPA rebels

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 9): Army soldier, 2 CAA members killed by NPA rebels

An Army soldier and two members of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit-Active Auxiliary (CAA) were killed while an undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were also reported killed or wounded when a fierce gun battle erupted in Purok 5, Sitio Log Deck, Barangay San Isidro, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Identities of the slain Army soldier and CAAs were not immediately available as of this posting but said another government trooper was wounded in the same gun battle and was immediately brought to a hospital for medical treatment.

The heavy gun battle took place while combat maneuvering troops of the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion (75th IB) were conducting foot security patrol, clearing and combat operations when they encountered some 50 heavily armed NPAs under certain Commanders “Wagdos” and “Dindo”.

The heavy gun battle started at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The NPA rebels were believed to be members of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

The command and tactical monitoring centers of the Army’s 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade and Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office (PPO) are still closely coordinating with the headquarters of the 75th IB to determine if the NPAs really utilized IEDs and landmines against the operating troops. If proven to be true, the use of landmines is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention and the accord signed by the government and the communist insurgents in 1998 banning both sides from using landmines.

Meanwhile, combat maneuvering troops of the 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade is deployed in the battle area to beef up the pursuing troops of the 75th IB in Lianga.

Child, cop killed after NPA ambush in Bukidnon town

From the Philippine Star (Nov 10): Child, cop killed after NPA ambush in Bukidnon town

Authorities believe guerrillas with the NPA Fronts 53 and 72 were behind the ambush. File photo

Communist rebels killed a child and a policeman and wounded five others, one of them a municipal police chief, in an ambush on Thursday in Talakag, Bukidnon.

The cadaver of the slain SPO3 Arnel Carillo was found in a hospital on Friday by policemen after questioning villagers residing in the surroundings of the spot where he and his companions were ambushed on Thursday.

Carillo and his superior, Inspector Joven Acuesta, municipal police chief of Amai Manabilang town in Lanao del Sur, and two others, PO1 Nathaniel Ibal and SPO1 Pacifico Gabudoy, were returning to their office from a conference in Cayagan de Oro City when rebels fired at their vehicle while in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag.
Local officials said they have received reports purporting that the ambushers belonged to the Fronts 53 and 72 of the New People’s Army.

The rebels also fired at a vehicle trailing behind the police car carrying Acuesta and his subordinates, killing a four-year-old child and wounding two women.
Acuesta, who was wounded in the ambush, was rushed by rescuers to a hospital, where he is now undergoing medication.

The Police Regional Office-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao first reported late Thursday that Carillo, Ibal and Gabudoy were missing, citing reports from the Bukidnon provincial police office, which is under Police Regional Office-10.

Personnel of the Talakag municipal police found out on Friday morning that Cabodoy and Ibal, who were both wounded, have escaped while being chased by the rebels and managed to seek medical attention from a hospital in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon.

Suspected NPA rebel killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Nueva Vizcaya clash

From GMA News Online (Nov 9): Suspected NPA rebel killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Nueva Vizcaya clash

An alleged New People’s Army rebel was killed while three soldiers were injured following an encounter in Nueva Vizcaya Thursday morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Tiongson, Philippine Army spokesperson, said that around 8:30 a.m., members of the 84th Infantry Battalion clashed with an undetermined number of NPAs it Barangay Sanguit, Dupax del Sur.

Lieutenant Colonel George Bergonia, 84IB acting commander, immediately sent reinforcements to the engaged troops.

The fighting ended around 11:30 a.m., and a body of an unidentified rebel was recovered during clearing operations.

Also recovered from the site was an M16 rifle.

BBL important part of peace efforts in Mindanao — military official

From GMA News Online (Nov 9): BBL important part of peace efforts in Mindanao — military official

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may "negate frustrations" of insurgency groups in the Southern part of the country, which may later eradicate their attacks, said Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) Chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez on Thursday.

"If it (BBL) would not be passed, the frustration will be there. The passage of the BBL will negate frustrations of those members of the ISIS-oriented (groups) that you know... we're fighting for so long but nothing happens," Galvez said during a forum on violent extremism.

"If the BBL and the government can put down the... meaning to address Bangsamoro questions, I believe there is a chance that we can accelerate our fight," Galvez added.

Galvez believed that "the resolution of Bangsamoro questions is the long-term solution in achieving peace in Muslim Mindanao."

President Rodrigo Duterte had vowed that there would be a "Bangsamoro country" during his term.

It was last July 17 that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission turned over their draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to the President in a ceremony.

By September, the House of Representatives filed the draft BBL submitted to Congress by MalacaƱang.

The BBL is the product of the years of peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

At the same forum, Galvez also underscored the importance of unity as one of the means to stop all forms of terrorism in the country.

"There is a need to unite all efforts to win the war against Islamic extremism and terrorism in our regions. We must condemn the terror actions of international and local terrorist groups," he said.

"Peace can only be achieved if there is unity and harmony," he added.

Military fears Cotabato City could be ‘the next’ Marawi – Westmincom chief

From InterAksyon (Nov 10): Military fears Cotabato City could be ‘the next’ Marawi – Westmincom chief

Westmincom chief Lt Gen Carlito Galvez. (PNA)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is keeping an eye on Cotabato City, which it worries might be “the next” Marawi, which government forces retook late October from extremist gunmen after five months of intense fighting that left the Lanao del Sur capital in ruins.

“We’re looking now at the possibility that the next will be Cotabato City,” said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, at a forum on violent extremism at the Asian Institute of Management on Thursday.

” …If we think of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) … it will really create some frustration, because the ISIS is looking at the hopelessness as one of the issues, selling point,” he said. “It’s not only the religion, but the feeling of hopelessness and the feeling of frustrations.”

The enactment of the BBL, which would create a new Bangsamoro homeland, is part of the peace agreement forged between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

However, its passage was set aside after the January 2015 Mamasapano incident, in which 44 personnel of the police Special Action Force, 18 MILF fighters, and at least five civilians were killed during firefights that followed a covert mission tto get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in the Maguindanao municipality.

During September’s Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte certified the new draft BBL as urgent.

Galvez said ISIS is still present in the country and the military is preparing to counter the terror network.

“The danger now is the lone wolf and the pack of wolves (types of attack), wherein we saw it in the U.S. That’s why we are looking at the threat seriously. The President is looking at it very seriously,” he said.

Duterte himself sounded the alarm on Cotabato City in September.

“If things cannot be helped, Cotabato City will explode and there will really be fighting,” the Philippine Star quoted him as saying at the closing ceremony of the Mindanao Business Conference in Cagayan de Oro.

“Cotabato, puputok ‘yan dahil ang isang lote, tatlo ang may-ari (Cotabato will really explode because a plot of land is owned by three people),” he said. “This trouble in Cotabato City forms part of the trouble that is plaguing Mindanao for the longest time.”

“I will tell you now straight that there will be no peace in Mindanao for the longest time,” he added.

Based on “discussions” with present and former members of extremist groups, as well as their family members, The Asia Foundation said it was able to pinpoint likely recruits.

Speaking at the forum, Sam Chittick, Asia Foundation country representative in the Philippines, noted that in mainland Mindanao, recruits are usually college students — persons with an education. In Mindanao’s islands, recruits are young, poor, and have low educational attainment. The latter are also usually relatives of former fighters, and have personally experienced losses from conflict.

Chittick said recruitment is done through social media and shortwave radio channels, family members and student organizations, offers to learn Arabic, and public displays of ISIS flags to project the network’s popularity.

There are also “push and pull factors” which draw them into violent extremism.

UNESCO defines “push factors” as “the conditions that are conducive to violent extremism,” “the broader processes that can ‘push’ individuals towards violent extremist groups.”

“Pull factors,” on the other hand, are “individual motivations that attract potential recruits and the rationales that may be used to legitimize violence.”

Based on The Asia Foundation’s research, push factors are:
  • frustration borne out of perceived and actual marginalization of Muslims in Mindanao
  • anti-Muslim bias and a sense of persecution
  • un-addressed historical injustices
  • experiences of human rights violations and a need for revenge
  • military operations which are seen as the willful destruction of Muslim communities
  • bad governance and bad economics
  • frustration with the leadership of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front, and with the peace process
Pull factors include the emotional and spiritual appeal of the ideology, and the sense of purpose it offers.
Chittick recommended that governments work with and “through families and mothers” to combat violent extremism; rethink the security sector’s approach; build the capacity of the security sector so it can improve its community and stakeholder engagement; and have positive messaging through religious initiatives, among others.
Francisco Lara, Jr., country manager of one of the world’s leading peace-building organizations, International Alert, also suggested that aside from doing research on communities affected by violent extremism, “communities impervious to violent extremism” — even if they are adjacent to conflict-stricken communities — must be studied as well.

Philippine Militants Sought July Deal to End Marawi Conflict, Intermediaries Say

From US News & World Report (Nov 10): Philippine Militants Sought July Deal to End Marawi Conflict, Intermediaries Say


A bullet-riddled apartment house located in a residential area in Malutlut district, Marawi city, southern Philippines October 27, 2017, which was believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute before their battle in Marawi city. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco Reuters

Islamic State-inspired militants who battled troops in a southern Philippine city for 154 days sought a way out two months into the fierce conflict, but the government ignored their proposal, a separatist negotiator and a minister said.

The takeover of Marawi was the biggest security crisis in decades in the Philippines, fuelling concern that Islamic State and Indonesian and Malaysian extremists might have greater sway among its minority Muslims than previously thought.

Abdullah Maute, one of those leading the Dawla Islamiya rebel alliance in the city, had engaged Muslim leaders to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to let the militants escape in return for the release of scores of captives, one cleric said.

Agakhan Sharief, a Marawi Muslim cleric well known to the militant Maute clan, said that around July 27, Abdullah Maute asked for help in arranging for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a separatist group at peace with the government, to receive hostages and escort militants out of the city.

"He agreed to negotiate to leave Marawi on the condition the MILF is involved," Sharief told Reuters.

"I told him when he goes out of Marawi, there's no guarantee the military will not kill him. He said, 'No problem'.

"He was very serious at the time."

The violence in Marawi killed more than 1,100 people, mostly rebels, and the city center has been destroyed by artillery and government air strikes.

The military believes Abdullah was killed in an air strike in early August, but the body was not found. His brother and co-leader, Omarkhayam, was killed on Oct. 16, along with Isnilon Hapilon, Islamic State's "emir" in Southeast Asia.

The government allowed the MILF to operate a "peace corridor" in Marawi that helped rescue hundreds of civilians. The MILF's top peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, confirmed Maute made the proposal, but the government had ignored it.

"There was no formal negotiation and our role was only to facilitate. It's up to two sides to agree," he told Reuters.

"We had some reservations about the deal. Although some of the Maute members were former MILF, we doubted their intentions and sincerity. We do not know if they would honor the deal."

Scores of hostages escaped or were rescued in the last few months of the fighting, but it is unclear how many may have been killed.

Authorities have yet to retrieve all bodies from a battle zone that is still littered with unexploded munitions and homemade bombs. The army says a few militant holdouts are still hiding in what is now ground zero.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Reuters Duterte was aware of Maute's request to flee Marawi in exchange for hostages, but the offer was too little, too late

"Too many soldiers had been killed," he said. "If they had proposed that in the first week, when there had not been so many casualties, then it would have been OK.

"It was too late, he (Duterte) was no longer inclined to entertain any deals with them."

Liberation of Marawi City from Maute group has not ended threat of violent extremism in the Philippines.

From Arab News (Nov 8): Liberation of Marawi City from Maute group has not ended threat of violent extremism in the Philippines.

A regional security expert on Wednesday said the liberation of Marawi City from the Daesh-backed Maute group has not ended the threat of violent extremism in the Philippines.

 Sidney Jones, director of the Indonesia-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said this as she warned of grave consequences if the Philippine government fails to efficiently rebuild Marawi which suffered massive devastation from the five months of battle between government troops and the Maute group.

 Jones also raised the possibility that children of militants killed in the Marawi siege could be the next generation of fighters. She said that there is “ongoing radicalization taking place on a very quiet, below-the-radar-screen level” among youth in Mindanao, particularly those directly affected by the Marawi crisis.

“One of the things particularly to think about are (the) children and younger siblings of people who were killed,” Jones said in a forum with foreign correspondents.

 She pointed out that the government placed the number of slain terrorists at 800 to 900. The question, however, is “how do you know that all (these) people killed are really terrorists?” She that it was never clear how the determination was made to say that they are indeed militants.

 The fact that the number of terrorist casualties kept going up, whereas the number of civilians stayed at 47 from the start of the siege in May all the way till the end, just “doesn’t make sense,” Jones stressed. That leaves the children and young siblings of these slain militants very vulnerable to recruitment and involvement in radical organizations, she added.

 Jones thus said it is important to identify the families and children of the so-called 800 terrorists killed in Marawi, where are they, and what programs can be put in place for them.

 According to the IPAC director, the problem with the children and siblings of the slain militants “could be exacerbated if there’s a failure to rebuild Marawi very quickly or efficiently.”

Jones notes that many displaced residents are not angry at the destruction of their homes, but are also unhappy at the conditions in evacuation centers — a situation that can be exploited by extremists.

“And as I say, watch the reconstruction of Marawi and watch what happens … in terms of resentment in evacuation centers if people don’t go home quickly,” she continued.

“Reconstruction of Marawi, how it’s conducted will be key,” Jones emphasized.

 While saying that she doesn’t think there’s a likelihood that militants could take over another city, Jones said that revenge bombings in Manila, Zamboanga, or Cotabato can come next after the government declared victory against Daesh-backed militants in Marawi.

“We’re more likely to see bombing attacks in urban areas to say we’re (militants) still here,” Jones said.

 She added there’s also a possibility of attacks on Philippine embassies elsewhere, and the rise of a new Maranao movement that will take a more Islamist stance, as well as eruption of clan wars against the Mautes. Basilan could also revert to kidnappings under Furuji Indama.

 Another thing to pay attention to, she said, was the presence of Indonesians and Malaysians in Marawi.

“It is important to note how far back the links between Mindanao-based Indonesian extremists actually go. There’s a long, complex history with lots of different groups … just because Marawi is liberated doesn’t mean an end to that,” Jones said.

“The ideology that supports violent extremism isn’t going away any time soon,” she further said.
Asked about the announcement made by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa that Malaysian jihadist Muhammad Amin Baco has replaced Isnilon Hapilon as the new Daesh emir in Southeast Asia, Jones said: “It looks like he jumped to (that) conclusion.”

Jones stressed “there’s no way” that Baco is Daesh’s new emir in Southeast Asia.

 She said there may have been information from captured Indonesian Muhammad Ilham Syahputra that Baco was there when Hapilon and the Maute brothers were killed, and he (Baco) may have temporarily assumed leadership of the stragglers in Marawi. “But you can’t extrapolate from that to saying that somebody is emir,” Jones emphasized.

“I’m not sure what the basis was on which the police chief made that statement,” Jones said, adding: “I don’t think we have any evidence to support that.”

Eastmincom: No replacement yet for Guerrero

From Sun Star-Davao (Nov 8): Eastmincom: No replacement yet for Guerrero
THE replacement of former Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) Lieutenant General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte last October 25 as the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, has yet to be named.

Eastmincom Public Information Officer (PIO) major Ezra Balagtey told reporters on Wednesday, November 8, that they haven't yet received names of probable candidates.

He said that the commander of the 10th Infantry Division (ID), 4th ID and even the commander of the Naval Forces of Eastern Mindanao (NFEM) could be appointed to fill the vacant position.

He added that it is also possible that the next commander will come outside Eastmincom.

He, however, said that it would be better if the next commander comes here so he has already familiar the ropes as well as the security situation here.

But if the commander will come outside Eastmincom, the commander would have to double time to learn the different facets.

Guerrero, Balgatey said, served as Eastmincom commander for two years where he led the declaration of almost all provinces as Peaceful and Ready for Further Development, crafting of Development Support and Security Plan Kapayapaan and intensified implementation to sustain peace in Eastern Mindanao.

Meanwhile, in the absence of a commander, Eastmincom deputy commander General Perfecto Rimando Jr. was designated as the acting commander.